Gardeners Delight Overview
|Official Plant Name||Solanum lycopersicum ‘Gardeners Delight’|
|Native Area||N/A (Cultivated)|
|Toxicity||Toxic except for the fruits|
|Foliage||Cordon type tomato|
|When To Sow Indoors||January, February, March, April|
|When To Plant Out||May, June|
|Fruiting Months||June, July, August, September, October|
Up to 1.5M
June – September
Moist but well drained
Neutral / Mildly-Acidic
This tomato is often described as one of the sweetest and tastiest tomato varieties around.
Lycopersicon esculentum ‘Gardeners Delight’ is a popular heritage variety and (at least historically) one of the most highly regarded types of tomato. Which is why it is a popular choice, and has long been a popular choice, for many UK gardeners.
Gardeners Delight was first introduced to British gardeners by breeders and seed producers Benary. They sold it to a number of seed suppliers in Britain over thirty-five years ago. After its introduction it quickly gained favour and was adopted as a favourite by many horticultural experts and home growers.
Gardeners Delight is an open-pollinated variety, not an F1 hybrid, so should come true from seed. As a heritage variety, saving your own seeds should yield plants that are the same as the parent, evolving just slightly. Saving your own tomato seeds is basically evolution at work – over time, you can create tomato strains better suited to growing in your specific garden.
The small cherry tomatoes of this variety are produced on trusses and reach around 2cm across. They have a sweet and pleasant flavour. It is the flavour of these tomatoes that is the main reason for their success and popularity with home growers.
While, in recent years, there has been some discussion over whether this old favourite is still as good, reliable and well-flavoured as it once was, it is still a favourite for many and is certainly one of the most popular varieties for UK gardeners to grow in their greenhouses or polytunnels, or outdoors.
Other Tomato Varieties
One important thing to realise when growing tomatoes is that you do not have to restrict yourself to the best-known cultivars. Gardeners Delight is one great choice, but it is far from your only option. Since these tomatoes are quite readily available in the supermarkets, you might wish to consider something more unusual, and more difficult to get your hands on.
Some tomato varieties said to rival, or even exceed Gardeners Delight are:
Bred by Tony Haig, this cherry tomato variety is named for its excellent taste, which is said to be better even than Gardener’s Delight. It is not only praised for its taste, but also performs well in the garden – providing high yields for many gardeners.
Some gardeners say that the flavour of Gardener’s Delight is also surpassed by the flavour of these delicious yellow tomatoes. They are a popular hybrid variety, which produces very sweet fruits fairly reliably. Though they have thin skins, which can be prone to splitting if left too long on the plant, they are still a firm favourite for many tomato growers. Many have stuck with them since they were developed in Japan and introduced to UK gardeners in the early 1990s.
Galina is another yellow tomato, and an alternative to Sungold for gardeners who are looking for a heritage tomato rather than a hybrid variety. It is a from Siberia and should fruit well even in colder, more northern parts of the UK. This cultivar fruits abundantly, with ripe fruits of around 3cm in diameter which remain on the plants even when ripe, preventing waste and making it easier to harvest the crop. These tomatoes are early to ripen, and yet also fruit later than other types. You can continue to harvest well into autumn, perhaps even as late as November.
The Chadwick cherry is another interesting and delicious tomato to consider. Also said to have great flavour. It has fruits which are slightly larger than a true cherry, which ripen in around 80 days. The fruits do tend to lose their flavour somewhat as the season progresses. But they are still tasty through much of the summer, and the plants crop abundantly. This cultivar was bred by Alan Chadwick, an inspiring horticulturalist who gave up a career as a Shakespearean actor in South Africa in his 50s to take on a garden project in California at the University of Santa Cruz.
This variety is set apart by its deep purplish-brown hue. But is also has great flavour and so is another intriguing option to consider. This is a another of the very sweet cherry tomato varieties to consider. Gardeners usually obtain around 6-8 fruits per truss, which are great for enlivening a summer salad.
Sowing Gardeners Delight
Like other tomatoes, Gardeners Delight is usually sown indoors or under cover between late January and April. Sowing earlier, in late January or February, can be a good choice, as it can mean that you will be able to harvest more ripe tomatoes before the end of our relatively short growing season.
Early sowings can sometimes get leggy due to the low light levels. LED grow lights can help avoid any such issues.
Sow the seeds into seed trays, wood flats or other containers. They should germinate within a week or two. Then prick out and pot up into their own pots, or other containers, once they have developed their first true leaves and are large enough to handle.
Be sure to pot up your tomatoes as required as they grow. And when you do, bury them a little deeper in the growing medium each time. This will help ensure that your plants develop good, strong root systems.
Planting Gardeners Delight
Gardeners Delight, like other tomatoes, is planted out from May and into June, when all risk of frost as passed. If you are planting in a greenhouse or polytunnel, then you can plant out a little earlier than you would do if you are growing your plants outdoors.
Indoor grown plants, it is important to remember, should always be hardened off before you plant them out into their final growing positions. This basically means exposing them gradually, and for increasingly lengthy periods, to outdoors conditions.
Remember, tomato plants like plenty of sun, and plenty of warmth – the more the better. If not growing under cover make sure you are growing them in a sunny and sheltered location.
Gardener’s Delight is an indeterminate tomato, best grown as a cordon variety. This means that the plants are grown up wires, strings or other support structures, to which they are tied as they grow. They are pruned to create tall and narrow plants rather than being allowed to sprawl and bush out. Side shoots are pruned out and lower leaves often removed, to create plants that can reach an ultimate height of around 1.5m. Though they can also be left to bush out, you will get larger, better fruit more quickly if you cordon them.
It is best to get your cordon system ready and in place before you plant out your tomato plants. You should also make sure that you have a soil that is fertile and rich in organic matter.
When planting your tomato plants, it is a good idea to spread a good quality organic mulch around your plants. A good quality compost or well-rotted manure, for example.
Caring For Gardeners Delight
- Water well and consistently, and remember to direct water to where it is needed – at the roots – and not from above. Wet foliage can increase the likelihood of disease. Ideally, water early in the day so that there is no risk of the plants being wet at night.
- Provide plenty of fertility. Use a good organic liquid feed as soon as the flowers form, and every couple of weeks throughout the summer. A tomato feed should be high in potassium, without too much nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can encourage leafy growth at the expense of the fruit. (Comfrey liquid feed could be one great option.) You can also use a mulch of comfrey leaves around your plants.
- Continue to tie in your plant to your supports as it grows, and pinch out side shoots.
- Make sure (if growing under cover) that the space remains open and pollinators can get inside. Ensure adequate ventilation and make sure your plants are not overcrowded.
- Choose appropriate companion plants to help tomatoes – basil, oregano, marigolds, borage, and alliums (e.g garlic, spring onions) can all be great options for a polyculture guild, for example.
- Make sure you have a good crop rotation plan in place and don’t grow Gardeners delight in the same place year after year.
- Remain vigilant for pests, and diseases – especially tomato blight. And remove diseased material as quickly as possible.
Harvesting Gardeners Delight Tomatoes
Gardeners Delight cherry tomato plants tend to fruit between July and October. They will obviously be further ahead and earlier to fruit if you start your tomato plants indoors. Growing these under cover in a greenhouse or polytunnel means that you will get a somewhat earlier harvest, and may be able to continue to harvest for a little longer at the end of the year.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.