Alan Titchmarsh offers advice on ripening tomatoes in 2013
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A salad staple and a delicious snack, tomatoes are a vibrant addition to any table and they are super easy to grow at home. Instead of picking up a packet in the supermarket, tomatoes can be grown outside for a supply that is ready to pick for several months of the year. Here’s some tips on sowing and growing your own tomatoes.
When do you sow tomato seeds?
Before planting tomato seeds, gardeners will need to decide what type of tomato to grow in their gardens.
There are smaller varieties, such as the sweet cherry tomato, or larger beefsteak tomatoes too.
In general, tomato seeds typically need to be sown between late March to early April if the tomatoes will eventually be planted outdoors.
However, tomato seeds can be sown earlier, such as late February to mid-March, if they will be grown in a greenhouse setting.
To help them thrive, tomato seeds should be sown initially indoors, and then placed somewhere like a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill.
But anyone who missed seed sowing season this year can purchase ready to go tomato plants from garden centres.
They can be planted outdoors in the garden when they are ready.
How do you plant tomatoes?
Depending on the species of tomato being grown, some tomato plants may have different planting requirements to others.
So check the specific instructions for the tomato plant you are growing before planting.
Generally, according to Gardeners’ World, once tomato seeds have had a few months to grow, they should be planted outside after the last frost in May.
The plants should be planted in a bright spot of the garden where they can also get some shelter from the elements.
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The date of the last frost can differ depending where in the country the tomatoes will be planted, so check this before moving the plants outside.
Gardeners’ World explains: “Choose a sunny, sheltered spot, where you can plant them into a border (into soil that has had plenty of well-rotted garden compost added), or into 30cm pots, or put two or three plants in a growing bag.
“If growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, try growing alongside basil, which thrives in the same conditions.”
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) also explains that once the “flowers of the first truss are beginning to open”, tomato plants can be planted 45 to 60cm apart outside in a warm spot of the garden.
Tomato plants also need to undergo “hardening off” before being planted outdoors.
This gardening practice involves gradually moving plants into slightly colder settings over a period of time, to get them acclimatised to the colder weather outdoors.
Tomato plants need to be kept watered so the roots are moist, but take extra care not to waterlog the plant.
Tomatoes in bags or pots may benefit from regular feeding and there are a variety of tomato feed products on the market.
Bags and pots of tomatoes also require more frequent water than tomatoes planted in open ground.
Irregular watering of tomatoes can result in rot or the tomatoes splitting.
Check the specific requirements of your tomato plant to ensure it’s looked after properly.
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