It’s that time again, to name my crop of the month. I tend to have difficulty choosing between the array of crops that can be grown or harvested during the month. However, this time it was simple, I knew exactly which crop I wanted to talk about. My Veg of the Month is the plump and juicy tomato.
My son has recently tried his hand at growing his own tomatoes for the first time and he did extraordinary well. The brilliant thing about tomatoes is that you can grow them pretty much anywhere. You don’t need much space either, you can just have a spare space on the balcony and plant them up in a growing bag. When tomatoes are provided with the minimum amount of care, they will respond with guaranteed crops. However, if you look after them well, they will repay you with a bumper harvest. No matter if you look after them properly or with a light touch, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good yield.
How to Grow with Tomato Seeds (January to April)
• Sow seeds in seed trays, cell trays or pots filled with good, fresh sowing compost. Sow 6mm deep and cover with sieved soil or fine sand and water, adding fungicide if you wish to combat damping-off disease.
• Cover the pots or trays with a propagator lid and put them in a warm place until germination take places (usually 7-10 days).
• When germinating the minimum recommended temperature is 15°C, but your tomato crops will do better if you can provide 18°C at the start.
• As soon as the seedlings are through they need plenty of light to prevent them from becoming leggy.
• Once most of your seedlings are through, remove the propagator lid.
• Once the seedlings have opened their seed leaves and they’re large enough to be handled prick out those grown in trays and place them in individual pots to continue good growth.
• Maintain watering, ensuring the compost is damp, not wet.
• Pot up the plants in stages until they are in roughly 12cm pots. The new compost you put into the pots should give your plants enough nutrients, so there is no need to feed them during this process.
• Once the flower opens on the first truss plants, plant them out or put them in their final container. If you’re growing an indoor type you may wish to plant them in a growing bag, filled with potting compost.
How to Grow with Tomato Plants (April to July)
• Remove the plant from its existing pot and plant so that the compost on the top of the rootball is level with the new compost in the container. Firm and water.
• However, if you’re planting out, harden off the tomato plant beforehand.
• Feed and water well, a good tomato food generates bumper crops.
• Cordon plants need weekly attention, pinching out sideshoots as they grow.
• As the stem grows taller, support the plant with a cane. This should be done as soon as the tomatoes are planted. Replace the original cane with a bamboo cane and string.
• Outside plants should be supported with strong stakes.
• Trim tomatoes by removing the lower leaves as the trusses ripen to ensure the fruit is given enough sunshine.
Your tomatoes should be ready for harvesting from at the earliest June to the latest October.
Tomatoes are such a staple crop to have in the kitchen; there are so many recipes that involve having tomatoes and so many ways for you to eat them, raw in a salad or cooked in a ratatouille, for instance.
Whatever you wish to do with your tomatoes, enjoy them; they taste a lot better when you know you’ve grown them yourself,