Tomatoes are an incredibly versatile crop, and learning to grow them can be a rewarding experience for anyone who owns an allotment or garden – they can also be grown on a balcony window if you live in an apartment.
This detailed guide will cover all the stages of growing tomatoes, from starting seeds to tending mature plants. I have also included different methods for growing, depending on the type of tomato variety you want to grow. I wrote a dedicated post about growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, as there was a lot to cover.
How to Grow Tomatoes from Seed
Growing tomatoes from seed gives you a broader range of varieties to choose from and can be very satisfying. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Choose your seeds: Pick a variety that suits your climate and space. Some varieties are better suited to growing in pots, hanging baskets, or greenhouses.
- Start indoors: Tomatoes need a long, warm growing season, so start your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date. Use a seed starting mix in trays or pots and plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep.
- Provide warmth and light: Keep the seed trays in a warm spot (around 18-21°C) and ensure they get plenty of light. You can use fluorescent or LED grow lights if necessary.
- Water carefully: Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. A mister can help water without disturbing the seeds.
- Transplant seedlings: Once the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, you can transplant them into larger pots.
How to Grow Tomato Plants in Pots
Choosing a suitable variety of tomatoes is the first crucial step in growing them successfully in pots. Some tomato varieties, particularly dwarf or determinate types, are better suited to container gardening. These include varieties such as Patio Choice, Tiny Tim, or Roma, which thrive in a more confined space.
When it comes to selecting a pot, it should be spacious enough for the roots to spread out. A container of at least 30cm in diameter is a good starting point. Moreover, ensuring the pot has good drainage is essential to avoid waterlogging the soil and causing root rot.
The quality of the soil in your pot is also critical. Tomatoes prefer a nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. A quality potting mix with added compost or well-rotted manure provides the right environment for potted tomatoes. This type of soil not only drains well, reducing the chance of waterlogged roots, but it also holds onto moisture, keeping the soil from drying out too quickly.
When the threat of frost has passed, and the weather begins to warm up, it’s time to plant your tomatoes in the pot. The top of the root ball should sit just below the soil surface. Be sure to provide a stake if you’re planting an indeterminate variety to offer support as the plant grows.
Watering is where growing tomatoes in pots can differ greatly from other growing methods. Potted tomatoes tend to dry out much more quickly than those planted directly in the ground or in larger raised beds. Regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist but not drenched is key to a healthy tomato plant.
Finally, feeding your plants will ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients for a bountiful harvest. Use a tomato fertiliser according to the package instructions throughout the growing season. Regular feeding is crucial in pots as nutrients can quickly be used or washed out.
How to Grow Tomato Plants in Grow Bags
Firstly, you need to select an appropriately sized and sturdy grow bag. It should be large enough to house your tomato plants and their expanding root system comfortably.
Prepare your grow bag by cutting out the pre-marked planting squares. Typically, each bag can accommodate two tomato plants. Proceed to plant your tomatoes in the openings and firm the compost around them. This secures the plants and facilitates nutrient absorption.
Watering is a crucial step in this process. Immediately after planting, water the plants thoroughly and consistently to ensure the compost remains moist throughout the growth period.
Lastly, don’t forget to feed your plants. Once the first fruits begin to form, start feeding your plants with a tomato fertiliser to provide the necessary nutrients that aren’t available in sufficient quantities in the compost.
In short, growing tomato plants in grow bags requires the right selection of grow bags, proper planting, consistent watering, and regular feeding. With these steps, you’re well on your way to a successful tomato harvest.
How to Grow Tomato Plants in Hanging Baskets
Growing tomatoes in hanging baskets can provide an attractive and space-efficient way to enjoy this popular fruit. To begin, select a trailing variety, such as Tumbling Tom, that is well-suited to this growth method. Prepare your hanging basket with well-draining compost and plant your tomato plant in the centre.
Due to their position, hanging baskets can dry out quickly, so regular watering is essential. Additionally, provide a tomato fertiliser to ensure your plant gets all the nutrients it needs. Position your basket in a sunny and sheltered location to promote growth and fruit production. With these simple steps, you can have a fruitful and visually appealing tomato plant cascading from your hanging basket.
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!