How To: Grow Tomatoes

Growing your own tomatoes is both fun and rewarding. Done correctly, you can harvest bunches of nutrient-rich, ripe tomatoes from July through to September. Home-grown tomatoes will taste better than anything bought in a shop, and it’s possible to grow a variety from small cherry toms, all the way up to large beefsteaks. Each has its own distinctive flavour, appearance and usage.

How To: Grow Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes at Home

In order to successfully grow tomatoes at home you will need rich fertile soil or peat-free compost if you are growing them in pots. Choose a sunny but sheltered spot, ideally south-facing either in your garden or inside a greenhouse. 

Tomatoes are split into two main growing varieties: Bush (Determinate) and Cordon (Interminate). Bush types are best planted in pots or even hanging baskets as their stems will trail around the edges. On the other hand, Cordon types will grow thin and tall and will need to be supported by canes or stakes. 

If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you grow bush tomatoes as they need less maintenance such as pinching out growing shoots.

Varieties of Tomato

If you’re growing from seed, be sure to check which variety you are growing as there is a large range, all with unique shapes, sizes, textures and uses. Colours also vary from the traditional red to dark purple, pink, orange, yellow, green or even striped! 

You can find heirloom varieties which have been grown for many generations, as well as modern choices which are resistant to blight and other diseases. In terms of shapes, you can choose plants which produce miniature round fruit, long plum varieties, smooth salad tomatoes and even large, wrinkled beefsteaks. 

How To: Grow Tomatoes

Looking After Your Plants

You can either buy tomatoes as young plants or start from scratch with seeds. Start sowing seeds in late January through to late March in 7.5cm pots and let them germinate on a bright windowsill or greenhouse. Once germinated and the seedlings have reached about 2-3cm tall transfer them into 5cm pots filled with multi-purpose compost. Keep repotting as necessary when they outgrow their current pots. 

Once the last frost has passed in around May your seedlings can be potted outside. Either plant them in a border with plenty of garden compost, into large 30cm pots or put 2-3 plants into a growing bag. If you are keeping your tomato plants in the greenhouse, try growing them alongside basil as they thrive in the same conditions. If you are keeping them in the greenhouse they will need protection from excessive amounts of heat and sun with blinds, shade paint or woven shading fabric.

How to Harvest Tomatoes

Depending on the variety and how warm a summer it has been, tomatoes will start to ripen from mid-summer onwards. Cherry tomatoes will ripen quicker than larger varieties and those grown in a greenhouse will usually start cropping earlier than those outdoors. Greenhouse-grown tomatoes can also continue for longer; developing ripe fruit well into autumn.

Check your plants every few days and pick tomatoes individually with the stalk attached. Towards the end of the growing season, they can be picked by the vine and ripened indoors in a warm, dark space if it becomes too cool outside. Don’t forget to prune the lower leaves of the plant when they start to discolour as this will aid in ripening and lessen the likelihood of disease.

Fresh tomatoes are best eaten as soon as possible but will survive about a week in the fridge if needed to prevent mould growth. Any surplus ripe fruits can be cooked and then frozen for meals such as pasta bakes, stews and soups in the future. Any green tomatoes that haven’t managed to ripen this season can even be used in a green tomato chutney. 

If you’d like more tips and tricks for successfully growing tomatoes or to purchase tomato seeds, pots and canes, visit us in-store at Holt Garden Centre.

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