Welcome to Tomato Growing where I share my experience of growing tomatoes, especially in containers. Bush varieties are usually among the first to mature and easiest to grow, so I’ve included quite a few of these on the website.
The video below shows the varieties I grew and the pots I used in my polytunnel during the 2013 season.
You can grow your own tomatoes outside in pots & containers (you don’t need a greenhouse or conservatory) and growing cherry tomatoes can be done on a balcony, in a window-box or even inside on a sunny windowsill.
So, if you would like to discover real tomato taste, and be able to eat your own home-grown for up to four months each summer, then I hope you’ll browse these pages and have a go yourself, at tomato growing.
When to sow tomato seeds
The seed sowing period is from the beginning of March to the end of April in the UK. Buying tomato seedlings and small plants at a garden centre a little later in the spring is also an option, but there is a much greater choice of varieties and it’s a lot more fun to grow from seed.
Easy varieties to grow
If you are new to growing tomatoes from seed it’s a good idea to start with an easy variety to grow.
The following bush/cherry varieties are highly recommended:
- Tumbling Tom
- Red Alert
- Garden Pearl
These bush types are sometimes called “determinate” and do not need their side shoots pinched out.
Bush varieties grow well in containers and large pots so they can trail over the sides, or in an upside down planter such as a topsy turvy.
Trailing and tumbler varieties include, Tumbling Tom, Tumbler and Hundreds and Thousands. These are also great for hanging baskets.
Among the tall varieties that are easy to grow are:
- Gardener’s Delight
- Golden Sunrise
- Black Cherry
They are all very dependable. These tall varieties are also called “indeterminate” or “Cordon”.
These shoots grow out between the main stem and leaf branch (see photo left) and are best removed for the earliest harvest.
Leaving side shoots on tall varieties will produce more trusses and potentially more tomatoes, but if you live in a short season area such as the UK, the first tomatoes will mature late in the season and you’ll end up making green chutney!
Tall varieties are best grown in pots at least 9 inches in diameter or grow bags. Grow bag pots are a very good way to grow tall varieties as they can be fed and watered through different parts of the rings.
|Help Guide & Tomato Tips|
|Removing Side Shoots|
|Tomato Growing Problems|
|Tomato Growing Tips|
Many of the problems associated with growing tomatoes are caused by over-watering and over-feeding. We want to be generous to our plants so they’ll grow quickly, but it’s easy to “kill them with kindness” and slow their growth down in the process!
The best advice is “less is more”, at least until plants begin to flower and fruit – then you can be generous with watering and food.
The Ups and Downs of Last Season – 2012
In my part of the world, last season was the wettest on record. Wet, damp conditions made it very difficult to avoid fungal disease. Furthermore, the lack of sunshine delayed flowering and fruiting and the only varieties to produce a good harvest were the quick maturing cherries such as Black Cherry, Sungold and Red Alert.
When light levels are low, plants are unable to produce enough of their own food (through photosynthesis) and when outdoor plants have rain saturated roots, growth slows as oxygen is removed from the soil. Without enough air in the root zone, growth (respiration) stops.
Let’s hope that 2013 will bring with it more moderate weather that is less extreme!
Choosing The Right Varieties for Your Part of the World
Many tomato varieties are best suited to the weather conditions of the countries and regions from which they originally came or areas they were developed to be grown in.
Siberian can cope with lower temperatures because it was developed that way – the name says it all!
Moneymaker is an old English variety that excels in a moderate climate and is very reliable.
Marmande originally came from France and requires the weather of the Southern Mediterranean to reach its full taste.
So if you grow tomatoes outside, choose varieties that will cope well in the weather conditions of your area.
You may also wish to choose a selection of varieties such as a cherry, a medium/salad and a large/beefsteak variety for slicing or the barbecue. Some large tomatoes can be eaten like melons they’re so juicy!
Medium size fruit – by the way, the tomato is a fruit not a vegetable – are sometimes called salad tomatoes.
Cherry size fruit are great in curries and pastas and enhance the visual look of a salad … not to mention the taste!
Bush varieties are great to grow in large pots and containers and can be positioned almost anywhere around the garden or patio without needing a wall to lean against. The plants themselves can be small or large (as well as the fruit) so a pot on a windowsill or a large container may be required.
Join the Tomato Growing Newsletter for tips, advice and a tomato quiz or two!
A Selection of Tumbling Tom red and yellow, Maskotka and Garden Pearl (below).
Choosing which varieties to grow each season is one of the most enjoyable jobs to do in the Autumn and Winter. You can browse the seed catalogues, or surf online where you will find a huge number of tomato varieties from different seed companies.
Growing Tomatoes Outdoors
Seed Sowing Time – March to end of April (UK).
You can sow up until the beginning of May if you choose a variety that matures early, or you have a greenhouse.
Even when growing tomatoes outdoors, always germinate seed indoors and in new seed or potting compost. This will get the seeds off to the quickest start without the possibility of disease lurking in old soil – tomato seedlings are very vulnerable at this stage.
When To Sow in Your Area.
To produce a crop of ripe tomatoes, seeds need to be sown around two months before your last frost date. They can be planted out when the risk of frost has past.
It takes around two to three months from sowing to flowering, and two to three months from flowering to fruiting … depending on the variety.
Therefore, sowing at the beginning of April will produce fruit from the beginning of August – if you grow a quick maturing variety.
Growing Under Cover – Unheated Greenhouse
A greenhouse will enable an earlier start and a later end to the season – a great way to increase your crop and have ripe tomatoes available for longer.
My own preference is to sow indoors and get the seedlings established first, before planting them out in the greenhouse.
The great thing about a greenhouse is that your plants are protected from rain and temperatures remain slightly higher.
Go for the biggest greenhouse you can afford , or have room for, as very small ones can create a lot of condensation – try to let the air circulate.
Some varieties can be sown slightly earlier or later
Cherry bush varieties are ideal for sowing early as they are easier to manage (movable in large pots) because of their size and height. You can also sow as late as early May (in the UK) if you choose a variety that is quick to mature such as Red Alert.
A few more tips
It’s best to use new, multi purpose or grow bag compost in a large pot or container and keep the leaves out of the rain. More tomato growing tips here.
Tomato plug plants are also a great way to begin growing tomatoes. This helps to avoid some of the problems associated with growing from seed.