This concise guide on growing tomatoes is essentially written for beginners, however, some intermidiary or advanced gardeners can also find some inspiration here.
We’ll include the why, how and what are the best tomato varieties to grow in our own climate as well as when and where to grow tomatoes. Also we’ll be talking care, transplanting, common diseases, and harvesting.
Whether you choose to grow tomato plants indoors or outdoors, I can guarantee that you’ll be most certainly rewarded with the results.
Why? You ask Well, let me break it down for you.
The prep work is short, fun and the results enjoyable not to mention tasty and nutritious. The only inconvenience (if i can say that) is waiting for the first tomato bud to pop through and of course the growing process. But I’m sure you’ll all agree it’s exciting for sure.
As a beginner what do I need to know before starting growing tomatoes?
When starting the planning of growing tomato plants the first three things on the top of your list should be:
a) pallet peat plug pellets
b) soil with nutrients
c) quality seeds.
The tomato seedling phase is important and for that reason you will be better off getting them from garden centres or small producers themselves. Because you get better quality than those bought in the supermarkets.
It is also true that industrially produced tomatoes are mostly grown in poor soil environments or fed with artificial fertilisers, so they can last longer during the transportation and shelve lifecycle.
We are happy to share from a recent study that organic or homegrown tomatoes have a much more complex rich chemistry than commercially produced fruits.
All six good components (see image below) were detected in all organic tomato samples whereas only four of them were found in conventional samples.
If you are happy to read a scientific article you can download the full article here.
(figure 2 above – shows a complete farming campaign where all bioactive compounds were identified as markers in organic tomato crops by HRAMS)
Its worth mentioning that tomatoes are a major source of good compounds (polyphenolic) in the human diet. To get these deep and mouthwatering rich flavours, you are better off planting your own tomato plants.
Homegrown tomatoes are delicious, healthier with higher levels of the pigment ‘Lycopene’. Hint: Lycopene has been recognised to help fight and/or unclog blocked arteries. This also tells us in a way, why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy.
Best time of the year to grow your own tomatoes?
The growing season you asked? Well, this is fairly easy to answer. You actually need to plan and prep as explained above. You access this date seed calculator online and check the best dates depending where you are.
This allows you to see when to start seedlings before transplanting outside. In general you can start middle January so you will start harvest begin of spring.
J, F, M = Perfect for sowing – May and June: Planting time
What else do I need to start growing tomato plants inside?
From the first 3 step above to grow tomatoes indoors for a quick healthy and early crop, you should probably purchase the ‘Money Maker’ tomato first. Then you just need to follow packet’s instructions.
Here are the some of other materials and tools needed to sow & grow tomatoes indoors:
– Propagators ( help pre-germination stage) or small trays (If you don’t have plastic trays, I recommend egg carton- keep the lid open during the day until they are out.)
– LED grow light -If no much sun – Tip: To grow healthy tomatoes indoors you’ll need a suitable artificial light source with temperatures at 75 to 80°F -is 23.89°c (Celsius) and a [plant] variety that will stay short,
– Heat mat (It’s technically optional, if you have a propagator.)
– A sunny window or spot in your house for a large pot or container (Make sure it has good drainage.)
– Water (of course)
You’ll then (finally) reach the phase where the newly grown plants have reached about 16-20 cm (6-8 inches) tall with flowers coming out of the first truss. You are ready to repot the tomato plant into larger pots or move it into your greenhouse. You wanna be sure you add plenty of multi-compost, and do remember to rake in a good fertiliser before planting outside.
How and Why growing tomatoes from seeds?
The first reason to grow tomatoes from seeds (that sprung to mind) is that you get to see the first shoot poke through the soil. A tiny tomato plant is born. You might feel even more excited to discover that you have a few more on the way. You get to see all these efforts rewarded and a big sense of achievement.
Secondly, if you got children of your own, it helps them understand where their food comes from and perhaps they will be more tempted to want to eat it – if they are fussy eaters – we all know one right? And if you teach them the process, it could be a great fun too.
Thirdly but not last, it’s a great way to save money on grocery shopping.
What motivates many people to start growing tomatoes from seed at home (the same applies for me) is that it offers little effort especially when they have a hefty selection of varieties to choose from. You can find tomatoes that are unlikely to be found at our local supermarket. Only a few garden centres or plant nurseries will have them. You normally can buy a packet of about 20-25 seeds for for less than £1 or $0.99.
So, it’s up to you to figure out what type of tomatoes you will be harvesting. See below to select which type you be picking. Whether you’re looking to eat raw or add them to a summer, spring salad, oven baked pizza, tomato sauce, we know that there’s an array of possibilities to choose from before you start seeding the tomatoes of your choice.
How many tomato varieties can we find?
Above we quickly talked about dozens of tomato varieties. I don’t know all of them. As far as we know there are more than 10,000 types. But, if you know the exact number please share the link in the comments box below. There are huge ranges of ‘beefsteak’ for example:
Common tomato varieties include:
– Beefmaster (popular hybrid beefsteak)
– Big Beef
– Brandywine (a pink heirloom variety)
– Bucking Bronco
Related reading: How to select tomato varieties
From small round tomatoes to silky smooth usually red or yellow skinned. They are good all purpose tomatoes.
Beefsteak tomato – are popular and usually form part of the Mediterranean cuisine, you will find them in dishes such as summer salads in France, Italy (tomato mozzarella ), Spain and Portugal where you can find big beef tomatoes aplenty, in all sizes and colours. If you stroll along to your weekly market you will notice some types of beef tomato.
Be aware, in case you decide to grow this type of tomato – you will need a warm longer season before you get them to your plate, which makes it quite unsuitable for cooler climates. Saying that, you may try it and it is well worth it having this type of plant. I can guarantee that the beefsteak tomato has a superb flavour and can bud if you have a greenhouse, polytunnel or a spare indoors space.
Moneymaker (Heirloom type) – is an indeterminate variety of red tomato. These are among the most popular old English greenhouse variety, home gardeners love it as seed is fairly inexpensive compared to other types and grows very quick.
Cherry – These are small, round fruits full of sweet flavours. Red and yellow skinned varieties including the fantastic ‘Sungold’ which you absolutely must grow. Plum – The traditional Italian pasta sauce. Not the best for fresh eating flavour but cook and freeze well.
Roma – The traditional Italian perfect for canning and making pasta sauce. Not the best for fresh eating flavour but cook and freeze well.
Where and When to grow tomatoes
Tomato plants require lots of sunlight and in the winter (minimum 4-5 hours) full sun exposure. This is especially true if you leave in the UK and/or some nordic countries.
Sweden for example, has become a nordic leader in terms of growing tomatoes sustainably all year round thanks to renewable energy. If you live in those parts, remember that tomatoes don’t thrive in cool conditions and they are better off kept inside a polytunnel or greenhouse.
South of Europe where sunlight and warmth is largely abundant, the tomato plant will prosper and grow quickly, however, you will want to water it minimum twice a day and shade it if too hot.
When should you start harvest tomatoes?
The best way to find out when your tomatoes are ready to pick – is to feel with your hand if the fruits are fully ripen but also if they’ve full red colour. Look out for the end of the summer season as the first frost arrives. Tomatoes can be frozen if you like or why not make it into a purée.
Tomato plants grow from seedlings, these tiny little things will grow from warm temperatures, soil and water. That is special don’t you think? Especially if this is your first time. If you are not a season gardner yet, your best option is – seedling and grow your tomatoes indoors. This works a treat.
Always remember to water your plants, don’t over do it. Also be aware that plants don’t like too much direct sunlight as it can also be bad for your crop.
Tomatoes need high light intensity to grow well, but too hot or too much can cause blotches, scalds or spots on the developing fruit. ‘Greenback’ is a common problem caused by too much sunlight, leaving the ripe fruit with a hard green area on its ‘shoulder’.
Good luck with your seedlings.
Let us know in the comments how you are fairing along. 🙂