This year, opt for home-grown over store-bought!
Growing tomatoes isn’t easy, let’s face it, radishes are easier (plant them, water them, two weeks later you have radishes), but it is not impossible, and you won’t regret the effort you put in.
In summer, tomatoes really are the most versatile vegetable around: they work as a snack on their own, definitely in a salad or as a salad (with a bit of mozzarella or a boiled egg and vinaigrette), and of course in light summer meals.
To harvest tomatoes in summer, you need to start early as they take their time to grow.
Ideally, choose different types of tomatoes, such as a kind of salad tomato and cherry tomatoes, as these plants can be a little temperamental and that way you will see which one grows best in the conditions of your house or garden. Having vining and bush tomatoes also means you will be harvesting for longer.
Start as soon as possible by taking a pot (it can be a plastic container from the recycling bin), adding soil, watering it well and then the seeds on the surface. (You can add a few more as you will separate them again later, but this way there is more opportunity for seedlings.)
Keep them warm and humid, which means keeping them in a warm place, either where the sun hits or close to the heater.
To water them, use a spray bottle.
Within two weeks you should see the seedlings.
Step by step guide to growing your tomatoes
When your seedlings are about this high, prepare to re-pot them.
To make it easier (and cleaner) for yourself, prep a plastic or cardboard box in which you will place your plant pots. Add a bit of newspaper and then soil, this will catch any excess water and allow the plants to grow a little past their pots should some grow faster than the rest.
Then place your flower pots inside, add soil, make a hole and place a single seedling in each pot and then watering them again.
Keep watering your plants lightly but regularly with your spray bottle.
If you have space to keep them in the house, you can keep them in a warm and sunny spot. If you have a greenhouse, they can go there at this stage. Your greenhouse doesn’t have to be a glass structure, it could be a thick plastic sheet. Just make sure your box or pots aren’t on the ground, but elevated a little as the ground can still get cold until about mid-May. If wind or a little rain can get into your greenhouse or covered area, simply cover your plants with a thin fabric to protect them.
After they’ve grown a little more and are more robust, you can transplant your plants into the ground – ideally still in a greenhouse, but could also be outside as long as it’s a sunny spot and not too exposed to wind. If you are keeping them in pots, prep bigger pots for each plant so they can grow tall. Always make sure the soil you transplant them into has been watered.
Tomatoes need a little support in order to grow tall.
So, it’s time for a trellis. You have different options, depending on your set up.
For individual pots, the easiest is to plant a wooden or metal pole next to the stalk of your plant and attach them to one another.
If you keep your pots near a sunny wall, consider putting a trellis on the wall and attaching multiple plants along it.
In a greenhouse or larger setup, you can set up a horizontal pole above the plants and attach them all to the top (a little like puppets on a string).
You can use string or twine to attach your tomato plants, though if you are too scared of damaging them, there are specific clips that hold the stalk and string in place, but you will need several clips for each plant.