Growing tomatoes has many advantages:
- You can eat them within minutes of picking them so they are as fresh as possible.
- You can grow them without using chemical pesticides or fertilisers. Even if you do resort to chemicals, you know what you have used and you can ensure you don’t use them when the fruit is on the plants.
- You can grow tastier and better varieties than are available in stores because you don’t have to conform to supermarket standards of size, shape and colour.
So where do you start?
If you want to grow them from seed, sow them in February in a heated greenhouse or, if you don’t have one, indoors.
Before you go ahead, though, consider whether you might prefer to buy a few seedlings or more established plants from your local garden center.
- Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of a seed compost then cover with a thin layer (about 1/4 inch) of compost.
- Water with a fine rose so they don’t get swamped.
- Then either put them in a propagator or inside a sealed polythene bag and keep in a warm place.
- Check for germination after about for 4 or 5 days and keep checking. When the seeds germinate, take them out of the propagator or bag
- When they are large enough to handle, transplant into 3 inch pots of potting compost.
If they were sown in a heated greenhouse, when they are large enough to go into the soil there, move them in their pots from the benches to the positions in which they will be planted to acclimatise them to slightly cooler conditions.
After a day or two, plant them in the greenhouse beds with canes inserted next to each one for support.
Unheated Greenhouse or Outdoor Planting
- If you plan to grow tomatoes in an unheated greenhouse or outdoors, do not plant them until all danger of frost is past. If necessary, repot the tomatoes into larger pots rather than risk a check in growth.
- If you are growing them outside, choose a warm sunny spot that is sheltered from strong winds.
- Whether inside or outside, the beds for tomatoes should have had well rotted manure dug in some weeks before you plant out. Alternatively, you can use ‘growbags’ but must be vigilant to make sure that they are well watered.
- When you are ready to plant the tomatoes, first harden them off gradually for a few days beforehand.
- Again, when you plant, put in a cane for support at the same time.