Tomatoes are one of our favourite vegetables to grow at home. And no wonder – the taste of freshly picked, well-grown tomatoes is divine and so much better than anything you can buy! We asked the experts over at Love the Garden for their top tips on growing tip-top tomatoes!
Tomato types & varieties
There are hundreds of different varieties of tomatoes – from the small-fruited cherry types to the monster beefsteaks, from the standard red fruit to yellow, orange, green, purple and striped, from tall varieties to bush and even trailing varieties for growing in hanging baskets. They are divided up depending on where to grow them, how they grow and the size of fruit they produce.
Where to grow tomatoes
Indoor varieties – These need to be grown in a protected environment, such as a greenhouse, polytunnel or growing frame.
Outdoor varieties – These are, as you might expect, grown outdoors!
How they grow
Cordon, upright or vine varieties – Grown as a single stem that needs support and the sideshoots (small shoots that form where the leaves join the main stem) removed regularly.
Bush varieties – Need no training, no or little support, sideshooting or stopping.
Trailing varieties – Like bush varieties, but produce long, trailing stems making them perfect for tumbling from patio pots and hanging baskets.
Cherry – Small fruit, perfect for salads and eating whole.
Small & Medium – Excellent cut up into salads or cooked.
Beefsteak – Huge tomatoes that are excellent baked or cooked.
Plum – Excellent eaten whole or cooked.
Here’s a selection of some of the best varieties.
I = indoor
O = outdoor
I/O = either
C = cherry
S = small
M = medium
B = large/beefsteak
Growing your tomatoes
Tomatoes need a warm, sunny position to produce good crops of tasty fruit. A spot in front of a south-facing wall or fence is a good choice.
You can either grow them in the ground 45-60cm (18-24in) apart, singly in large (25-30cm/10-12in) pots filled with good potting compost or three plants per growing bag or giant planter. Pots and bags are the perfect choice for small gardens and for growing on patios.
As tomato plants are cold and frost tender, don’t plant them outside until early June or the end of May if night temperatures are warm.
Stake upright varieties with a bamboo cane and tie the stem loosely to the stake at 30cm (12in) intervals as it grows. Or carefully twine it around a spiral support. Pinch out sideshoots that develop where the leaves join the main stem.
Regular watering is important for all tomato plants, especially for plants growing in pots or growing bags. The aim should be to keep the soil or compost evenly moist, without drying out.
For good crops of tasty fruit it is important to feed the plants. The best way to do this is to use a high potash, liquid tomato feed, such as Levington Tomorite. Start feeding after the first truss has set fruit and repeat at 14-day intervals. Levington Tomorite contains seaweed extract, which ensures good quality fruit with a great, full flavour.
After four or five trusses of fruit (five or six for indoor varieties) have formed, remove the growing tip of the main stem at two leaves above the top truss, so the plant concentrates all its energy on developing the fruit.
Top tomato tips
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 potash and calcium in the soil, also leads to blossom end rot – the bottom of the fruit turns black and becomes sunken.
For more information, help and advice on growing tomatoes and other vegetables, visit lovethegarden.com