We ran a survey and asked our valued customers to submit their top tips for successfully sowing Tomatoes (both indoor and outdoor varieties). Some have been featured in our catalogues but we thought we would publish these online to allow other growers to benefit...
We must add that we haven't tried all of the hints and tips below but it may offer some insights to how other growers approach sowing and growing their Tomatoes!
- I live in North Devon where we often have wet Summers, so blight is a particular problem for outdoor tomato plants. I could choose to grow blight resistant varieties, but instead, I grow up to 40 plants of 20 different varieties in greenhouses. Approx. half of these are from seed, and grown in deep "planters". The rest are bought in as grafted plants, and I grow these in very large individual tubs to get the full benefits of the graft. The secret to great tasting and healthy tomatoes is seaweed. Any feed I give them has to be seaweed-based, and this noticeably improves not only the health of the plants, but also the flavour of the tomatoes. Correct watering is the key to good tomato crops. I grow mine inside "grow rings" which fit onto the grow bags or inside my tubs. The rings have an outer reservoir so that water slowly filters down to the roots of the plant over a period of time. On very hot days, especially when the fruit is forming, it can be a good idea to water the plants twice; morning and most importantly during the evening. Erratic watering can lead to blossom-end rot on a few varieties. If this appears, I quickly water in a solution of calcium which stops the problem in its tracks. Big tomato crops can cause plants to break or collapse, so it's very important to offer strong support to stems and branches. Also, to ensure that the energy of the plants goes into the flowering and the fruit, it important to pinch outside shoots when they try to grow out from what I call "the armpits" of the plant. Having harvested the fruit, don't store it in the fridge. You'll lose all of the flavour if you do this. Keep the fruit at room temperature. You can freeze tomatoes whole in bags for use in soups and sauces throughout the Winter.
- Good medium, right size pot, lots of potash-based fertiliser and water at regular intervals and choose the correct variety (indoor or outdoor, determinate or indeterminate) that you can manage successfully. Cross your fingers for a long hot summer!
- If possible grow in a border to get the best tasted fruit. plant a few French marigold or basil to deter white fly. regulate the water this may have to be done twice a day and best early morning or evening. feed regularly with a weak solution every time of watering when the first fruits form.
- Sow in February indoors in small pots, one seed per pot. Thoroughly wash out and ideally disinfect greenhouse and contents. Pot up into 11cm square pots and move to cold greenhouse in trays or frames when pots outgrown so they can come back in if frost is forecast. When 20 - 30 cm high, plant out at least 60 cm apart into beds comprising: (measurements after treading down|) 5 cm well-rotted manure, heavy sprinkling of 15-15-20 or thereabouts, 12 cm fresh garden soil. Mix up if keen but not necessary. Install dripper irrigation 3 per plant 3 x daily, experiment with dosing but probably 3 x 0.5 litre daily per plant. Changing the soil and irrigating automatically are crucial. We pick from July 1 to mid-November (Kent). In 2017 I was picking ripe Sweet Millions from the apex of the greenhouse roof.
- Contrary to suppliers’ advice I grow grafted tomato plants outdoor and with success. I concede that you take risks with a good growing season but they are well worth a try. In particular I have used Noir de Crimee. Also, the great Coeur de Boeuf -Try them both!!
- Feed magnesium makes tomatoes sweeter to taste.
- I only grow tomatoes outdoors. I use lots because I have a small plot. I always start them indoors, and sow more than I need. I can always give them away! Put in support early. I have a couple of large beefsteak this year which may require a tomato cage. My husband's uncle in Italy had a tiny but incredibly productive garden. He created a tall out door support from string tied in a grid. He tied his plants running up the vertical strings. When they start to fruit feed. Remove lower leaves. Pinch out the new leaves from the stem and leaf joints.
- In the greenhouse stand the large plant pots containing the fruiting plants in washing-up bowls and then make sure the bowls always contain water and this way you will never have split tomatoes and they will grow bigger and stronger than when watered from above. Add any feed to the water in the bowl.
- Outdoor choose blight resistant varieties. Indoors feed seaweed plus tomato feed. Water twice weekly only but thoroughly soak when you do. This gives much sweeter fruits.
- Follow instructions on the seed packet! Outdoor tomatoes can be hit with 'early' blight fungus in June. To help strengthen plants against this, spray the whole plant with soluble aspirin - 1 litre water with 2 soluble aspirin. If possible put horse manure below soil when planting out.
- Grow one main crop that you and your family like and grow a few guest varieties to compare with my main crop is always gardeners delight I am trying the Shirley variety and a couple of other new hybrid types.