Growing tomatoes is one of life’s great joys as homegrown are so delicious! Plus tomatoes are easy to grow. If you have never grown any, I would really encourage you to give it a go. You don’t need a lot of space as they can easily be grown in hanging baskets, pots and planters too.
A greenhouse can be handy if your climate is cold and wet for most of summer. However, as long as you have a sunny spot outdoors on a doorstep, patio or balcony you will be able to enjoy homegrown tomatoes!
In this post then, I will give you a step by step guide for growing tomatoes from seedlings, moving them outdoors, feeding, pruning the tomato plants and my top tips for success!
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Growing Tomatoes from Seeds
You may have never sown seeds before, but again I would encourage you to try it. Why you may ask me? Growing tomatoes from seeds allows you to pick your own choice of tomatoes.
There is a huge variety of tomatoes that you can grow easily at home that you would never be able to buy from your shops or supermarkets. They also differ in taste and sweetness, so it is a great way to find your own favourites too!
In the UK, we have a shorter growing season. Therefore to allow the tomato plants to grow and the fruits to ripen in the summer sunshine, we need to start sowing the seeds indoors. I sow my seeds in late March in my kitchen.
These are some of absolute favourites which I grow every year!
How to Sow Tomato Seeds Indoors
- Fill small pots with seed sowing compost. I use this compost as it is an ideal texture to hold moisture for the seeds to germinate. You can also use multipurpose compost but make sure you keep it moist.
- Use a chopstick or the blunt end of a pencil to make holes that are 0.5 cm deep.
- Place a seed in each hole – I tend to place from 5 to 8 seeds in each pot (remember to sow a few more than you need, as not all seeds will germinate)
- Cover each seed up by closing the hole with the compost on the sides.
- Use slightly tepid water to moisten the compost. Try to avoid over watering as it may cause the seeds to rot.
- Use a plastic bag to cover the pot or place in a tray that has a plastic cover – this will help to hold the temperature and humidity.
- Leave the pots or tray in a warm place indoors. I like to leave mine near the boiler in my kitchen.
- After 7-14 days, you will see little green shoots peeking through the compost. Once this happens, you can take the plastic cover off and place them near a bright warm window.
- Water often as tomatoes need water so make sure the compost is always moist, but not too damp.
How to Transplant Your Tomato Seedlings
Once your seedlings have 4 leaves on them, they are ready for moving into their individual pots. 3 inch pots are ideal for this next stage of their growth. Water the pot of seedlings so that the compost is damp before you start.
- Fill up each 3 inch pot with fresh new multipurpose compost.
- Make a hole with a dibber, blunt pencil or chopstick.
- Carefully, remove the seedlings from the pot in which they were growing (I use an old fork).
- Hold the seedling by its first baby leaf and then move it into it’s new pot – plant it as deep as possible. Tomato plants love to be planted deeply as their stem will have the opportunity to grow more roots!
- Cover with the compost around the stem of the seedling and then firm it down. Water gently and keep on a warm bright windowsill.
I keep mine on the kitchen windowsill and I love watching them grow as I wash the dishes! You will need to transplant them one more time once they are about 6 inches in height. The same process as above but a bigger pot for each plant.
They may need support as they grow and you may need to give them a small support sticks to lean on. You can also loosely tie the stem to the sticks with some jute or hessian string.
Growing Tomatoes – moving them outdoors
Spring is so exciting, especially as the indoor bound plants start feeling the fresh air! This means tomato plants now need to start spending some time outdoors in a sheltered patch in the daytime. There may be frost at night so they will need to come back indoors to sleep.
They will need about a week or two of this hardening process – where plants are getting conditioned to the outdoors while being protected from frost. Once the danger of frosty nights is over, tomato plants can be planted outside.
Top Tips for Growing Tomatoes for New Gardeners
- Plant them in a sunny location that is ideally sheltered. I do this against my kitchen wall on my patio and use planters or individual pots.
- The trick is to plant them as deep as possible to allow the stem to develop more roots.
- Add some perlite to the pots as it will help to retain lots of moisture for the thirsty tomato plants.
- Place your bamboo cane as support when you are planting your tomato plants.
- I also grow basil and french marigolds at the base of the tomato plants as they make good companions. French marigolds naturally deter pests and this is very helpful when growing tomatoes. You can grow these marigolds at home too with my step by step guide.
Feeding your tomato plants
Once your tomato plants have flowers they will need to be given some feed. Tomatoes are hungry plants especially as they need the energy to produce those tasty fruits!
I use a diluted solution of organic seaweed extract for my tomato plants all through summer. Once a week or every other week is usually sufficient for happy tomato plants. One bottle will last you ages, and can be used for chillies, cucumbers and flowers!
Types of tomato plants
There are two type of tomato plants. A bush or determinate variety will not need pruning or much support and it fruits generally in one go. Bush varieties are ideal for small spaces, like balcony or patio pots and hanging baskets. My favourites last summer were Minibel and Vilma.
Vine or indeterminate tomato plants need ongoing pruning, strong support to hold them upright and will fruit all summer. Vine tomatoes may sound like more work but you will have tomatoes all summer long and so worth it! Have a look at Training My Tomato Plants post where I show you how to prune your vine tomato plants for larger and more successful harvests. I love growing Sungold, Gardener’s Delight, Roma and my new favourite Costoluto Fiorentino!
Gardening Know How has more information on Determinate and Indeterminate types of tomatoes, if you’d like to read further.
Growing tomatoes is very rewarding and once you taste your delicious homegrown fruits, you will be so impressed too! Happy gardening and pop over to my Instagram to see more updates on these fabulous homegrown tomatoes!