Tomtoes growing on vine
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

How To Grow Tomatoes

There nothing tastier or more pleasurable to grow than your own tomatoes

Sowing seed

  • Use a propagator or a constantly warm, sunny windowsill. They need a constant temperature of 21C (70F) until they have germinated; which usually takes 14 – 21 days.
  • Don’t sow the whole packet if you only want a couple of plants, unless you want to give some away, as they usually all germinate.
  • Don’t over water as it leads to damping off and moulds forming.
  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of Vermiculite as this helps keep an even temperature.
  • When they are strong enough, transplant to a 9cm (3.5”) pot, using potting compost. Keep warm.
  • Watch the video and read the blog showing how to sow tomato seeds.

tomatoes growing in grow rings in the greenhouse

Planting

  • Enrich the planting hole with blood, fish and bone or balanced fertiliser, such as Growmore.
  • Plant the tomato up to its leaves; it will put roots out from the stem. The more roots it has the more water and nutrients it can absorb which will result in a stronger plant with more fruit.
  • If you are planting in a bed with shallow soil or a tomato grow-bag use a tomato ring or a bucket with the bottom cut out; as shown in our video. Screw the pot into the compost so that it’s firm and fill with compost, then plant the tomato into the ring. Watch the video and read the blog showing how to do this.
  • Plant outdoor varieties in a sheltered, sunny, south facing position as they need as much sun as possible to ripen fruits.
  • Water well after planting.
  • Plant basil in amongst the plants; it reputedly enhances the flavour.

Tomatoes growing in the greenhouse

Aftercare

  • Water well, make sure they are always damp as erratic watering will cause the fruits to split and can lead to blossom end rot. Water evenly; don’t give them a huge amount then nothing for days, a moderate amount every day is preferable.
  • Start feeding every week with a high potash fertiliser, such as Tomorite, as soon as the first tiny fruits appear. Watch the video and read the blog showing how to feed tomatoes.
  • Once the bottom truss starts to ripen take off the bottom leaves to allow more sunlight to reach the fruits.
  • Keep pinching out the side shoots on cordon tomatoes otherwise you will end up with a huge leafy plant and very few fruits. Watch the video and read the blog showing how to do this.
  • Nip out the growing point of cordon tomatoes once you have 5 trusses. This will concentrate the plants energy into producing fruit instead of growing.
  • Once the flowers start forming allow as much air circulation through the greenhouse as possible, this enables pollination of the flowers and so is not necessary to hand pollinate.
  • The tall growing cordon varieties require staking and regular tying in; watch the video and read the blog which explains how to do this.

tomatoes growing

Problems

  • Mildew is a problem when the plants are too dry and there is insufficient air flow so make sure they are kept evenly damp, vents and the door are kept open and in really hot weather damp down the greenhouse path.
  • Greenfly and whitefly can both be a problem so interplant with marigolds to deflect the insects from the tomatoes.
  • Blossom end rot is a lack of calcium and too little water; it appears as a black patch at the bottom of the fruit. It occurs most often where plants have limited growing space. Make sure plants are well watered and fed and that there is good airflow through the greenhouse as a humid atmosphere can also exacerbate this condition.
  • Fruit splitting is caused by erratic watering; allowing to become dry then giving the plants too much rather than a steady supply.
  • Flowers not forming fruits is a common problem of lack of pollination so make sure you have good airflow through the greenhouse as soon as the first flowers form.

Multi-coloured cherry tomatoes

Varieties

Try growing small, sweet cherry tomatoes if you have children; ‘Sweet Million’ produces dozens of cherry-sized fruits.
‘Shirley’ is a good full-sized tomato for the beginner as it is relatively trouble free.
Try one of the heritage varieties such as ‘Brandywine’ or ‘Black Russian’
The grafted tomatoes give better disease resistance and improved yield.

For more information on growing tomatoes just get in touch with our Outdoor Plant team here in store.