Ailsa Craig is an English Heritage variety dating from 1925. It is still considered to be one of the finest varieties. It is a prolific cropper, noted for its vigour and the exceptional flavour of its fruit.
It will give medium sized green back fruit of perfect size and shape early in the season with excellent deep red colour and is suitable for indoor or outdoor cultivation. The fruits weigh approx 70 to 90 grams. Heavy cropping and a reliable performer.
The origins of this most popular tomato variety are largely a mystery but it is thought that it was first introduced in 1908. Almost certainly bred in Scotland and more than likely in Inverness by a Mr Alan Balch, it is named after the Scottish Island, Ailsa Craig is the distinctive dome- shaped island-rock, which rises sharply from the Firth of Clyde.
As they cannot tolerate any degree of frost the timing for sowing and planting outside is key to successfully growing tomatoes. Where the seeds are sown under cover or indoors, aim to sow the seeds so that they reach the stage to be transplanted outside three weeks after the last frost date. Tomato plants take roughly seven weeks from sowing to reach the transplanting stage. For example, if your last frost date is early May, the seeds should be planted in early April to allow transplanting at the end of May.
Tomatoes require a full sun position. Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The best soil used for containers is half potting compost and half a soil-based type loam: this gives some weight to the soil.
Plant about 3mm (1/8in) deep, in small pots using seed starting compost. Water lightly and keep consistently moist until germination occurs. Tomato seeds usually germinate within 5 -10 days when kept in the optimum temperature range of 21 to 27°C (70 to 80°F). As soon as they emerge, place them in a location that receives a lot of light and a cooler temperature (60 to 70°F); a south-facing window should work.
When the plants develop their first true leaves, and before they become root bound, they should be transplanted into larger into 20cm (4in) pots. Young plants are very tender and susceptible to frost damage, as well as sunburn. I protect my young plants by placing a large plastic milk jug, with the bottom removed, to form a miniature greenhouse. Depending on the components of your compost, you may need to begin fertilising. If you do fertilise, do it very, very sparingly with a weak dilution. Transplant into their final positions when they are about 15cm (6in) high. Two to three weeks prior to this, the plants should be hardened off.
Just before transplanting the tomato plants to their final position drive a strong stake into the ground 5cm (2in) from the planting position. The stake should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep in the ground and 1.2m (4ft) above ground level - the further into the ground the better the support. As the plant grows, tie in the main stem to the support stake - check previous ties to ensure that they do not cut into the stem as the plant grows.
Dig a hole 45cm (18in) apart in the bed to the same depth as the pot and water if conditions are at all dry. Ease the plant out of the pot, keeping the root ball as undisturbed as far as possible. Place it in the hole and fill around the plant with soil. The soil should be a little higher than it was in the pot. Loosely tie the plant's stem to the support stake using soft garden twine –allow some slack for future growth.
A constant supply of moisture is essential, dry periods significantly increase the risk of the fruit splitting. Feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser (high in potash) starting when the first fruits start to form, and every two or three weeks up to the end of August. In September, feed with a general fertiliser (higher in nitrogen) in order to help the plant support it's foliage.
Over watering may help to produce larger fruit, but flavour may be reduced. Additionally, splitting and cracking can result from uneven and excessive watering.
When the first fruits begin to form, pinch out the side shoots between the main stem. Also remove lower leaves which show any signs of yellowing to avoid infection.
Pick as soon as the fruits are ripe, this also encourages the production of more fruit. Harvest all the fruit as soon as frost threatens and ripen on a window sill.
Named after the Scottish Island, Ailsa Craig is the distinctive dome- shaped island-rock, which rises sharply from the Firth of Clyde. Two miles in circumference and rising to 338 metres, it is also known as Paddy's Milestone owing to its position as a landmark en route from Ireland.
The island was the heart of an ancient volcano, its rock exhibiting fine columnar structure and was renowned as the source of a superior micro-granite used to fashion curling stones.
The name comes from the Gaelic ‘Creag Ealasaid’, meaning Elizabeth's (some say Ailstair's) rock.
The name Ailsa is pronounced 'ale-sa', with the first syllable stressed.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 75mg Average Seed Count 30 Seeds Common Name Salad Tomato, Heritage (English 1925)
Vine / Cordon (Indeterminate)
Family Solanaceae Genus Lycopersicon Species esculentum Cultivar Ailsa Craig Synonym Ailsae Craig Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Fruit Red, 70 to 90 grams Height 150cm (60in) Spacing 60cm (24in) Season Mid-Season Time to Sow Late March to end May Time to Harvest 68 Days, June to October Notes Red in colour.