No summer salad is complete without a juicy home-grown tomato picked fresh from the vine. These health-promoting fruits are relatively easy to grow if you get your planting time right and feed correctly. Expect to pick your first ripe fruits from the end of July through until October.
Growing Tomatoes: Soil & Growing Position
A rich soil improved with organic matter and some fertiliser is ideal for growing healthy tomatoes, especially if it is a warm sunny spot in front of a south-facing wall or fence.
Alternatively you can grow tomatoes in a compost planter pack positioned on a sunny patio or balcony. Gardeners can get great results from specific tomato planters because the compost is carefully blended and enriched with nutrients to encourage strong early growth ready for maximum cropping and tasty tomatoes.
Tomatoes are warm weather plants, meaning that your plants will struggle in particularly cold temperatures. So you will need to sow your tomato seeds indoors in trays of fine compost. Ideally you will be looking to plant outside when the night time temperature is consistently above 10 Degrees Celsius.
Sow your seeds in April and you will have seedling plants ready for planting outside at the end of May or beginning of June. This will be when the soil temperature is warm enough (around 15 Degrees Celcius +) for planting.
To test this out without a thermometer, try thrusting a finger into the soil and keeping it there for around a minute. If you cannot keep your finger in the soil for a whole minute without feeling uncomfortable, then the soil is ready.
Alternatively wait until May and buy ready grown seedling plants from your local garden centre.
There are three different types of tomatoes to choose from. ‘Cordon’ varieties are grown as a single stem that needs support and the side shoots regularly removed. ‘Bush’ varieties need no training, support or stopping. ‘Trailing’ types don’t need support or training and are good for tumbling from patio pots and hanging baskets.
Cordon varieties include: ‘Gardeners Delight’ (small), ‘Sungold’ (small), ‘Cherry Belle’ (small), ‘Alicante’ (medium), ‘Ailsa Craig’ (medium) and ‘Dombito’ (large).
Bush varieties include: ‘Glacier’ (medium), ‘Roma’ (plum) and ‘Marmande’ (large).
Trailing varieties include: ‘Garden Pearl’ (small), ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ (small) and ‘Tumbling Tom Yellow’ (small).
Sow your tomato seeds in individual cells of fine compost in early April. Plant up tiny seedlings when two true leaves are showing, one plant to a 5cm pot of enriched compost. Alternatively, buy ready-grown plants from your local garden centre at the end of May.
Plant out all plants early in June or end of May if night temperatures are warm. Plant into garden soil 60cm apart or 3 to each compost planter as soon as frosts have finished. Tumbling varieties do well in patio pots or hanging baskets filled with a mositure controlling compost.
Cordons: Stake each cordon plant and tie the tomato stem loosely to the stake at 30cm (12in) intervals. Pinch out side shoots that develop where leaves join the main stem. After 4 or 5 trusses have formed, remove the growing tip of the main stem, so the plant concentrates all its energy on developing the fruits to ripeness.
Trailing: When grown in containers regular watering is the key to success. Try to keep the compost moist but not soaking wet.
All types: Start feeding all plants with liquid tomato plant food after the first truss has set fruit and repeat at 14 day intervals.
Whitefly is the most serious pest problem of tomatoes. If your plants are attacked spray them with a suitable insecticide and spray every 10 days or as directed on the product.
Blight is the most serious disease. Luckily, it is possible to accurately predict when blight outbreaks are going to happen. Sign up for the free Blightwatch service to get e-mail alerts when blight is forecast in your area.
Blossom end rot is a common problem of tomatoes, which is caused by irregular watering or dryness at the roots.
Tomato leaf mould is a common fungal disease of tomatoes growing under cover, in a greenhouse. It is rarely seen on outdoor plants. Once it becomes established, it can spread rapidly and cause significant losses.