Gardening chat about growing your own veg often turns to the wonders of home-grown potatoes and tomatoes, but the two are very different crops to grow. Potatoes are much easier, and need little attention, (see growing potatoes.) Tomatoes are the opposite and are more difficult. Tomatoes need a lot of attention starting with potting on, removing side shoots, thinning out the leaves as the plant matures, and as the fruits form, along with regular feeding and watering. The effort is worth-while, it's so rewarding to pick fresh sweet tomatoes straight from the vine. For me, summer is the smell of tomato vines.
Tomatoes are an ideal container crop the only drawback is that Tomatoes grown in containers are more prone to drying out during dry spells. If you are planning on growing tomatoes, you will need to work out how to keep them watered if you intend to go away. It is very disappointing returning from a lovely holiday to find your tomatoes plants suffering from drought. In the summer, if it is warm, tomatoes need watering several times in a week and if hot, daily attention. A gardening friend or neighbour is good, also there are also some effective irrigation kits on the market.
When growing tomatoes outside you need a warm, sheltered spot and if you don't have this in your garden, Tomatoes are best grown in a greenhouse. In the growing guide below are helpful tips to ensure you have a successful, tasty crop of tomatoes. Tomatoes are not frost hardy, so if you intend to grow tomatoes outside, only plant out when all risk of frost has passed. As a rule of thumb in the UK last frost will usually be at the end of May/first week of June. Plants are sold in the garden centres from Feb onwards but do not plant out, treat them like a bedding plant and wait until the conditions are warm. Tomatoes grown under glass will fruit earlier and be less prone to blight.
Whether growing from seed or small plants, the first decision is what type of tomato to grow. The main choice is between bush type tomatoes which are, as the name suggests, bushy and suitable for hanging baskets and are generally easier to grow compared with Upright, or Cordon tomatoes. Upright tomatoes need more attention and check out the pros and cons of both types of tomatoes.
The advice below applies to growing all types of tomatoes, whether bush or upright. Advice on the extra steps needed for growing upright tomatoes.
See also: Common problems and diseases when growing tomatoes and How to grow Upright (Cordon/In determinate tomatoes)