What’s the idea?
Why not grow tomatoes at home so that the whole family can enjoy your own juicy tomatoes, a sure sign that summer is here.
What’s the story?
One of the pleasures of having an allotment is picking my own homegrown tomatoes and eating them fresh from the plant.
I have been growing them for many years and I love the sight of tomatoes ripening on the bush.
Perhaps you’re just starting out growing tomatoes as a hobby? They’re easy to grow and you don’t even need a garden.
People should do this because…?
If you grow your own tomatoes at home it’s not only rewarding, but you’ll save cash too! If you’re learning to grow vegetables then this is a great way to start. I find they taste so much better than any you buy in the supermarket.
You’ll also help reduce your impact on the planet by cutting down on packaging and waste. You don’t need masses of equipment and you won’t need loads of space to get started either.
How do you do it?
You can grow tomatoes almost anywhere, indoors, in greenhouses, or outdoors in containers or even hanging baskets.
There are hundreds of tasty tomato varieties to choose from but I grow a cherry tomato called ‘Gardeners Delight’, and ‘Marmande’ a large tomato which is ideal for slicing up in sandwiches.
Sow tomato seeds
If you’re growing your plants in a greenhouse sow your seeds in March, and April if grown outdoors.
For an early crop, you should sow early February and keep them indoors on a windowsill until night-time temperatures are over 10ºC in your unheated greenhouse.
Sow seeds in 7 cm pots and once they’re large enough tease them apart and plant them in individual 7 cm pots.
Once your seeds have reached about 1 in tall move them to a propagator to give them some bottom heat and encourage growth.
If you don’t want to grow them from seeds, you can buy small plants from garden centres in March or April.
Tomato seeds are quite good at germinating so don’t sow too many; fifteen plants will feed a family for the whole season (depending on how many you all eat)!
If you’re growing tomatoes in a greenhouse they can be planted out in May.
You should plant out in the early June tomatoes you’re growing outside in the ground, containers or hanging baskets.
Train your tomatoes
Growing a ‘bush’ variety is the easiest option because they don’t need training.
For containers and hanging baskets, you should try planting dwarf bush varieties.
Most tomato plants grown are ‘cordons’ which means the plant has one main stem so you will need to remove shoots that grow between the main stem and the leaves.
This is to ensure the plant puts its energy into creating fruit rather than further growth.
Once it’s big enough, tie to a cane for support and to keep it growing straight.
Feed and water your tomatoes
You should keep your tomato plants moist but not wet and water them twice a day during the warm weather.
Make sure you water at regular intervals to stop the fruit splitting.
Feed your tomatoes with fertiliser once a week until they produce flowers and 2 to 3 times a week after that.
Prevent problems in your tomatoes
You should watch out for blight which is a common problem with tomatoes grown outdoors and is caused by a type of fungus.
It causes browning of the leaves and fruit. It will spread rapidly in the right conditions and you should destroy any affected plants.
Tomatoes suffer from blight after 3 or 4 days of humid weather so spray them with copper fungicide before it strikes and then every 2 weeks.
If your tomatoes ripen unevenly this may be caused by a lack of potash, lack of moisture or even excessive heat.
If you water irregularly, your tomatoes may suffer from a sunken dark patch on the fruit called ‘bottom end rot’.
Try inter-planting with marigolds to prevent aphids and whitefly.
Harvest your tomatoes
To avoid your tomatoes splitting, aim to pick them at their reddest or just before.
At the end of the season, if you have plants with unripe fruit, lift them and hang them upside down under cover until they ripen.
Try and avoid storing them in the fridge as this will reduce their flavour.
So if you’re looking for a new project this year, why not grow tomatoes at home and it’s a great way to get your kids into gardening too.
Stuff you may need
- Tomato seeds/plants
- Tomato fertiliser
- Watering can
- Copper fungicide