When to plant tomatoes: How to plant tomato seeds

How to grow tomato seeds

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Tomatoes from the supermarket can’t compare to home-grown, freshly picked tomatoes. Whether you stick them in a salad, sauce, sandwich or use them in a soup, tomatoes that you’ve grown yourself are superior to ones you could buy in a packet. Express.co.uk chatted to Miracle-Gro’s Gardening-Guru, Kate Turner from www.lovethegarden.com to find out when and how to plant tomatoes.

Tomatoes are the perfect plant for beginners to grow because you don’t need much space, they don’t require lots of expensive equipment, and they’re very low maintenance.

Kate said: “The great thing about growing your own tomatoes is that you can either grow them in a bright and sunny greenhouse, outside in the ground or in containers.

“Although there are many varieties of tomatoes to choose from there are two types of tomatoes to grow – cordon (vine) or bush tomatoes.”

Bush tomatoes are the best type of tomato for beginners to grow because they don’t require any pruning or tying in, Kate said.

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Equipment Needed:

  • Tomato seeds or seedlings brought from the garden centre
  • 9cm pots or seed trays for sowing seeds
  • Propagator or plastic cover
  • 30cm diameter pots or veg planters (if growing tomatoes as container plants)
  • Tomato feed such as Tomorite Liquid Tomato Food
  • Multipurpose compost such as Miracle-Gro Premium Peat Free All Purpose Compost
  • Canes (if growing cordons)
  • String

How to grow tomatoes from seeds

The great thing about sowing from seed are all the varieties to choose from – classic gardeners favourite ‘Gardener’s Delight’ to the more unusual ‘Black Russian’.

Kate said: “If you are nervous about growing from seed or lacking space, you can buy small plants from garden centres.”

To grow perfect tomatoes, follow the following five steps:

  1. Sow seeds thinly into small pots or trays filled with fine compost and lightly cover. Either water them from the bottom or use a watering can with a fine rose to water them from the top.
  2. Pop into a propagator or cover with a plastic lid/cling film and leave somewhere warm to germinate.
  3. As soon as they’ve germinated remove the cover and make sure they are put somewhere bright to grow. A windowsill is ideal but make sure the tray/pot is higher than the window frame. It is also important to keep the compost moist at all times.
  4. If the seedling leans to one side, then rotate the tray/pot every day and if it goes leggy then it needs more light.
  5. Once they reach over 10cm in height, and with at least two sets of leaves, they are ready to be transplanted into bigger containers.

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How to plant tomatoes outdoors

Follow the following seven steps to successfully plant tomatoes outdoors:

  1. Make sure your tomatoes are grown in good quality compost, such as Miracle-Gro ‘Peat-free’ All Purpose Compost, or use a special tomato planter.
  2. Don’t plant out until all danger of frost has passed and make sure you have hardened them off before planting/placing them outside. This means taking them outside during the day and bringing them back in at night for at least 10 days.
  3. Tomatoes love a sunny, sheltered spot. Against a wall is great, but don’t let them dry out.
  4. Watering properly is key to helping prevent some of the problems that can affect tomatoes. Tomatoes need consistent, even watering. Focus on watering the roots, not the leaves. Don’t let your tomatoes go from desert dry to a flood as this can cause splitting and cracking of the fruits. Ideally water in the early morning and drench the base to encourage the roots to grow deeply.
  5. Tomatoes are hungry plants so once they start to flower, feed them once a week with a high potash feed, like Levington Tomorite. This will really help produce tasty tomatoes.
  6. If you’re growing vine or cordon tomatoes you will need to train them as a single stem up a cane and pinch out any side shoots that form between the stem and leaves.
  7. Start harvesting your tomatoes as soon as they are ripe and if the weather turns cool, or if you were a bit late with sowing, you can pick the fruits, leave them in a brown paper bag in a cupboard and they will continue ripening.

Kate recommends growing basil with your tomatoes. She said: “This not only makes a wonderful plate pairing but can also deter whitefly.

“This practice is known as companion planting and as well as planting to repel pests, you can also plant to attract beneficial insects to eat the pests and pollinators to help the fruits set.

“Borage and nasturtiums are great companion plants to have in the garden, but don’t put them too near your tomatoes as they can take over.”

When to plant tomatoes

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, it’s not quite time to plant your tomatoes outdoors.

Tomato seeds should be sown in February, March and April and planted outside in May and June.

These tomatoes can then be harvested between the months of July and September, depending on when you planted them.

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