Growing your own tomatoes is fun and rewarding. What’s more is that you only need a couple of plants to provide you with a good crop that will see you through the summer!
Easy to grow from seed, you can sow tomato seeds from late March to early April if you will be growing the plants outdoors. If you are planning on growing your tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can start sowing seed earlier.
When selecting your tomatoes, check to see if they’re bush or cordon varieties. Cordon tomato plants are the most common and are grown as single stemmed plants with side shoots removed. They will grow very tall – sometimes taller than 2.5m in very warm conditions. Bush varieties stop growing sooner with the stem ending in a fruit truss. They are suitable as hanging basket tomatoes and don’t require any pruning.
When it comes to sowing, plant your seeds in small pots of moist compost. Keep them indoors, using a propagator or place the pots in a plastic bag or cover with cling film and keep on a warm, bright windowsill. When the seeds have germinated, remove them from the propagator or bag and keep the compost damp. Transplant seedlings when they reach about 2-3cm tall into 5cm pots filled with moist multi-purpose compost and return them to the windowsill. Keep potting on your seedlings as necessary and make sure you support the stems by tying them to a pea stick with soft string.
Young plants are available from garden centres in spring if you don’t have the space to raise tomato seedlings. But they will still require frost-free conditions and hardening off before planting outside.
You can plant up your tomatoes outside after the last frost in May. Make sure you choose a sunny, sheltered spot no matter if you’re planting them into a border, pots or grow bag.
If you are growing cordon tomatoes, they will require pinching out (removing side shoots) and tying to canes with soft string. When the first tiny fruits begin to appear, strip away the leaves underneath to allow light and air to reach them better. When the plant has grown four trusses of flowers, pinch out the plant’s growing tip. Once flowers appear, you’ll want feed your plants weekly with liquid tomato food and make sure you keep them well watered – irregular watering causes fruit to split or develop hard black patches, known as blossom-end rot.
For those of you growing bush tomatoes, these are much simpler to manage – you can just leave them to get on with it! If you spot that the fruits are hidden under leaves, thin out the foliage a little to let the sun through to ripen them. Also you’ll want to support heavy trusses on top of upturned flowerpots to prevent their stems snapping.
Your hard work will be richly rewarded with a harvest of tomatoes throughout the warmer months. Just make sure you leave tomatoes on the plants so they can ripen naturally, which greatly improves the flavour! As we come towards the end of the season, be sure to prune off the older leaves to let in more light and prevent grey mould fungus taking hold.
If you need any further advice on how to make the most out of your tomato plants this summer, please do get in touch. Feel free to call us or pop in to any one of our shops for a friendly chat.