Grow Guide: Tomatoes
A great one to grow in raised beds and pots alike, home grown tomatoes take their sweetness from the sun and leave you with a tasty ingredient for any meal. Smaller tomatoes, such as cherry or Santini are great as they ripen faster than the large beef tomatoes. If you only have limited space in your balcony or hanging baskets, tomatoes can still be grown if you pick a variety that is compact and won’t spread too much, Tumbling Tom and SunGold are varieties that grow well in a large pot or hanging basket.
Plant in full sun
Plant tomatoes where they get plenty of sun. The number of daylight hours that a tomato receives is more important for boosting yield than heat. You can plant tomatoes directly in the ground or in growbags or raised beds.
How to Plant
You can either plant your tomatoes from seeds indoors or simply buy young tomato plants to grow on from your local garden centre.
Seeds are best sown indoors from the second week of March to the beginning of May. It usually takes about 8-10 weeks for the seeds to grow to a size suitable for planting in their final position outside. But be sure to keep under cover until all danger of frost has passed, usually late May.
Young tomato plants, from the garden centre, can be planted outside in late May when they are 16cm high. Ensure that the soil is damp when planting into their final home. Put the plant in a hole that is deeper than the pot, and ensure that the seedling is well supported by filling soil around it. Support your tomato plants with a bamboo cane or a narrow stake and tie in the plant with soft twine as it gets taller.
The secret to success with tomatoes is watering frequently and feeding them, particularly if they are growing in the ground. There are lots of liquid tomato feeds available with all the nutrients they need. Once the tomato plants have flowers it is time to start feeding. If you are growing them in a grow bag, it most likely will contain enough nutrients for the whole growing season, but a liquid feed toward the end of the season will benefit the plants.
Pick your tomatoes as soon as the colour is fully developed and the individual tomatoes are full size. The more often you harvest the more the plant will flower and produce more tomatoes.
Pick out any side shoots that grow between the leaves and the stem otherwise the plant will grow big and bushy with less flowers. Removing the side-shoots also allows for better airflow around the plants.
If there are too many tomatoes to eat you can keep the flavour of your perfectly ripe tomatoes by making a big pot of tomato sauce which can be stored in the freezer until you need it for sauces and soups.