Tomatoes

The tomato is one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen and is a delicious addition to many a dish. The UK climate is not the easiest place to grow these Mediterranean fruits, but with a greenhouse, polytunnel or even a warm windowsill, you can grow tomatoes even in the northern reaches of the British Isles. If you find a warmish and sheltered spot then you should be able to get a pretty good yield. There are plenty of different indoor and outdoor varieties to experiment with, to see what works best where you live.

Growing Tomatoes:

Tomatoes will be difficult to germinate outside. You can, however, easily germinate seeds inside using a propagator or even just a warm, sunny windowsill. What you may not know is that a friend with a tomato plant or two could help you out by giving you cuttings. Tomato cuttings will root in 3-4 weeks if placed in a glass of water or directly into a pot of soil. Of course you could also just buy tomato plants to grow on at home, but don't let them tempt you until the weather gets warm enough after the last frost.

If you grow tomatoes at home you can start them indoors as early as February. Plants kept inside in a warm room all winter could give you fruit early in the year. Seedlings started well before last frost must be kept warm. Potting up a couple of times will help with strong root formation before they go outside after all risk of frost has passed.

Tomatoes benefit from a good tomato feed. Organic tomato feed can be bought but you can also make your own using comfrey – a very useful part of an organic vegetable garden – or stinging nettles. Make sure to water the tomato plants consistently, especially after flowers appear and fruit begin to form. Try not to get any water on the leaves but water at the base of the plant.

There is a common belief that planting tomatoes near basil will improve their flavour, while studies have shown that when planted closely, basil could in fact increase tomato yield by up to 20%. Other companion plants will increase predation and keep down aphids, which can become a problem for a tomato crop, or repel other pests.

There are a number of different tomato varieties which will grow in a variety of ways. Many will benefit from being cordoned. Tie tomato plants gently to uprights and pare off side shoots to encourage fruiting. This is not absolutely necessary though many varieties that are not trailing will need to be supported to avoid damage to the stems.

Why grow tomatoes in the house, garden, greenhouse or polytunnel?

Tomatoes often come from far away and supermarket varieties, chosen for appearance, can sadly sometimes be bland and tasteless. You will be amazed how flavoursome and delicious home grown tomatoes can be. You will save money and get a good return for your effort.

Tomatoes may be a beneficial companion plant for brassicas, roses and peppers, the last of which are said to benefit from the shade of the tomato plants in warm weather conditions.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Solanum lycopersicum