Tomatoes are one of the easiest of vegetable to grow from seed and there are plenty of varieties to choose from. Our helpful guide gives you some tips to grow some lovely juicy and tasty fruits and avoid some of the pitfalls.
Choosing your tomatoes
- Grow what you want to eat, cherry tomatoes are lovely for salads but bigger Italian type tomatoes are great for making your own sauces.
- Try planting a few different varieties to see what will grow best in your area.
- Tomatoes can be grown inside or out, but cherry tomatoes are easier to ripen when grown outside
- Seeds can be sown from January to April, early sowing will need to been done under cover in a heated greenhouse, poly tunnel or propagator.
- Coir makes an excellent seed compost. Other peat free seed composts or your own home made sifted compost will also make a good seed compost.
- Sow the seeds in pots, trays or propagators and cover lightly with compost.
- Cover trays/pots with cling film or use a propagator; the increased humidity helps the seedlings to shed their shell
- Keep in a warm (18-21oc) dark place and when the seedling emerge move to a lighter spot but not in direct sunlight.
- Pot on when seeds have developed the first two true leaves, hold seedlings by the leaves so that fragile stems are not damaged.
- Seedlings are ready for transplanting into their final place when about 2.5cm tall.
- You will need a rich fertile soil, so add some well rotted manure to your compost, use 9cm pots per plant or plant in a bed 38-45cm apart for tall plants and 45-60cm apart in bush plants.
- Tall plants will need canes stakes for support.
- Position plants in a warm, sheltered sunny position, don't put plants outside until the last frost has passed.
- Water the soil not the leaves, this is best done in the evening so that loss from evaporation is minimised
- Tomatoes will appreciate a feed every week once they have stared to flower. Homemade nettle brew and liquid comfrey are great for this.
- Pinch out the side shoots that develop between the main stem and the branches, they take extra energy out of the plant
- On outdoor plants it is best to cut the tops of after six trusses have grown so the plant can concentrate it's energy.
- Aphids have a great affection for tomatoes. Attracting aphid eating beneficial insects, companion planting and biological controls are all organically friendly ways to tackle them.
- Split fruits can result from irregular watering. Watering little and often and make sure plants are in deep enough compost to stop them drying out.
- Blight can be a problem on outdoor tomatoes. It is a fungal infection caused by damp leaves causing the leaves to turn brown/black and spreads from plant to plant. Try blight resistant varieties, don't get leaves wet then watering and considered covering plants if is going to rain for more than two days in a row.
- Blossom end rot looks like brown or black patches on the fruits. It is a result of infrequent watering and nutrient deficiency, you can still rescue the remaining fruits by regular watering and feeding.