Grow Your Own

Tomatoes

Growing your own tomatoes is simple – just a couple of plants will reward you with plenty of sweet-tasting tomatoes in the summer. There are all kinds of tomatoes to try – from the tiniest cherry types that are favourites with children, through to full-flavoured giant beefsteak tomatoes. And tomatoes come in all kinds of colours too – red, of course, but also green and orange, even purple tomatoes or striped tomatoes. Tomato plants can be cordon varieties that need staking and tying in, bush varieties, and there are even tomato plants designed to grow in hanging baskets.

Growing tomatoes

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Grow

Transfer to 23cm (9in) pots, growing bags or plant 45-60cm (18-24in) apart outside when the flowers of the first truss are beginning to open; plants for growing outdoors should be hardened off first.

Tie the main stem to a vertical bamboo cane or wind it up a well-anchored but slack sturdy string. Those grown as bush or hanging basket types do not need support.

Remove the sideshoots regularly when they are about 2.5cm (1in) long. Those grown as bush or hanging basket types do not need to have sideshoots removed.

Water regularly to keep the soil/compost evenly moist. Feed every 10-14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash one once the first fruits start to set.

Remove yellowing leaves below developing fruit trusses.

Once the plants reach the top of the greenhouse or have set seven trusses indoors or four trusses outdoors, remove the growing point of the main stem at two leaves above the top truss.

If you allow the soil or compost to dry out and then flood it the change in water content will cause the fruit to crack; always aim to keep plants evenly moist.

Irregular watering, together with a lack of calcium in the soil leads to blossom end rot - the bottom of the fruit turns black and becomes sunken.

Problems

Blossom end rot: Dark blotches appear on the ends.

Remedy: Water regularly and not sporadically and never allow the soil to dry out.

More info at rhs.org.uk

Tomato blight: Disease that causes fruit and foliage rot, most common in wet weather.

Remedy: Select resistant cultivars. Protectant sprays such as Bordeaux mixture and dithane can be applied in June if there it looks to be a wet summer.

More info at rhs.org.uk

Tomato leaf mould: Leaf mould can develop rapidly to cause significant yield loss in greenhouse-grown tomatoes. It is rarely seen on outdoor crops. Yellow blotches develop on the upper leaf surface. A pale, greyish-brown mould growth is found on the corresponding lower surface. Where the disease is severe the mould growth may also be found on the upper surface.

Remedy: Select resistant cultivars. Provide ample ventilation to indoor tomato crops.

More info at rhs.org.uk

Tomato splitting and cracking: Cracking or splitting usually does not affect the taste of the tomato, but split fruit left on the plant will often be infected by a fungus, such as grey mould and can cause a variety of physiological disorders.

Remedy: Control temperature and sunlight levels carefully. Feed regularly to maintain high soil fertility. Water to maintain a constant level of soil moisture.

More info at rhs.org.uk

Leaf problems: Inappropriate levels of water, light, temperature and nutrients can all cause problems with leaves in tomatoes. These are physiological disorders - problems that are caused by the growing conditions rather than by pests or diseases.

Remedy: Controlling sunlight and temperature levels will avoid extremes which cause disorders. Avoid erratic watering, keeping soil constantly moist.

More info at rhs.org.uk

Harvesting

Start picking when the fruit is ripe and fully coloured.

At the end of the growing season lift the plants with unripe fruit and either lay them on straw under cloches or hang them in a cool shed to aid ripening. Or you can, pick the green fruit and store in a drawer next to a banana, which aids ripening.

Recipes

Nigel Slater uses large, ripe tomatoes for his delicious supper dish, roast tomatoes with cheese and thyme.

Masterchef judge Greg Wallace shares his recipe for tasty tomato tarts.

Varieties

‘Tumbler': A trailing tomato that can be grown in hanging baskets. A small bush (determinate) cultivar.

‘Tornado’ AGM: This bush (determinate) cultivar is hard to beat outdoors and is suitable for hanging baskets or pots.

'Sweet Million' AGM: This tomato produces masses of small, sweet, cherry-sized, bright red fruits that children love. Sweet Million grows well in growing bags and pots, which makes it ideal if you are short on space. Described by Raymond Blanc, of Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, as ‘a good tomato experience… juicy.’

'Gardener's Delight' : For small, flavoursome tomatoes, try this reliable and heavy cropping cultivar. A cordon (indeterminate) type. Good in growing bags or pots.

'Ferline': This is a beefsteak tomato with flavoursome, large red fruits and some resistance to tomato/potato blight. A cordon (indeterminate) type. Good in growing bags or pots.


Do now

  • Plant individual seedlings into pots when they have 2 - 4 leaves
  • Buy young plants now, which should be available from garden centres
  • Treat aphids with an insecticide based on fatty acids or oils

Month by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Plant out
Harvest

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