Record early start for planting tomatoes at Wissington sugar factory

Tens of thousands of baby tomato plants will be arriving at the country's largest dedicated nursery within the next fortnight.

A team at Cornerways Nursery, which occupies a 50-acre site next to the world's largest beet sugar factory at Wissington, near Downham Market, will start planting on Monday, November 28.

Nigel Bartle, who runs the tomato growing enterprise which uses low-grade heat and also carbon dioxide from British Sugar's refinery, said that the tomato plants would be arriving slightly earlier than usual.

'We hope to finish planting all 43 acres of glass by early December,' he said.

A total of nine varieties of tomatoes, the same as last year, will be planted. Mr Bartle said that the first fruit would hopefully be ready for picking in time for Easter, if not earlier. The growth rate of the plants depends on the amount of solar radiation, so bright sunshine was key, he added.

The entire area of glass had been cleaned earlier this month. 'We wanted to get it cleaned before the new plants come, because we want maximum light,' he added.

With the entire area of glass ready for planting following the latest extension, which was completed earlier this year, Mr Bartle's team will be planting about 8,000 plants an area or a total of 360,000 plants.

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