When to start growing tomatoes

Gardeners' World: Monty Don shares tips for planting seeds

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Tomatoes are one of the most common additions to a salad in the UK, and are also usually added to pasta and beef dishes. If you usually choose to grow your own tomatoes, it may be time to start thinking about sowing.

It’s believed that there are more than 7,500 different types of tomato species.

They’re grown all around the world, and have been a staple crop for civilisations for more than 2,000 years.

Tomatoes are also relatively easy to grow from your own home, and yield a huge number of fruit from a single plant.

It’s almost time to start managing your garden, ready for the summer. When should you start growing your tomatoes?

When to start growing tomatoes

If you’re planning on growing your tomatoes outdoors in your garden, you’ll want to start sowing between the end of March and early April.

But if you’ll be growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can start from as early as mid-February.

Pop your seeds into small pots, and cover them with a clear plastic bag.

You can leave them on a bright windowsill, and keep the seeds at around room temperature.

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Once two full leaves have developed on the seedlings, you can transfer them to a flower pot.

It can take up to three months for the seeds to reach planting age.

But if you’d rather skip the sowing, you’ll be able to buy young tomato seedlings from the middle of spring.

Another two months later, and you should be able to start harvesting some fruit.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said: “Check seed packets or plant labels before buying, to ensure you get the right type to suit your growing space.

“Young plants are available from garden centres in spring if you don’t have the space or time to grow from seed.

“But they will still require frost-free conditions and hardening off before planting outside.

“Feed every 10–14 days with a balanced liquid fertiliser, changing to a high potash feed once the first fruits start to form.”

When you come to harvesting your tomatoes, it’s essential that you pick each individual fruit separately.

If it comes to the end of the season and you still have some unripened fruit, you can still pick them.

Simply pop the fruit in a darkened, warm room to let them continue ripening.

“Alternatively, put unripe tomatoes in a drawer with a banana, to aid ripening,” added the RHS.

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