Growing Tomatoes - advice on how to grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a fruit strictly speaking but have been included in the vegetable section as they are most often associated with vegetable gardening.
Prepare the soil by digging organic matter into it which will help improve aeration and moisture retention in the soil. Aim to dig this material in at least 2 or 3 weeks before planting.
Drive supporting stakes / canes into the soil before planting so that the stakes do not damage the roots.
You should sow your tomatoes about 2 months before you intent to plant them out (planting out should take place after the last frost).
Germination of tomatoe seeds takes place at around 15 to 20 deg C - a window sill is often a good environment for your seedling pots to be placed on. If you do position your seedlings on the windowsill then be sure to turn the pot daily so an even growth direction is achieved.
Fill some 7cm pots with seeding compost and water so it is moist. Gently firm the compost and then sow a couple of seeds in each pot.
Cover with 1cm of compost. Germination should take around 7-10 days and once the seedlings have emerged thin out the weaker of the seedlings and then you can prick out the strongest seedling into its own 7.5 cm pot filled with compost.
Once the roots start to emerge from the holes in the base of the 7cm pot they are then ready for transferring into 12cm pots.
If you are planting your tomatoes in the open then plant out in about mid June. If planting under a cloche you can plant out 4 weeks earlier and if growing in a green house then you can plant in mid April.
Space plants around 45cm apart so that light can reach the leaves and fruits on each plant.
Dig a hole for slightly larger than the pot the tomatoe plant is in, remove the pot and plant the tomatoe next to a pre inserted stake.
Tomatoes must be grown in a position that receives full sunlight.
The soil should be moist but not waterlogged.
Tomatoes are greedy feeders so feed once a week with a diluted tomato feed.
Water around the roots of the plants as this can help reduce the spread of disease between leaves, stems and neightbouring plants.
Water regularly to prevent the splitting of fruit skins.
Tomatoes self pollinate but if growing indoors then a gentle shake of the plant can help to distribute the pollen.
Tomatoes like a lot of water and an organic mulch can help the soil to retain moisture so it is available to the fruit which has a high water content.
Tomatoes will benefit from a high potash fertiliser applied every 2 or 3 weeks as this helps with fruit development.
After 4 levels of fruiting branches have formed remove the plants growing tip, this will direct growth energies into the fruit.
The same is true of side shoots that appear between leaf and stem, simply pinch them out to direct growth energies to the fruit.
Bush varieties do not require staking but others benefit from guiding the tomato up a stake by using soft twine around the stem and stake. Be sure to check the twine regularly to ensure that it is not cutting into the stem.
Regularly check for any decaying / yellowing leaves and remove them to prevent the spread of disease.
Regularly weed between your tomatoes plants to prevent loss of factors necessary for growth.
Remove the tomatoes when they are of the desired size and colour. Harvesting tomotoes actually encourages further fruit production so don’t leave them hanging around on the plant after they have reached ripeness.
Near the end of the growing season ensure that all fruits are harvested before the first frost. If you have unripe fruits still harvest them, they can finish ripening on the windowsill.