How to grow your best-ever crop of tomatoes

Trug with different tomato fruits

If you’re as keen on growing tomatoes as I am you’ll be getting read to sow now. I sow them as early as February to grow inside and late March for plants to go out in the veg patch. Don’t panic if you’re late sowing, they do catch up, you’ll just be picking a little later.

Choose your favourite cultivars: I eat ‘Sungold’ F1 like sweeties, they ripen early under cover, ‘Ildi’ is a good bush alternative for outside. Beef tomatoes are so impressive and tasty; ‘Super Marmande’ F1 gets my vote and I grow ‘Crimson Crush’ outside where it’s so good at resisting the dreaded blight. Watch my guide to sowing tomato seeds, to ensure yours get off to the best possible start. Then check out my six top tips for growing tomatoes.

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Six top tips for growing tomatoes:

Pick varieties carefully

Choose a blight-resistant variety like 'Crimson Crush' if growing outside
Choose a blight-resistant variety like ‘Crimson Crush’ if growing outside

Choose blight-resistant varieties like ‘Crimson Crush’ and ‘Mountain Magic’ if like me your veg patch is on a site surrounded by trees where the air is static and humidity can rise after summer showers. I also peg a fleece curtain inside the greenhouse door to stop the spores drifting inside.

Use warm water

Watering pot of tomato seeds
When watering tomato seeds, don’t use cold water straight from the tap, let it warm up first

Sow seeds 3cm apart onto a pot of firmed damp compost. I use warm water to soak the compost; it saves the propagator having to warm it up. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost and put them somewhere warm and light to germinate. At 20°C, I find they take about 10 days.

Give them some space

Move tomato seedlings into individual pots a couple of weeks after sowing
Move tomato seedlings into individual pots a couple of weeks after sowing

I prick them out into individual pots a fortnight after germination. Use potting compost and drop both roots and stems right down into the hole so the leaves sit just above the surface. The young stems root easily to make a really strong plant. Space them out to encourage maximum growth.

Feed after flowers appear

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Plant tomatoes into a nutritious compost or into soil with extra manure. They’re hungry feeders but won’t need their weekly dose of liquid feed until the first flower trusses are set. I use my homemade comfrey feed for this but any feed for fruit and flowers will make all the difference.

Stay on top of sideshoots

Pinching out sideshoots regularly will encourage your plants to be more productive
Pinching out sideshoots regularly will encourage your plants to be more productive

My crops are mostly grown on single stems up strings or poles so as soon as they’re planted I’m onto the sideshoot removal to keep them straight. Pinch out the shoots growing in the axil between the main stem and leaf. There will be loads, tying and sideshooting is a weekly job right through the summer.

Ripen as many as possible

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Once your tomatoes are ripening, reduce the watering a little to concentrate the flavour, it makes all the difference, especially towards the end of the season. Bring green fruit in when it gets cold and hang them up on the truss or, even faster, put them in a paper bag with a ripe banana.

More tomato advice:

Carts

Accessories

Flower Seeds

Composting

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