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Growing Vegetables - Tomatoes

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Planting Time
Warmer areas can plant earlier and cool areas should delay planting of seedling plants until as late as mid-November. You need to bear in mind that tomatoes need a long growing season and early cropping varieties such as 'Red Alert' (bush) or 'Gemini' (upright) will need to be used in outdoor plantings in cool areas

Bush and Vine Tomatoes
Vine Tomatoes are grown as a vine and trained up stakes or lines to support them. If you are using stakes then make sure that put it into place it when you plant out the new plants, later you risk damaging the roots. Ensure that it is strong enough to hold the adult plant. Lines suspended from a frame of glasshouse roof can also be used, gently encourage the plant to twine around the line as it grows.

Conventional wisdom advises removing lateral or side-shoots to encourage upward growth and fruit development. Recent studies have shown that crops are just as heavier on plants where lateral are left, fruit ripens at the same rate and there is no discernable difference in taste. So the choice is yours. The leading growing tip of the plant is taken out after five side shoots or trusses have formed to encourage the plant to put all its energy into fruit production.

You need to tie in the tomato plants as they grow, to support them.

Bush Tomatoes are 'determinate' or self-stopping tomato plants that don't require staking and can be allowed to sprawl across the ground, much as farmers grow them in fields.

Watering is one of the key factors- n a glasshouse make sure that you water the roots thoroughly every two weeks (watering the leaves is not recommended and can result in scorching). Outdoor tomatoes require regular watering as well. If you use grow bags then remember that they cannot hold a great deal of water and will require watering more than once a day in especially hot weather.

Over-watering will result in 'black end' or 'blossom end' rot on the tomato fruit- you will recognise it easily enough!

Mulching can help water retention and even out the supply of water to the plants.

Pick the fruit as they ripen- eat them, give them away or compost them but do not leave them on the plant as this will encourage disease and contamination of the remainder of your crop.

From April on it is too cool for outdoor plants to continue to ripen except in warm and northern areas. The fruit can be brought indoors to ripen- bring the whole vine, leaves removed, and hang it up where it will not be touched by frost. Make sure you remove all of the plants, and leaves, from the garden at this point.


Cherry tomatoes are perfect for courtyards

Cherry tomatoes are perfect for courtyards

Growing from seed
  • Tomatoes germinate in soil temperatures of around 30C. That means a heated propagator or the airing cupboard.
  • Sow indoor tomatoes in from as early as June through to August/September, or a little later if you plan to plant them out in the garden.
  • Seed remains viable for two to three years; so don't throw away the packet if you have more than you need!
  • A second sowing in December in warm and northern areas provides a second crop of tomatoes for late and winter harvest. 'Moneymaker', 'Potentate' or 'Russian Red' are all good late season tomatoes.
  • Always remember to check the seed packet to confirm sowing time, depths and spacing.

Grow your own from seed

Grow your own from seed

After care
Glasshouses- remove the old plants and dig out as much of the root system as possible, thus reducing the risk of disease being carried from season to season. Alternatively use containers or grow-bags and remove these, replacing with fresh soil each season. All old leaves should be removed.

Outdoors- Remove the entire plant and roots from the garden. Do not plant tomatoes in the same position in following season, or indeed the second season.

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Last revised 01 Jul '02