Tomatoes – a quick guide
Any garden, whatever the size, has room for at least a couple of tomato plants, and while some varieties do need a greenhouse, many thrive outside, and some will even grow in a window box or a hanging basket.
Whether you prefer huge beefsteaks, regular sized, or sweet cherry tomatoes, here’s a quick guide to how to grow this ever-popular fruit.
What’s the difference between cordon and bush tomatoes?
Tomato categorisation can be confusing because there are multiple names for the same thing. Cordon tomatoes are the ones that grow on a vine – they’re also called vine or indeterminate tomatoes. Bush tomatoes are as the name suggests, free-standing plants; they’re also called determinate tomatoes. Also readily available, grafted tomatoes are varieties grafted to the most vigorous rootstocks, promoting strong growth, disease resistance, and bumper harvests.
Where to grow tomatoes
Always check before buying your tomato seeds or plants whether they need the warmth and protection of a greenhouse, or are suitable for growing outside. Thriving best in rich, fertile soil, make sure you dig in plenty of organic matter, during the preceding autumn. Alternatively, grow your tomatoes in suitable compost or Growbags.
Tomatoes enjoy plenty of sunshine but not too much – if you’re growing in a greenhouse, make sure there’s shade and ventilation for your plants in particularly hot weather or the leaves may scorch and the flowers fall off.
How to grow tomatoes
Start your tomato seeds in a propagator during March or April and if you’re planting outdoors, make sure you harden off your young plants for a few days before placing them into their final positions. You should also be sure that all risk of frost has passed. Don’t be fooled by a warm start to the month of May – the weather can change very quickly at that time of year.
Make sure you support your plants adequately. Cordon varieties need a structure to grow up, and bush varieties are best staked, especially if there’s a chance of wind damage. For the best of expert advice on growing tomatoes, head over to our special guide to growing tomatoes courtesy of some of the most knowledgeable gardeners from the online community
How to care for tomatoes
A feed just after planting is a good way to get your plants off to a healthy start, but in general, you shouldn’t apply fertiliser again until they start to set fruit or you’ll encourage an overabundance of foliage at the expense of your crop. Watering is key to a successful tomato harvest – under water and the plants go into stress mode, blossoms will fall from the plant and leaves will curl and wither. It’s always a good idea to mulch tomatoes to help with moisture retention.
Full of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins B-9, C and K, tomatoes are as versatile as they are tasty and are an excellent addition to any planting schedule.