If you could predict the weather over summer then you could choose which years to grow tomatoes and where to grow them. In cold summers you would choose containers on a warm patio. In warmer years you would plant them in the garden.
In the UK growing tomatoes is at best problematical, unless of course you have a greenhouse and even then it can be tricky. Our summers are at best unreliable, the year you decide not to plant tomatoes will be the long hot summer, that's Murphy's law.
So what can you do to ensure the best crop possible, besides moving to Spain ?
If you prepare well and try a few different approaches you can usually get a crop. Outside the cherry type tomatoes are better suited and the most reliable, they faster to ripen than most.
And our best advice is to buy a polytunnel, (plastic greenhouse) or grow tomatoes in pots or hanging baskets.
Our top tips for growing tomatoes
- Choose early ripening varieties, the shorter the growing season the better chance you have of getting ripe tomatoes.
- Use a poly tunnel or greenhouse if you can
- Look for the sunniest and most protected position possible, against a South facing wall is ideal, the reflected heat will help.
- Dig in lots of well rotted compost well before planting and place stakes ready to support your crop
- Sow seeds early in spring, indoors or in a coldframe.
- Keep seedlings off indoors and plant out once the danger of frosts is over and the weather has definatly started to warm up.
- Use stakes or other supports.
- Give plants room, this helps promote air flow and prevent fungal diseases
- Prune plants back a little after the first flowers have set small fruit.
- Mulch around the roots, not only to retain moisture but also warmth.
- Keep the soil moist and moisture levels stable, this prevents splitting
Unless you have a poly tunnel or greenhouse, choose the tried and true varieties, with litterally hundreds of tomato types, the ones you are looking for are the proven UK early ripening types. The exotic names sound great but can be difficult and are better for those with a greenhouse.
Tomato varieties for Beginers.
For beginers try growing the Bush and Cherry Types. We have listed five of the better varieties for those starting out.
- Tumbling Tom - Cherry tomatoes you can grow in a hanging basket or container.
- Maskotka - Tasty fruit, not as prolific as some, however excellent in a container or hanging basket, and as we said, great taste..
- Hundreds and Thousands - Prolific producer, tasy fruit and good in a container or hanging baske t.
- Red Alert - A very early variety
- Roma - Not early but very disease resistant, best outdoors or in a greenhouse.
Every article says that growing tomatoes from seed is easy, and it is. Ripenening them and preventing disease is the hard part.
- Choose early ripening varieties
- These include: Red Alert, Stupice, Fantasio F1, Gardeners Delight and Shirley.
- Sow seeds indoors in Late March
- Plant tomatoes in the hothouse or greenhouse as plugs or seedlings in March, directly into the ground or in a container. Plant outdoors once the weather has warmed up generally in the UK in June. Plant seeds in January.
- Tomatoes can also do well in a hydroponic environment as well, so consider this option if you have a greenhouse.
- Remember that most tomatoes need to be staked or supported, bush tomatoes may be the best if you do not have room for stakes or supports.
- For Tomato plants in a heated greenhouse will be the best environment in most areas of the UK, however a sunny warm position may also be adequate.
- Planting early is not the solution, if the weather is not warm, the tomatoes will simply not grow.
- Green tomatoes can ripen, pull out the whole vine (tomatoes attached) and hang upside down under shelter, not sure why but it often works.