Now is the perfect time to start tomatoes from seed indoors, so I thought I would write some tips for the best way to grow and care for them. Tomatoes are an easy plant to grow and once established will romp away with some dedicated conditions. Unless we have adverse weather, they will be quite happy and require little fuss. As long as they have water, food and sunlight you are pretty much all set.
There are so many varieties that you could sow and from personal experience, there is nothing that beats the taste of a home grown tomato. Just being able to pick them straight off the vine is glorious, so sweet and juicy. Also an obscene amount cheaper than having to buy them from the supermarket. Having a vegetable garden is one of the best things I have ever done. I’ve never known a therapy like it, being able to plant a tiny seed and watch it grow into your very own food is so satisfying. So I hope my garden series helps you to create your own and it brings you so much joy.
What you need:
- Module trays or small pots
- Seed compost or multi-purpose compost
- Chosen tomato seeds
- Grow bag or compost for planting out
- Liquid tomato food
What to do:
- Prepare your pots with soil, filled nearly to the top. Tomato seeds are usually easy to manage but of course it depends what variety you are planting. Place one seed per module pot on top of the soil, once all your seeds are in place, press them down with something flat. Making sure that the seed has contact with the soil, then sprinkle a thin layer on top. Water those in with a gentle hose or a spray bottle, making sure to keep them damp but not soaking wet. Place them by something warm, like a radiator, a windowsill above a radiator would work best.
- Once your seeds have germinated, allow your tomatoes to grow until true leaves appear. True leaves are usually the second leaves to appear, as you can see in the above image. If you have planted them in individual pots, as long as these are at least 9 inches, you won’t need to pot them on. If you have planted them in modules, you will need to pot them on to individual pots.
- When potting on your seedlings, be sure to plant them deep. So your leaves sit just above your soil (see below), this will encourage a stronger root system. You will now need to water your plants from below, helping to stop mildew from settling in.
What to do next:
- You can plant your plants out after the last chance of frost has passed. You can easily search this online for your city, area or zone. Plant them two feet apart, in either a grow bag, raised bed or in the ground. If planting in the ground, be sure to dig in a lot of organic matter, compost or manure. I like to pop an egg in my planting hole and gently crack it a little. This allows a slow release of calcium to the plant.
- Most tomato varieties will need supporting, either by being tied in to a stake or by using a growing cage. Most tomatoes require side shoots (suckers) to be pinched out, this encourages the plant to fruit. Side shoots are the growths that appear where the main leaves join the stem. Feed your with a high calcium tomato feed once flowers starts appearing. Making sure to get the ratio right and always feed at the base of the plant, not over the foliage.
- Tomatoes need a lot of sun and warmth. So place them in the sunniest part of your garden. They also require a steady amount of water, so never let them dry out or sit in a pool of water. They like to be kept just damp. This will help to stop blossom end rot which is a disorder caused by lack of calcium. If they are over watered the calcium leeches from the soil. A tomato feed should help keep levels up.
- I always try and water them in the morning, so they are not soggy over night. Never water the foliage, as this well help stop blight. Blight is a spore that develops only when it lands on wet foliage or fruit. Also make sure that your plants have enough air flow. Spacing them correctly and don’t crowd them. Pruning also helps with this, something I do often once fruits start developing. This is a great site that helps to send alerts for conditions that might create blight.
- If you do get blight or blossom end rot, remove the infected leaves or fruit immediately and dispose of it. Do not put it into a compost or green bin.
- Cherry tomatoes are more disease resistant, so starting off with a cherry variety for your first season will help you become accustomed to growing tomatoes.
- Infrequent rainfall is a tomatoes worst enemy. If you can grow them somewhere sheltered, this will help keep them free of disease. A greenhouse, poly tunnel or sheltered area will work best.