Gardening with Children

School Zone

Why not grow your own tasty Tomatoes?

Date Posted: 15 April 2014

Tomatoes are healthy and truly delicious especially when they are home grown and freshly picked; their sweet flavour and the aroma that the fruits, leaves and stems give off when they are touched is quite simply 'Summer'.
 
Tomatoes are easy to grow and a perfect starter plant for children of all ages.
 
Tomatoes come in different shapes (round, plum and even heart-shaped), sizes (tiny, cherry, medium and large beefsteak) and colours (green, yellow, orange, red, dark red, red-brown, brown, blackish-purple and striped) so there is plenty of choice when choosing your seeds or plants.
 

Which type of Tomato should I choose?

There are two main types of Tomatoes:
 
  1. Cordons (indeterminate) these plants can grow tall and need supporting with a cane (put a small empty plastic bottle on the end to make it safe), string or wire. Side shoots, which grow where the leaf stalks join the stem, need to be removed so that the plants energy will go into producing fruit not foliage. 
  2. Bush (determinate) are usually more compact and don’t need much support, you do not need to remove their side shoots, leave them to grow.
There are also Compact types suitable for containers and hanging baskets, these are bush types and do not need their side shoots removing.
 

Growing from seed

  • Tomato SeedlingsTomato seeds are easy to germinate, from February to April sow seeds thinly in pots or seed trays in seed compost, cover over lightly with a sprinkling of compost and water.
  • Place in a warm position e.g. on a windowsill or ideally in a propagator, keep the compost moist but not too wet, seedling should appear in 7-14 days.
  • When the Tomato seedlings are large enough to handle and have got their first true leaves transplant individually into 6cm pots into good quality compost and grow on in a warm, well lit position.
 

Where can I grow tomatoes?

  • When your Tomato plants are well established (you may notice roots appearing through the bottom of the pots) they are ready for planting into their final growing positions. Tomatoes can be grown indoors in a greenhouse, polytunnel,Tomato Grow House, lean to, porch or even a conservatory or outdoors (check the variety) after all risk of frost has passed in a warm, sunny sheltered position.
  • Plant in good quality compost into large pots, grow bags, window boxes, troughs and hanging baskets, it is a good ideal to add water retaining gel to containers to prevent them from drying out too quickly.
  • Growing your plants in Tomato Rings encourages a larger root system which will produce healthier and more vigorous plants and a better crop.
  • Planting Marigolds in the same pot as your Tomato can help to keep away pests such as aphids as well as looking attractive, this is called companion planting.
 

Looking after your Tomatoes

  • Cordon types will need supporting with a growing frame, canes (put a small empty plastic bottle on the end to make them safe) or wires and the main stem tying in as it grows, remove side shoots which grow where the leaf stalks join the stem as they appear.
  • When the first fruits have formed begin to feed the plants with a high-potash liquid feed.
  • Keep the soil moist during dry weather, regular watering is important as it helps to prevent the fruit from splitting and blossom end rot. If you have a lot of Tomato plants it is a good idea to install a watering system to make watering easier and more economical.
  • Regularly mist or shake the plants gently to aid pollination.
  • Remove the growing tip of plants two leaves above the top truss when they have formed 5 or 6 trusses, lower leaves can gradually be removed to allow air to circulate and to speed up ripening.
  • At the end of the season green tomatoes can be ripened by storing them at room temperature in a paper bag with a ripe tomato or why not use them to make some green tomato chutney.
 

What if it is too late to sow seeds?

Tomato plants are widely available via mail order, in garden centres, nurseries, supermarkets, on the high street or even at your local market so if you want to give them a go now is the ideal time to get started.
 
 

Tom and Toms

 

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