- Variety choice
- Greenhouse or outdoors?
- Soil or grow bags?
- To graft or not graft?
- Growing to planting stage
- Soil preparation
- Grow bags and containers
- Spacing and planting
- Watering and feeding
- Supporting and training
- Ventilation and shading
- Pollination and setting
- Pests, diseases and disorders
For cherry varieties (apart from Tumbler and other bush varieties) stop the plants (pinch out the growing points) in the first week of September; for all other types stop them in early August. It may help to ripen the remaining fruit if you remove some of the older leaves which are shading them. Don’t do this in very hot conditions as the excessive heat may make the fruit soft.
With cherry varieties you should pick your first ripe tomatoes when they are flowering on the 6th truss; for larger-fruited types you’ll have to wait until the 9th truss flowers. You might get a new truss approximately every ten days, so if you plant in mid May with the first truss in flower, you might expect your first pick sometime in the first half of July for cherry tomatoes and about a month later for larger varieties. In the meantime, buy British-grown tomatoes for the best flavour.
If you are growing in a greenhouse or polytunnel make sure there is a good air flow to avoid temperatures above 26°C, if possible. You want to avoid condensation forming on the plants as this encourages disease.
Commercial growers support their plants by twisting the stems around very long strings – outdoors it is easier to use canes or poles. Remove the sideshoots whilst they are small -see our video on how to do this – Twisting Tomatoes – (training and side-shooting tomatoes).
Sow about 25% more seeds than you want plants, to allow for some losses and so you can select the strongest seedlings. You will need some clean seed trays. Those with individual cells work well, but you can also use suitable food packaging if you make sure there are holes for drainage. The trays need to be at least 3cm deep. Fill them with good quality seed compost – look out for Gardening Which Best Buys (and Don’t Buys!) Make sure the surface is level and firm. Sow the seeds about 3cm apart and cover with about 4mm of compost. Water them using a watering can with a fine rose. Cover with clear plastic or a sheet of glass. Put them somewhere warm to germinate: 20 – 25°C is ideal. After about 5 – 7 days the seeds will have started to germinate. They must be uncovered immediately and put somewhere with plenty of light, but still ideally 20°C (minimum 16°C). It may be necessary to spray the seedlings with a fine mist to help the emerging seedlings shed their seed coats.
Getting the watering right in a grow bag or pot is always more difficult than if you grow tomatoes in soil. If you have a small greenhouse and always grow your tomatoes in the same place, then there can be a build up of soil-borne diseases such as Fusarium (wilt; crown and root rot), Verticillium wilt and Corky root rot. You can get round this either by not growing in the soil or by using grafted plants: see To graft or not graft for tomato growing?