You can’t deny the flavour of fresh home-grown tomato straight from the vine. Their taste is far superior to the bland tomatoes offered in the supermarkets making them perfect for tomato soup and they’re really easy to grow.
Growing tomato plants from seed is a great way to discover new varieties and test your gardening skills. Tomato seeds are normally sown 6-8 weeks before the last frost date (March/April) but if you are lucky to have a greenhouse they can be sown earlier. Sprinkle your tomato seed thinly on the surface of good quality seed compost. Cover the seed with about 1.5mm (1/16in) of compost and water lightly with a fine-rose watering can. Tomato seeds generally take 7 to 14 days to germinate at a temperature of around 21C (70F).
Top tip: Keep your compost moist, whilst making sure you do not over water as this can encourage disease such as mould.
Growing tomato plants in a greenhouse can mean an earlier crop. For greenhouse tomatoes grow recommended varieties such as ‘Sungold’, ‘Money Maker’ or ‘Country Taste’. These tomatoes are generally sown from February onwards and in 7.5cm (3in) pots.
Plant young tomato plants when they are about 15-20cm (6-8in) tall and the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open. If you are growing tomatoes in pots or a grow bag remember they will require a lot more watering and care. Plant approximately 45cm (18in) between the plants and 75cm (30in) between the rows. In a grow bag, generally plant no more than two plants per bag. Make sure you ventilate the greenhouse regularly to reduce the risk of pests and diseases. Tomatoes prefer a temperature of 21 – 24C (70 – 75F) and will perform poorly at temperatures above 27C (81F) or below 16C (61F).
Growing tomatoes outside
When growing tomatoes outside, choose recommended varieties such as ‘Gardeners Delight’, ‘Money Maker’ or ‘Sweet Olive’. You can grow varieties such as ‘Cherry Cascade’ or ‘Tasty Tumbler’ in a flower pouch or as hanging basket tomatoes.
Top tip: Wait until approximately 6-8 weeks before the last frost is forecast and sow as directed on the individual seed packet in 7.5cm (3in) pots.
When all risk of frost has passed, plant the young plants when they are about 15-20cm (6-8in) tall and the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open. If you are planting into your border make sure you have dug in plenty of garden compost or manure during the winter. Just before planting, rake in a general purpose fertiliser – tomatoes are hungry plants!
Plant approximately 45cm (18 in) between the plants and 75cm (30in) between the rows. If you are growing tomatoes in grow bags or pots remember they will require a lot more watering and care. In a grow bag, generally plant no more than two plants per bag. There has been a recent trend for growing tomatoes upside down to save space in the garden. This is a great space saving solution similar to growing tomatoes in hanging baskets. Simply plant a young tomato plant through a hole in the bottom of a bucket or similar hanging container, and fill the container with multi-purpose compost. Suspend the bucket from a bracket and allow the plant to hang down beneath it.
You can also watch our youtube video How to grow tomatoes here;