Home-grown tomatoes taste so much better than ones bought in the shops and they’re fun to grow. You have to keep an eye on them and look after them – children are good at that! Now’s the time to choose and plant your tomato plants so plan a little trip to your local garden centre over half-term.
What sort of tomatoes?
Definitely cherry tomatoes as they are just the right size to pop into your mouth!
Unless you’ve got lots of room, go for a bush or tumbling type of tomato. These varieties don’t need to have their side shoots pinched out or have any pruning or training. They trail or sprawl very happily along the ground or tumble from a container or a hanging basket. They tend to ripen relatively early so you could be eating your very own tomatoes by the end of the summer term!
Here are four good varieties.
- ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ and ‘Tumbler’ are classics, both producing heavy crops of sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes throughout the summer.
- ‘Tiny Tim’ has been bred specially for growing in containers.
- ‘Losetto’ is an outdoor variety.
More varieties are reviewed by the Daily Telegraph here.
What do your tomato plants need?
For lovely sweet and juicy fruit, all tomato plants need fertile soil and plenty of regular sun, food and water.
Where to plant your tomatoes
Choose a warm, sheltered spot. This could be indoors or outdoors or in a greenhouse or polytunnel if you’ve got one. Plant your tomatoes when the first 'branch' or ‘truss’ of flowers has appeared. Plants will be a reasonable size when they do this.
If you’re growing your plants indoors, choose a 30-38cm / 12-15 inch plastic pot and fill it with multipurpose compost.
Plant outdoor tomatoes in a growing bag (see below for more detailed instructions), a container or a hanging basket. Plant one plant in the centre of a 30-38cm / 12-15 inch hanging basket and the shoots from one plant will spread and cover the whole basket.
If you’re growing tomatoes in a greenhouse or polytunnel you can plant directly into the greenhouse soil.
How to plant in a growing bag
Shake the growing bag to break up the compost inside and then form it into a hummock so there is a nice deep amount of compost for the plants to grow into. Some people use tape to pull the bag into this rounded, deeper shape because water is less likely to run off than with a flat growing bag, and more likely to get to the roots – where you want it.
Make some drainage holes in the underside of the bag and cut out the pre-marked planting squares. Two or three is the best number of plants for a bag.
Make a good-sized hole and plant so that the top of the root ball is covered with a light covering of compost. Firm the plants in and water them.
Fascinating fact about tomato plants
If your tomatoes are ‘leggy’ rather than ‘bushy’, plant them deeper than normal. Bury up to 2/3 of the plant, including the lower sets of leaves. Tomatoes grow roots from buried stems, and the more roots a plant has the better it will absorb nutrients, and the better the plant will be held in place.
Follow the rules!
- Water tomatoes regularly, a little and often, and don’t let them dry out. This will stop the fruit from splitting and the flavour from becoming impaired. They do need a constant supply of water when they are actively growing in June, July and August but don’t overwater them.
- When the first flowers appear, start to feed the plant every week with tomato fertiliser.
- If you’re growing your tomatoes inside or under glass, make sure there is good ventilation and air circulation, and avoid splashing the leaves when watering. This will help to prevent disease.
- Be bold and thin out the leaves as the fruit develops. This way, the plant will put its energy into the fruit and not into more foliage. It also helps ventilation.
Tomatoes ready to be planted out are available in garden centres now. Just ask for advice, if you need it!
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