How to plant tomatoes

Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda has called the tomato the ‘star of the earth’ and not without reason. 

Tomatoes epitomize the ripe fullness of a fertile summer, and the best way to enjoy their rich flavours is to undoubtedly to grow them yourself. And given enough warmth tomatoes can be grown with very little effort.

First sow in a 3 inch deep container or seed tray and allow to germinate into tiny seedlings. Ensure that the seed compost you use for this is of good quality, and clearly label the pot with the seed name and the date of sowing. 

A window sill that gets abundant morning sunlight is ideal – inside is perfect until it really warms up as tomatoes don’t like the cold. 

Keep rotating the container daily to make sure all parts receive equal amounts of sunlight. Tomato seeds germinate best in temperatures ranging from 15°C to 20°C and need to be kept a little moist at all times.

Once the seeds germinate and the seedlings emerge, wait a few days for them to grow to 2-3 inches. When the roots start making their way through the drainage holes, the seedlings are ready to be picked out. Delicately hold them by the leaves using a dibber as the stems are too fragile, without damaging the roots as far as possible, and plant them in individual pots at least 5 inches deep. 

Next they need to hardened so place the trays outside during the day so they become strong enough to be replanted outdoors. Once the first flower-bearing trusses have formed, the tomato plants are finally ready to be planted outside. 

Plant them in a larger pot or growbag in a site with plenty of sunshine, and where the new tomato plants do not get buffeted by any cold wind or chilly breezes. A greenhouse is ideal, or one of those collapsible growhouses if you don’t have one or the space.

A good tip is to add a handful of crushed egg shells as a calcium supplement.

The gap between two plants should be 12 to 18 inches depending on the type of tomato being grown. Ensure that the plants are protected from cool temperatures by covering them, and place paper collars around each plant to deter cutworms.

As the plants grow, provide stakes for additional support. If you water your tomato patch regularly and keep the soil fertilized with organic matter, you should soon be able to harvest a bumper crop of ripe, succulent tomatoes filled with the goodness of nature – and hopefully way tastier than the supermarket ones!

Thanks to Thompson & Morgan for the photograph