How to grow: Tomatoes

A wall covered with tomato plants with tomatoes growing on them.

Tomatoes are a popular greenhouse crop can also be grown outside on the patio or plot or even in a hanging basket if you get the right variety.

There are hundreds of tomato varieties ranging from the tiny cherry tomatoes to the huge beefsteak types and all sizes in between.

Tomatoes are great value for money because most home-grown fruit are far superior to those in the shops, as gardeners can grow varieties that are not bred for shelf life, which supermarket tomatoes are and as a result have tougher skins. Once you have tried standard varieties check the seed catalogues for some real heritage gems.

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Varieties

There are so many to choose from it is difficult to pick just a few but there are some worth a mention.

Sungold

A really popular cherry tomato that can be grown in a greenhouse or outside. It produces masses of tiny orange-red fruits that are just so sweet. The skins are very thin too which does mean they split easily, but the taste makes up for it.

‘Costoluto Fiorentino’

This is a fantastic beefsteak tomato that has fruits up to 10cm (4in) in diameter. It is renowned for its wonderful flesh and great flavour. Ideal for tomato sauces. Best grown in a greenhouse.

‘Tumbler’

A perfect tomato to grow in a hanging basket. It produces tiny cherry-red tomatoes and can be put in a basket with some bedding plants for a pretty display.

‘Ferline’

This tomato is a must for gardeners who have had problems with blight affecting their toms in the past. It has good resistance to this fungal disease.

A full tomato next to chopped tomato on a white background.

Growing Tips

Sowing/Planting

Fill small pots or trays with multipurpose compost and sprinkle seeds over the surface. Cover with 6mm (1⁄4in) of compost and water well.

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Place in a propagator or on a warm windowsill at a temperature of about 70F (21C). Once the seedlings are through remove from the propagator and put on a light warm windowsill or if you have a heated greenhouse, place on the bench.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle move into individual 9cm (31⁄2in pots). Grow on in a warm well-lit spot.

In April the plants will be large enough to put in an unheated greenhouse to grow on and by May they should be showing signs of flower buds and at this stage they can be planted into their final pots or growing-bag inside a greenhouse or polytunnel.

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Don’t plant tomatoes outside yet, wait until the end of May or beginning of June as they are susceptible to the cold.

Growing on

Tomatoes are either bush types or cordon. Cordons require the support of canes whereas bush types do not. As cordon tomatoes grow tie them in with string and remove any side shoots that form in the leaf joints.

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Mist the flowers during the day to improve pollination and fruit set or tap the tops of the canes. Keep the plants well watered and once the first fruits start to set feed with a tomato feed.

In the height of summer keep the greenhouse ventilated well on hot sunny days and if necessary shade the greenhouse a little.

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