How to sow and grow tomatoes UK

Tomatoes are a delicious summer staple. Juicy pockets of refreshing flavour, no salad is complete without them!

A variety of tomatoes

Like all fruit and veg, tomatoes taste a whole lot better when you’ve grown them yourself. You can taste the sunshine! Easy to grow, there are plenty of varieties to choose from. This includes the classic cherry and plum, as well as tigerellas with unique tiger-striped skin, and even ribbed tomatoes like ‘Costolutio Fiorentino’, complete with excellent flavour!

Are tomatoes good for you?

Yes! Although people weren’t always sure that was the case…Tomatoes used to be called the ‘poison apple’, as it seemed as if aristocrats were falling ill (sometimes fatally) after consuming them. The connection wasn’t made, however, between the aristocrats eating their tomatoes from pewter plates. Because tomatoes are high in acidity, they would react with the lead in the plate, resulting in lead poisoning! So, as long as you’re not using your great, great, great grandparent’s crockery, tomatoes are definitely worth a munch. Here's why:

  • They are high in potassium, providing about 5% of an adult’s daily potassium needs. Potassium-rich foods are said to lower rates of strokes and could be associated with lower rates of heart disease.
  • They are a great source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and wound healing.
  • They might help alleviate menopausal symptoms. Whether or not you have or will experience menopause, growing tomatoes is a great way to learn about it. A study in 2015 found that tomato juice helped to alleviate symptoms like anxiety and abnormal heart rate.

How do you grow tomatoes?

1. Choose the right spot.

Tomato seeds, ready for sowing

Tomatoes are available to buy as young plants, but if you’d like a challenge or to see some of the more unusual varieties growing, then start from seed!

Tomatoes are great greenhouse plants, favouring a warm, sunny, and sheltered spot. If your school or community garden doesn’t have a greenhouse, don’t worry! You can also plant them outside, in the ground or raised beds.

2. Get sowing.

Tomato seedlings ready for planting

Sow your tomato seeds thinly in shallow pots or seed trays, filled with seed compost. Next, cover them with a thin layer of compost. Make sure to keep the soil moist.

When your seedlings have two true leaves, prick out into 9cm peat pots, filled with seed compost. They should be ready to be moved outside by the last frost in May. Plant them into a border, grow bag, or 30cm pot for the best results.

3. Show a little BLT...No, TLC.

Pruning tomatoes

Caring for your tomatoes varies depending on which type you’re growing. Tall-growing cordon tomatoes will require pinching out and staking. When the first fruits appear, remove the leaves underneath. This allows for better light and air circulation. When there are four or more trusses of flowers, pinch out the plants growing tip. Once flowers appear, feed your plants weekly with tomato food, and keep your plant well-watered.

Bush tomatoes have a sprawling habit, so they’re happy to get on with it themselves. Just make sure that, if the fruits are hidden beneath the leaves, you thin out the foliage a little, to allow the sun to get through and ripen them.

4. Harvest time.

Harvesting freshly grown tomatoes

Leave your tomatoes on the plant to make sure they ripen naturally, this will only make them tastier. Remember, patience is a virtue! And make sure you know which colour you're growing. You'll be waiting a long time for a yellow variety to turn red!

Towards the end of the season, prune off the older leaves. This will allow for better light and air circulation, which helps to prevent grey mould fungus from setting up camp. If the weather turns cold, simply pick the trusses to ripen indoors.

How and where do you store tomatoes?

As with lots of fruit and veg, tomatoes are the tastiest fresh from the vine (with a little wash in between, just in case). If you can’t eat them straightaway, don’t worry. Tomatoes will keep for around a week at room temperature. Avoid keeping them in a fridge if you can, as this will give them a dry and powdery texture.

Tomato pasta

And there you have it! The secret ingredient to all future salads, sandwiches, and pasta sauces! Such a versatile member of your five-a-day, tomatoes are sure to be a smash hit in every school or community garden.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.