I’m obsessed with growing tomatoes in the UK, but I have a greenhouse on my allotment, which makes things easier. Saying that I still cannot resist growing a few on my patio in pots at home so I can quickly grab a few if I’m making a salad.
The United Kingdom might not have the most forgiving climate for growing tomatoes, but this doesn’t mean you can’t get a rich, rewarding crop with the right choices. Here, we will explore the best varieties that are tailored for the British weather, be it in pots or raised beds.
There are two main types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes, often referred to as “bush” tomatoes, grow to a compact height of around 3 to 4 feet. Once the plant reaches its full height, it will produce all its fruit at once, which makes it an excellent choice for those who want to harvest a bulk of tomatoes simultaneously.
On the other hand, indeterminate tomatoes, also known as “vine” or “cordon” tomatoes, will keep growing, flowering, and fruiting until the first frost. These types are ideal for those who want a continuous supply of fresh tomatoes throughout the summer and autumn.
Best Tomatoes to Grow in Pots
When it comes to container gardening, you’ll want to look for tomato varieties that are compact, prolific, and have a robust root system. Here are a few of the best:
1. Tumbling Tom: True to its name, this variety cascades over the sides of pots and hanging baskets. It’s a determinate type that produces many small, sweet fruits throughout the summer.
2. Balconi Yellow/Red: These small, bushy plants are perfect for container gardening. They offer plentiful, bite-sized fruits with a delightful taste.
3. Maskotka: This is a great determinate variety with high yields of sweet, juicy tomatoes. Its compact size and trailing habit make it ideal for pots and containers.
4. Gardener’s Delight: This small cherry variety is immensely popular among UK gardeners. It produces abundant sweet, bite-sized fruits on a vigorous indeterminate plant. Due to its size, it’s perfect for container gardening, and its reputation for great-tasting tomatoes makes it a favourite.
5. Patio Choice Yellow: This 2017 All-America Selections award-winning plant is excellent for growing in pots. The determinate plants only grow to about 18 inches tall and wide, but they produce up to 100 or more sunny-yellow cherry tomatoes with a well-balanced, slightly tangy flavour. Being a compact variety, it’s ideal for small containers and patio gardens.
Best Tomatoes to Grow in Raised Beds
Raised beds provide great drainage, which tomatoes appreciate. They also allow more control over the soil composition, making catering to the plant’s needs easier. Here are some excellent varieties for raised bed gardening:
1. Alicante: This popular indeterminate variety is known for its traditional, balanced flavor. It’s a good, reliable cropper that can handle the unpredictable British weather.
2. Moneymaker: A classic variety that’s earned its reputation for its reliability and high yields of medium-sized tomatoes. As an indeterminate type, Moneymaker provides a steady supply of fruit throughout the season.
3. Sungold: If you’re after sweet, small cherry tomatoes, Sungold won’t disappoint. Its fruits have an exceptionally sweet, almost tropical taste.
4. Black Russian: This indeterminate heirloom variety is known for its unique, dark fruits and rich, complex flavours. It produces large, beefsteak-style tomatoes that mature to a deep mahogany colour and are ideal for adding depth to salads and salsas. In a raised bed, they have the space to spread out and thrive.
5. Roma VF: This determinate variety is popular among gardeners who want to make their own sauces, pastes, or canned tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are meatier and less juicy than others, with a superb flavour. They’re also resistant to a wide range of diseases. In a raised bed, they have excellent drainage, which helps to prevent common issues like root rot and fungus.
How Do I Choose a Tomato Plant?
Choosing the right tomato plant involves considering several factors. Firstly, think about the available space. Determinate varieties are suitable for small gardens or containers, while indeterminate types are best for larger spaces or raised beds.
Secondly, consider the flavour and use of the tomatoes. Do you prefer sweet or tangy? Are they for salads, sauces, or just eating off the vine? Each variety has a unique taste and purpose.
Lastly, consider disease resistance. Some varieties are bred to resist common tomato diseases, which can be especially useful in wetter climates like the UK’s.
What is the Hardest Tomato Plant?
The term “hardiest” can mean different things, but generally, it refers to a plant’s ability to withstand adverse conditions.
When it comes to tomatoes, one of the hardiest is the Shirley variety. This indeterminate type is well-known for its ability to grow in cooler, less predictable climates like those found in the UK. It’s also resistant to many common tomato diseases and reliably produces a good crop of medium-sized, tasty fruits. They also don’t need perfect tomato soil conditions, just use a good feed.
In conclusion, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gardener, the UK’s climate can indeed offer a good environment for growing delicious tomatoes outside. The key is to select the right varieties and provide them with appropriate care.
Brian Sheridan has an allotment in Edgbaston and is a competitive grower. Brian is also a keen photographer and loves cooking. Brian and his wife Mary will also be running a stall at Edgebaston artisan market this year, selling products made from the allotment, including his award-winning relish!