bunch of tomatoes

The Only Guide You Need To Grow Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes is a rewarding and enjoyable activity for gardeners of all levels. Whether you have a large outdoor space or a small balcony, there are a variety of methods to cultivate these delicious and versatile fruits. From selecting the right varieties to providing the ideal growing conditions, this article will provide a comprehensive guide to help you grow healthy and abundant tomato plants. Visit our growing guides for more growing inspiration.

Index

Things You Will Need

ItemDescription
Growing ContainerYou can grow tomatoes in the ground, in a raised bed or in a container. If you choose a container, you will need a growing bag or pot that is at least 12-18 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate 2-3 tomato plants.
Tomato PlantsChoose healthy and disease-free tomato plants from a reputable nursery or garden center. You will need at least two tomato plants per container.
SoilUse good quality soil that is rich in organic matter and has good drainage.
FertilizerTomato plants require regular feeding with a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 5-10-10 formula. You can also use specially formulated tomato food.
Watering CanYou will need a watering can to water your plants regularly. Tomatoes require consistent moisture, but be careful not to overwater.
Garden TwineYou will need garden twine to tie your tomato plants to support stakes or cages.
Support Stakes or CagesTomato plants need support as they grow. Bamboo canes, tomato cages or stakes are all good options.
MulchMulching around your tomato plants helps to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Sow and Harvest Calendar

This table indicates that you should sow tomato seeds in February, March, or April. You should plant the seedlings outdoors in May or June, and you can expect to harvest your ripe tomatoes in July, August, or September. Keep in mind that these timeframes may vary depending on your climate and the specific variety of tomato you are growing.

Sow In:Plant in:Harvest in:
FebMayJuly
MarMayAugust
AprJuneSeptember

What Varieties of Tomatoes Are There and Which Should You Choose?

tomatoes ripening on the vine

Cherry Tomatoes:

  • Gardeners Delight: small and sweet, with a classic cherry tomato flavor
  • Gartenperle: deep red color, meaty texture, and a slightly tangy taste
  • Sweet Aperitif: very sweet and juicy, with a high sugar content
  • Losetto: disease-resistant, bright red color, and a sweet and tangy flavor
  • Suncherry Premium: large and juicy, with a sweet and fruity flavor

Plum Tomatoes:

  • Crimson Plum: deep red color, meaty texture, and a slightly sweet taste
  • San Marzano: elongated shape, meaty texture, and a slightly acidic taste
  • Shimmer F1 Hybrid: firm texture, high sugar content, and a sweet taste
  • Principe Borghese: small and elongated, perfect for drying, with a sweet taste
  • Bellandine: bright yellow color, sweet taste, and low acidity

Heirloom Tomatoes:

  • Ananas: large and yellow with pink stripes, sweet and juicy, and a low acidity level
  • Craigella: small and round, with a sweet and tangy flavor
  • Yellow Stuffer: bright yellow color, meaty texture, and a sweet taste
  • Black Russian: dark purple color, meaty texture, and a smoky taste
  • The Amateur: medium-sized and slightly flattened, with a sweet and tangy flavor

Normal Tomatoes:

  • Tigerella: small and striped, with a sweet and tangy flavor
  • Cristal: round and yellow, with a sweet and mild taste
  • Moneymaker: medium-sized and juicy, with a classic tomato flavor
  • Orkado: deep red color, sweet and tangy flavor, and a thin skin
  • Alicante: bright red color, sweet and juicy, with a thin skin

Beefsteak Tomato:

  • Super Marmande: large and meaty, with a sweet and tangy flavor
  • Gigantomo F1 Hybrid: very large and meaty, with a sweet and mild taste
  • Gourmandia: round and meaty, with a sweet and juicy flavor
  • Buffalo Steak: deep red color, meaty texture, and a slightly acidic taste
  • Crimson Blush: large and meaty, with a sweet and tangy flavor

In summary, the choice of tomato variety will depend on personal preference, as well as the intended use of the tomato. Cherry tomatoes are great for snacking and salads, while plum tomatoes are perfect for sauces and canning. Heirloom tomatoes offer unique colors and flavors, while normal tomatoes are versatile and classic. Beefsteak tomatoes are great for slicing and grilling.

When choosing which type to grow, consider factors such as taste, texture, and disease resistance. You may also want to choose a variety that is well-suited to your climate and the growing conditions in your garden.

A Step By Step Guide Explaining How To Grow Tomatoes

Choose a Suitable Location

• Tomatoes need plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil.
• Pick a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
• Choose soil that is rich in organic matter.

Prepare the Soil

• Add compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil’s nutrient content and drainage.
• You can also add a balanced fertilizer to ensure the plants have all the nutrients they need to grow.

Plant the Tomato Seeds or Seedlings

• If using seedlings, space them about 2-3 feet apart.
• If using seeds, follow the packet instructions for planting depth and spacing.

Water the Plants

• Water the plants thoroughly after planting to help settle the soil around the roots.
• Keep the soil evenly moist throughout the growing season.
• Be careful not to overwater as this can lead to root rot.

Provide Support

• Tie the plants to stakes or cages to prevent the branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit.
• Improve air circulation around the plants, which can reduce the risk of disease.

Fertilize the Plants

• When the plants begin to produce fruit, fertilize them again with a tomato-specific fertilizer.
• Follow the package instructions for application rates and frequency.

Harvest the Fruit

• Check the plants daily and pick the tomatoes as they mature.
• This will help to prevent over-ripening and will also encourage the plants to continue producing new fruit.

End of the Growing Season

• At the end of the growing season, remove any remaining fruit and pull up the plants.
• You can add the plants to your compost pile or dispose of them in the trash.

By following these simple steps, you can successfully grow delicious tomatoes in your own backyard. Remember to provide plenty of sunlight, water, and nutrients, and your plants will reward you with a bountiful harvest.

Ripe tomato on the vine

Common Problems and How To Resolve Them

Growing tomatoes can be a rewarding experience, but like any gardening endeavor, it can also come with its own set of challenges. Here are some common problems that you may encounter when growing tomatoes, along with solutions to resolve them:

Fruit problems:

One common issue that tomato plants may face is fruit cracking or splitting. This can happen when the fruit absorbs too much water too quickly. To prevent this, make sure to water your plants regularly and evenly, and avoid over-watering them. Another fruit problem that can occur is blossom-end rot, which is caused by a calcium deficiency. To prevent this, make sure to provide your plants with adequate calcium, either through the soil or through a foliar spray.

Tomato blight:

Tomato blight is a fungal disease that can cause the leaves to yellow and wilt, and the fruit to rot. To prevent blight, make sure to plant your tomatoes in well-draining soil and avoid overhead watering, which can spread the spores. If you do encounter blight, remove and destroy any infected plants, and make sure to rotate your crops the following year.

Insect pests:

Tomato plants can attract a variety of insect pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, and tomato hornworms. To prevent insect damage, make sure to inspect your plants regularly and remove any pests by hand or with a mild insecticidal soap. You can also encourage natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings, to help control pest populations.

Leaf diseases:

Tomato plants can be susceptible to various leaf diseases, such as early blight and powdery mildew. To prevent leaf diseases, make sure to space your plants properly to promote good air circulation and avoid overhead watering. If you do encounter leaf disease, remove and destroy any infected leaves or plants, and make sure to rotate your crops the following year.

Root diseases:

Tomato plants can be susceptible to various root diseases, such as Fusarium wilt and Verticillium wilt. These diseases cause the plant to wilt and eventually die. To prevent root diseases, make sure to rotate your crops and avoid planting tomatoes in the same spot every year. Also, make sure to plant your tomatoes in well-draining soil to avoid waterlogged roots.

Sunscald:

Sunscald occurs when the fruit is exposed to direct sunlight and becomes discolored or bleached. To prevent sunscald, make sure to provide your tomato plants with some shade during the hottest part of the day. You can use shade cloth or plant taller crops around your tomatoes to provide some shade.

Poor pollination:

Poor pollination can lead to misshapen or small fruit. To ensure proper pollination, make sure to plant your tomatoes in an area with plenty of pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. You can also gently shake your tomato plants to help release the pollen.

Overall, the key to preventing and resolving common tomato problems is to maintain healthy plants with proper watering, fertilization, and spacing. By taking care of your tomato plants, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious, ripe tomatoes.

How To Grow Tomato Plants In a Greenhouse

Preparing the Greenhouse

1. Choose the right location: Select a greenhouse location that has plenty of natural light and is protected from harsh winds.
2. Clean the greenhouse: Remove any debris or clutter from inside the greenhouse and clean all surfaces with disinfectant to prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
3. Prepare the soil: Fill raised beds or containers with a high-quality soil mixture that has plenty of organic matter.

Planting Tomato Seeds

1. Start tomato seeds indoors: Start tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.
2. Transplant seedlings: Once the seedlings have reached 6-8 inches in height, transplant them into the greenhouse.
3. Water the seedlings: Water the seedlings thoroughly, making sure the soil is moist but not waterlogged.

Caring for Tomato Plants

1. Provide support: Install trellises or cages to support the tomato plants as they grow.
2. Water regularly: Water tomato plants deeply once or twice a week, making sure the soil is evenly moist.
3. Fertilize: Apply a balanced fertilizer every two weeks throughout the growing season.
4. Prune tomato plants: Remove suckers and lower branches to improve air circulation and prevent disease.
5. Monitor for pests and diseases: Check plants regularly for signs of pests and diseases and take action promptly to prevent further damage.

Harvesting Tomato Plants

1. Observe ripeness: Observe the tomato fruits daily for ripeness, which is indicated by their color and firmness.
2. Harvest the tomatoes: Pick the tomatoes by gently twisting them off the vine or using a sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears.
3. Store the tomatoes: Store the ripe tomatoes at room temperature for up to a week, or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

By following these steps, you can successfully grow healthy and productive tomato plants in your greenhouse.

How To Grow Tomato Plants Outside

tomato seedling

Preparing to Plant

Choose a location

  • Pick a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day
  • Ensure the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter

Test the soil

  • Use a soil testing kit to check the pH level of the soil
  • Tomatoes grow best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0
  • Adjust soil pH if needed by adding lime to raise it or sulfur to lower it

Prepare the soil

  • Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area
  • Mix in compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility
  • Use a garden fork or tiller to work the compost or manure into the soil

Planting Tomatoes

Choose your tomato varieties

  • Consider the size, flavor, and disease-resistance of the tomato plants you want to grow

Start seeds indoors (optional)

  • Start tomato seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area
  • Transplant the seedlings outdoors after the danger of frost has passed

Plant the tomatoes

  • Dig a hole that’s deep enough to bury the tomato plant up to its first set of leaves
  • Gently remove the plant from its container and loosen any tangled roots
  • Place the plant in the hole and fill in with soil, firming it around the plant
  • Water the plant thoroughly after planting

Growing Tomatoes

Water regularly

  • Water the tomato plants deeply and regularly, especially during hot and dry weather
  • Avoid overhead watering to prevent the spread of disease

Provide support

  • Tomato plants need support to grow upright and prevent branches from breaking under the weight of the fruit
  • Use stakes, cages, or trellises to support the plants

Mulch the soil

  • Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the tomato plants
  • Mulch helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature

Fertilize as needed

  • Tomatoes need regular fertilization to promote growth and fruit production
  • Use a balanced fertilizer or compost tea every 2-3 weeks during the growing season

Prune the plants

  • Remove the suckers that grow in the crotch between the stem and branches of the tomato plant
  • Prune the lower branches to increase air circulation and prevent disease
  • Pinch off the top of the plant after it has set 4-5 fruit clusters to redirect energy into ripening the fruit

Harvesting Tomatoes

Watch for ripeness

  • Tomatoes are ready for harvest when they are fully colored and slightly soft to the touch
  • Pick them before they become overripe or start to rot on the vine

Harvest the fruit

  • Grasp the tomato gently and twist it to detach it from the stem
  • Use a pair of pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut the stem if the tomato is hard to remove

How To Grow Tomatoes Indoors

Choosing the Right Container

Choose a container that is at least 6 inches deep with drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. You can choose from a wide variety of containers such as pots, hanging baskets, or even grow bags.

Preparing the Soil

Fill the container with soil, making sure it’s moist and well-drained. Use a good quality potting mix, preferably one that contains organic material to ensure that the soil is rich in nutrients.

Planting the Seeds

Plant the tomato seeds about ¼ to ½ inch deep into the soil, and water the soil gently. Cover the container with a clear plastic wrap to create a mini greenhouse that will help keep the soil moist and warm.

Caring for the Tomato Plants

Once the seeds have germinated and the seedlings have grown a few inches tall, remove the plastic wrap and place the container in a well-lit area, such as a south-facing window or under grow lights. Make sure the soil stays moist but not waterlogged, and fertilize the plants every 2-3 weeks.

Transplanting the Tomato Plants

Once the tomato plants have grown to a height of 6-8 inches and have developed their first set of true leaves, transplant them into larger pots or containers to give them more room to grow. Make sure to transplant them into moist, nutrient-rich soil and water the plants thoroughly.

Supporting the Tomato Plants

As the tomato plants grow taller, they will need support to keep them from falling over. Use a stake or a tomato cage to support the plant and keep it upright.

Harvesting the Tomatoes

Once the tomato fruits have ripened and turned red, they are ready to be harvested. Gently twist and pull the fruit from the stem, being careful not to damage the plant. Enjoy your fresh, homegrown tomatoes!

How To Grow Tomato Plants In Pots

Tomato plant in a pot

Choose a Pot:

Select a pot that is at least 18-24 inches deep and has a diameter of 12-18 inches. Make sure it has drainage holes at the bottom.

Add Soil:

Fill the pot with nutrient-rich potting soil, leaving about 2 inches of space at the top.

Plant the Tomato:

Plant a young tomato plant in the center of the pot, burying it up to the first set of leaves. Gently pack the soil around the plant.

Add Support:

As the plant grows, it will need support. Insert a sturdy stake or tomato cage near the plant, being careful not to damage the roots.

Water Regularly:

Water the plant regularly, making sure to keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged.

Fertilize:

Feed the plant with tomato fertilizer every 2-3 weeks to ensure it receives the nutrients it needs.

Monitor for Pests:

Check the plant regularly for pests such as aphids and spider mites, and take action if necessary.

Harvest:

Once the tomatoes are ripe, harvest them by gently twisting them off the vine.

By following these steps, you should be able to successfully grow tomato plants in pots

How To Prune Tomato Plants

Understand the Purpose of Pruning:

Pruning tomato plants is important to promote air circulation, limit the growth of unnecessary foliage, and encourage the plant to focus on producing fruits.

Identify the Types of Stems:

The first step is to identify the types of stems on the tomato plant. There are two main types of stems: the main stem and the side shoots.

Remove the Suckers:

Suckers are the small shoots that grow from the joint between the main stem and the side shoots. They do not produce fruit and can take up energy from the plant, so it is important to remove them. Pinch off the suckers using your fingers or sharp pruning shears.

Cut Off Diseased or Damaged Parts:

Remove any diseased, damaged or yellowing leaves or stems as soon as you see them. This will prevent the spread of disease to the rest of the plant.

Control the Height of the Plant:

If the plant becomes too tall, you can cut off the top of the main stem to control its height. This will also promote the growth of more side shoots and fruits.

Tie the Plant to a Support:

Once you have pruned the plant, you will need to tie it to a support to prevent it from falling over. Use soft garden twine to tie the stem to a bamboo cane or trellis.

Remember that it’s important not to over-prune your tomato plant, as this can actually reduce the overall yield of fruit. Regular pruning to remove unwanted foliage and to control the height of the plant should be sufficient to keep your tomato plants healthy and productive.

FAQ’s

How Do You Train Tomato Plants?

Training tomato plants is an important part of growing healthy, productive tomato plants. Training involves supporting and directing the growth of the plant to maximize fruit production and prevent disease. Here are some steps on how to train tomato plants:

Choose a support system:

There are different ways to support tomato plants, such as using stakes, cages, or trellises. Choose the method that works best for your garden and the type of tomato plant you’re growing.

Begin training early:

Start training tomato plants when they are still small to avoid damaging the plant later on. If using stakes or cages, put them in place when you transplant the seedlings.

Tie plants to support:

Use garden twine or plant ties to secure the main stem to the support structure. Tie the plant loosely to avoid damaging the stem.

Remove suckers:

Suckers are shoots that grow between the main stem and the leaves of the tomato plant. These shoots can become secondary stems that reduce fruit production. Pinch off suckers when they are small and easily removable.

Pinch off the top of the plant:

When the plant has grown to the desired height, pinch off the top of the main stem. This will encourage the plant to put energy into growing fruit instead of growing taller.

Direct the branches:

As the plant grows, direct the branches to grow along the support structure. If using a trellis, tie the branches to the trellis. If using a cage, gently bend the branches to fit within the cage.

Monitor and adjust:

Check the plant regularly to make sure it is growing as desired. Adjust ties and supports as necessary to keep the plant growing in the right direction.

By following these steps, you can train tomato plants to produce more fruit and prevent diseases such as blight.

When Should You Harvest Tomato Plants?

Tomatoes are ready for harvest when they are fully ripe and have reached their desired size and color. The exact time to harvest tomatoes can vary depending on the variety and growing conditions, but there are a few signs to look out for to determine if your tomatoes are ready to be picked:

Colour:

Most tomatoes will change color from green to red, yellow, orange, or another hue when they are ripe. Check the color of your tomatoes and look for a consistent, bright color all over the fruit.

Firmness:

Ripe tomatoes should be slightly soft to the touch but not mushy. Gently press on the tomato and it should give slightly.

Texture:

Check the texture of the tomato skin to make sure it is smooth and shiny, without any wrinkles or cracks.

Flavor:

Tomatoes should have a sweet and slightly acidic taste when they are ripe. Taste a tomato or two to see if they are ready for harvest.

It’s important to harvest your tomatoes at the right time to get the best flavor and texture. If you wait too long, the fruit may become overripe, mealy, or even begin to rot. Harvesting regularly also encourages the plant to continue producing more fruit.

tomato plant using string support

How Much Water Do Tomato Plants Need?

Tomato plants require consistent watering throughout their growing season to produce healthy fruit. In general, tomato plants need about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, although this can vary depending on the climate and soil conditions.

It’s best to water tomato plants deeply and less frequently rather than giving them frequent, shallow waterings. This encourages the plants to develop deeper roots that can access water from the soil more efficiently. Watering early in the morning is also recommended, as it allows the leaves to dry quickly and reduces the risk of disease.

It’s important to keep an eye on the soil moisture levels to make sure that the plants are not underwatered or overwatered. The top inch of soil should be moist but not waterlogged. If the soil feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water again. If the soil feels consistently wet or waterlogged, it’s a sign that the plant is receiving too much water, which can lead to root rot and other issues.

In hot and dry weather, tomato plants may need more frequent watering, and in rainy weather, it may be necessary to reduce watering to avoid overwatering. It’s always best to monitor the soil moisture levels and adjust watering accordingly to ensure healthy tomato plants.

How To Store Tomatoes

Storing tomatoes is important to ensure they stay fresh and flavorful for as long as possible. Here are some steps to follow to properly store your tomatoes:

Choose the right tomatoes:

Select firm, ripe tomatoes for storage. Avoid overripe or bruised tomatoes as they will spoil faster.

Room temperature:

Keep your tomatoes at room temperature, ideally in a cool, dry and well-ventilated area. Do not store tomatoes in direct sunlight as it will cause them to ripen too quickly and lose flavor.

Store stem-side down:

Place your tomatoes stem-side down in a single layer on a flat surface. Storing them this way helps prevent moisture from seeping into the tomato through the stem, which can cause rot.

Do not refrigerate:

Avoid storing tomatoes in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures can cause the tomato to lose flavor and become mealy in texture.

Check for spoilage:

Regularly check your stored tomatoes for any signs of spoilage such as mold, soft spots or wrinkles. Remove any spoiled tomatoes to prevent them from spreading their spoilage to others.

By following these steps, you can ensure your tomatoes stay fresh and flavorful for as long as possible.

Where Should You Buy Tomato Seeds?

There are various places where you can buy tomato seeds in the UK, both in-person and online. Here are some options to consider:

Garden centres and nurseries

Many garden centres and nurseries sell a variety of seeds, including tomato seeds. This is a good option if you prefer to see the seeds in person before purchasing.

Online seed retailers

There are many online retailers that specialize in selling seeds, including tomato seeds. Some popular options in the UK include Suttons, Thompson & Morgan, and Dobies.

Seed exchanges and swaps 

Some gardening groups and communities hold seed exchanges or swaps where you can trade seeds with other gardeners. This is a great way to get unique and interesting tomato varieties that may not be available through traditional retailers.

Supermarkets

Some supermarkets, such as Tesco and Morrisons, sell seed packets in their gardening sections. While the selection may not be as extensive as other options, this can be a convenient option for purchasing seeds.

No matter where you choose to buy your tomato seeds, be sure to check the expiration date and look for reputable sources to ensure you are getting high-quality seeds.

Sources

Adams, M. (2017). The Complete Guide to Growing Tomatoes. Timber Press.

Royal Horticultural Society. (2022). Tomatoes: Growing Guide. Retrieved from https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/vegetables/tomatoes

Thompson & Morgan. (2022). How to Grow Tomatoes. Retrieved from https://www.thompson-morgan.com/grow-your-own-tomatoes

LoveToKnow. (2022). Common Tomato Plant Problems. Retrieved from https://garden.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Common_Tomato_Plant_Problems

University of Illinois Extension. (2022). Tomatoes. Retrieved from https://extension.illinois.edu/veggies/tomatoes.cfm

Burpee. (2022). Tomato Varieties: A-Z. Retrieved from https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/vegetables/tomatoes/all-about-tomatoes/article10255.html

GardenFocused. (2022). How to Store Tomatoes. Retrieved from https://www.gardenfocused.co.uk/fruitarticles/tomatoes/storing-tomatoes.php

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