Your own home-grown tomatoes will taste very different to any other – there’s nothing quite matches the taste of a tomato straight from the vine. They’re fresh, use zero food miles, they’re inexpensive, and best of all you’ll know that you’ll be feeding your family
healthy food that’s entirely free of chemicals!
Grow in Pots, growbags, hanging baskets or directly into the ground
Why bother? Fun to grow, providing your family with fresh & healthy food!
If you haven’t germinated your own seed, begin with good-quality small plants which are already well-rooted in their pots. These will become available to buy from late March onwards.
As always, we recommend you buy your plants from a reputable supplier to make sure that you’re starting with quality plants in varieties that you can rely on – not to mention the free help and advice that they can provide!
Buying your plants early is an excellent idea – providing you can grow them indoors or in a heated greenhouse until the frosts are gone.
Which variety is best?
There’s many different varieties to choose from, but much will depend on the space available to grow the tomatoes and the type of tomato you prefer. In general terms, tomatoes are either grown on a single, upright stem or as a bush. If it’s your first time, we’d recommend that you begin with a bush-type.
Bush-type varieties such as ‘Tumbler’ and ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ are ideal for growing in pots or hanging baskets and produce lots of wonderful cherry tomatoes throughout the summer.
Upright varieties such as ‘Alicante’, ‘Moneymaker’ and ‘Shirley’ are all well-tried-and-tested if you’re looking for a good, full-size red tomato, whilst ‘Gardeners Delight‘ produces lots of cherry tomatoes on an upright stem.
There’s also a great selection of yellow tomatoes, beef-steak tomatoes and other distinctive varieties to choose from – so take your time, read the plant labels and pick the varieties that suit you, your family and your garden best.
Growing bush tomatoes
As the name suggests, the main difference between bush and upright tomatoes is simply the way in which they grow. Bush tomatoes require less experience than those on single upright stems because there’s no need for training the stems or for side-shooting.
In general, bush tomatoes have a weeping habit, so they’re very well-suited to growing in patio pots, window boxes or hanging baskets.
You’ll still need to provide food and water (lots of it – and regularly!) but otherwise, just sit back, watch them grow and enjoy these wonderful tasty treats as they ripen!
Growing upright tomatoes on single stems
Grow-bags were invented as an easy way to provide tomatoes with compost and a ‘home’ for the roots of the plant, and they remain one of the most popular ways to grow tomatoes. As with all things, there is a choice, and you will generally get what you pay for. Cheaper grow-bags will contain less compost and less feed than the more expensive ones, so you need to be prepared to water and feed more often. We offer a choice of Westland’s standard grow-bag or the Levington Tomorite grow-bag.
Although growbags are convenient, there’s no reason why you can’t grow them in a good-sized pot or even directly into the ground. If you’re using a pot, make sure you use a good compost. If you’re growing directly into the ground, back-fill the planting hole with good compost – we recommend either compost from a grow-bag or a specialised vegetable compost.
As the plant grows, you will need to give it support so that the stem remains straight and doesn’t break with the weight of the tomatoes. You’ll find that the plant will try to grow lots of extra branches – these are known in gardening jargon as ‘side-shoots’. You’ll see these little shoots appear in the angle between the leaf and the main stem, and you simply nip them out so the strength remains in the main stem. And as anyone who grows tomatoes will tell you, it is a job that needs done very regularly!!
Tomatoes need regular watering, although the amount of water and the frequency will vary. For example, if you use a larger grow-bag, it will retain more water and you may not need to water so often, but if your tomatoes are planted into free-draining soil, you may have to water more regularly. An easy way to work out your watering regime is to feel the leaves of the plant – if they’re sitting up nicely, they should be fine but if they’re limp, they need water.
The most important thing about watering is to understand the regularity that the plant needs before it is fruiting so that you have an established routine during the development of the fruit. Uneven watering leads to uneven development and split fruit which not only looks unsightly but can encourage disease.
Once you see your first bunch of yellow flowers appear, that’s your first tomatoes on the way! The flowers will disappear and in their place you’ll see the tomatoes begin to form. And here’s some more jargon to impress your friends – the ‘bunch’ of tomatoes is known as a ‘truss’, so once you see the first one, you can then tell your friends that the ‘first truss has set’!!
Tomatoes are very hungry plants and once the first truss has set, they will need regular additional feeding – use a specialised tomato feed such as Tomorite.