When to plant tomatoes outside in the UK – top 4 tips for the best tomatoes

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Tomatoes are an ideal fruit to grow for any budding gardener and can yield delicious fruit perfect for barbecues or snacking. You can buy tomatoes as young plants, but if you’d like to try a rarer variety you can opt to grow tomatoes from seed.

Many choose to plant tomatoes first inside or in a greenhouse and then plant them outside during the warmer months.

Young plants can be bought from garden centres in spring, however, they aren’t a shortcut to planting outdoors.

Young tomato plants will need frost-free conditions and hardening off before planting outside.

So when should you plant your tomatoes outside?

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According to Gardeners World, tomatoes grown on windowsills or greenhouses should be planted out after the last frost in May.

Tomato plants need a sheltered and sunny area and can be planted into a border.

They need lots of well-rotted soil compost to be raked through.

If adding to pots, use 30cm pots, or else opt for growing bags and pop two or three plants per bag.

Top tips for best the tomatoes

1. Harden them off

Before planting outside you need to harden off your tomato plants.

This means getting your tomatoes used to cooler temperatures, unlike the humid and warmth of the greenhouse.

To do this you can pop into a cold glasshouse, or move into a cold frame.

Open the lid during the day and close at night for a week to ensure the plants don’t get too cold.

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2. Watering

There is no rule for watering your tomato plants, but to use your intuition.

Watering depends on the weather – with warmer conditions requiring more frequent watering.

So during this recent hot spell, you may notice your plants needing more water.

If the plant is actively growing, you should also strive to water regularly.

GardeningKnowhow explains: “A good rule of thumb is to supply water once every two or three days at the height of summer.

“Remember that water supplied by Mother Nature counts towards watering tomato plants in the garden.

“Once the weather cools and fruit has set, scale back watering to once a week.”

3. When to pick

Tomatoes begin to grow ripe from the middle of summer onwards, however, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) explains this depends “on the variety, weather conditions and fruit size.”

For smaller cherry tomatoes you may find they ripen quickly, while larger fruits and greenhouse tomatoes can also ripen earlier than those grown outdoors.

The RHS advises “checking plants every few days and pick tomatoes individually as soon as they’re ripe and fully coloured.”

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