How to grow your own tomatoes

Posted: 1 Mar 2023

Why grow your own?

There are many good reason to grow your own tomatoes. You know how they have been grown and what processes they have gone through to provide you with an edible crop. 

You can grow whatever varieties you like, whether they are the ones you find in the supermarkets, or the softer skinned, tasty ones! 

Plucking the first tomato off the truss on a warm sunny day is delightful! The look of the fruit, the smell and then the taste make the waiting worthwhile in an instant! 

Much is said about food miles. Growing your own tomato crop in your garden reduces your carbon footprint substantially! 


Cordon, bush, grafted. What's it all about? 

Cordon and bush tomatoes refer to the way the plants need to be grown and trained. Cordon types need training up a single stem, while bush varieties can be left to their own devices, except for the occasional support from a short cane. 

Grafted tomatoes are two plants in one! The root system is that of a vigourous disease-resistant variety. A different variety is then joined onto its stem to allow the top part of the new plant to grow quicker and healthier. 

Please ask one of our knowledgeable members of staff for more information. 


What variety? 

There are many great varieties of tomatoes to choose from, so we'd like to suggest our favourites to make it easier. Gardeners' Delight is one of the tastiest cherry tomatoes, but if you fancy a change, try Sungold... just as tasty...but it's yellow! 

Tumbler and Tumbling Tom are trailing varieties and look great in hanging baskets. They will give heavy yeilds of small, tasty fruits throughout summer. And Tumbling Tom Yellow is arguably the sweetest of them all. 

Shirley is a very tasty medium-sized salad tomato, which does particulary well in a greenhouse, but also produces lots of fruits outside. Roma is about the best tomato for use in cooking, but many people are fans of eating it raw too. However, the kinds are tough and there are fewer seeds than other varieties. It is a bush type, so easy to grow. 

Marmande is a great big tomato, often referred to as a beefsteak type. It can be grown as a bsuh but is best grown as a cordon. 


The essentials

Tomato plants grow well in Big Tom Super Tomato Planters. The compost and fertiliser mix is designed specifically for fruiting annual plants which also includes cucumbers and peppers. 

The use of water-saving trays work well in helping to prevent the plants from drying out. The Gro Sure Grow Bag Tray is good value and retains water within the tray. The Hozelock Grow Bag Waterer Tray also has a dial on it that tells you when your plants need watering. 

Bamboo canes are used to support cordon tomato plants and some jute, or cotton string can be used to tie the new growth to the canes. A tomato food like Big Tom is essential for producing a bumper crop fo healthy plants and a watering can is a useful tool too. 

Tomato growhouses are a great addition, giving plants some protection from the elements in the early days of growth. The investment will pay off after a couple of years, with greater yields achieved. A heated greenhouse is a luxury, but if you have one, it will give you bigger crops and earlier than if grown outside. 

The plants themselves can be bought from us as Meadow Croft, or if you're confident of growing your own, we have some great varieties available in seed form from Thompson and Morgan. 


How to grow a cordon plant

Indeterminate tomatoes are grown as cordons. Indeterminate varieties will continue to grow with no pre-determined end. So, we need to channel its energies into a restricted area to produce the best crops. This is achieved by taking out unnecessary side shoot growth. As the plant grows it will sprout side-shoots from just about the big leaves on the leaf axil (leaf joint). These little shoots need to be removed as soon as possible to keep the energy in the main growing stem and fruits. 

It is very important to keep the big leaves on the plant, as they are the food providers. As the plant grows, it will product flower stalks called 'trusses', which will produce fruits as they have been pollinated. Bees and other insects are great at doing this, so you may as well leave it to them. 

Most varieties will produce 5 successful trusses in a season in a greenhouse and 4 outside. So, it is important to cut off the main growing tip after the last truss has been produced. Some vigourous varieties like Sungold will be happy to supply you with fruit from 5 of its trusses outside! 


Growing bush tomatoes 

Bush tomatoes are relatively easy. They are determinate plants, which means that their growth is already determined in their genes. So, when a fruit truss is produced, the growth beyond it will stop. This means we need as many shoots to be produced as possible, to encourage more trusses. Therefore, side shooting is not required.  


Tomato Tips

Plant marigolds near tomato plants as they encourage good insects that feed on the baddies! 

Most improtantly, pick the fruits when they are ripe to eat them fresh off the truss. Failing that, you can fry up green tomatoesm just like the good people of Tennessee do, or use them to make chutney. 

When you're side shooting, you'll find that you literally become green fingered. Soap and water won't touch it, but if you sacrifice the smallest green fruit and rub it on your green fingers, it'll all come off with a quick rinse under warm water!

Water your tomato plants consistently. If you let the soil go dry and then water heavily, you will get blossom end rot. Damage usually appears when the fruit is half its full size. Erratic watering will cause your fruit to split. 

How to grow your own tomatoes

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