Most people love growing tomatoes. That’s because the flavour of home-grown tomatoes is unbelievable, and you’ll find that no shop bought tomato will ever compete with your own home-grown tomatoes.
More than any other crop, the most important thing when growing tomatoes is to make sure that they are well fed and watered properly, this will ensure that the tomatoes will produce continuously.
The two main ways of growing tomatoes are indoors or outdoors. And you can buy or grow indoors and outdoor varieties.
Growing Tomatoes – Sowing the seed
Tomatoes need a long growing season to crop effectively. You start growing tomatoes the same way. If you are growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can sow the tomato seeds in February to mid-March.
If on the other-hand you are growing tomatoes outdoors, then you need to sow the tomato seeds about eight to ten weeks before your last frost date in your area, which is usually around the end of March or early April.
Fill a seed tray with compost and water the compost; place the tomato seeds on top about 2-3cm apart – or fill plant pots with compost, water and sow individual tomato seeds in each one – sow one or two per pot. Lightly cover the seeds with compost. Place the tray or pots into a heated propagator or put a clear polythene bag around the tray or pot to keep the seeds warm. Tomatoes germinate at 15ºC but they will germinate much quicker at 20ºC.
You can sow different varieties. Don’t forget to label each seed-tray or pot so you know which variety you have sown.
The tomato seeds will take between one and two weeks to come up. Once the tomato seedlings have come up and they have 2 or 3 leaves, they can be pricked out into their own individual pots.
Use a dipper or an old pencil to lift and tease out the little tomato seedling. It’s very important that you only touch the leaves of the tomato plant; as the very delicate stem can be easily bruised.
Fill the pots with multi-purpose compost and water them before making a hole into the compost with your dipper or pencil. Pop the tomato seedling in and back-fill the small hole. Keep the tomato plants in a warm place to continue their growing.
Tip: If growing tomatoes from seed seems to be too much work for you – then you could buy a few tomato plants from your local garden centre, carboot sale or online.
You can plant out your tomato plants when they are around 20cm tall. Plant them in a greenhouse, tunnel or when appropriate outside. Plant the tomatoes around 40 to 50cm apart
Many vegetable gardeners now grow tomatoes in growbags. The main benefit is that if the soil or plants get any disease the growbags are thrown away. Growbags are reliable and easy to use. Personally I grow tomatoes outside in large 40 to 50cm pots; I plant 1 tomato plants in each pot and place a bamboo stick next to each plant.
Growing Tomatoes – Looking after the crop
The tomato plant will need some sort of support either place a bamboo cane or some kind of garden twine that you can tie at the bottom of the plant and the twine needs to be tied at the top to something.
You need to train the tomato to grow loosely to the cane or the twine. You can tie the tomato plant to the twine or cane.
The tomato plant will grow side-shoots; these need to be removed from the plant. You can just pinch them out when they are young or cut them out, be careful not to damage the main plant. Side shoots are easily identified as a shoot that appears from where the leaves are joined to the main stem.
When the plant is around 4ft high you can remove the leaves below the first tomato trusses. This allows more air to be circulated and can help with ripening. Remove these leaves with secateurs or a sharp knife.
Once the tomato plant starts to flowers you need to mist the plants to help pollination and set the fruit.
Water the plant regularly to keep the soil most. Irregular watering will cause blossom rot.
When the tomato plants have reached the top of the greenhouse or tunnel or when 7 trusses have set you need to remove the growing tip of tomato, just cut it off. This encourages the tomatoes to develop and grow bigger.
Once the tomato plants start forming tomatoes it is time to start feeding your tomatoes with Bio liquid tomato feed. Use the Bio liquid tomato feed every time you’re watering the tomatoes.
Pest & Diseases
Tomato blight – is the biggest problem with tomatoes. Tomato blight is a fungal disease and the spores are carried in wind and rain. Many gardeners find tomato blight is worse during wet and warm weather. The tomatoes will develop brown spots that are sunken. Tomato blight will spread very quickly through the tomato plants. You need to rip up the infected plants to stop the disease. As a preventative you can spray the plants with copper fungicide once the first tomatoes have set.
Magnesium Deficiency – The tomato plants will get discoloration on the lower leaves and it will slowly move up the plant until all the foliage is affected. Treatment: use a magnesium sachet with your tomato feed.
Foot Rot – This is usually associated with a young plant but mature plants can get it. If the plant is growing just leave it – if the plant isn’t looking very well pull it up and burn the plant. Then treat the area with Cheshunt compound. This can be caused by over-watering.
Leaf Roll – Rolled tomato leaves are nothing to worry about as it doesn’t indicate a disease. Leaf roll can happen if the tomato plant is excessively de-leafed or due to extreme hot and cold temperatures.
Anyone can start growing tomatoes – so start your this year in your vegetable garden.