Newest Review: ... a strong flavour. **In conclusion** I love my tomatoes, I find them pretty easy to grow and they bring me pleasure as well as a healthy ... more
Tomatoes are a joy to grow!
Member Name: Niall85
Advantages: Cheap to grow, high yield, fun for the family
Disadvantages: Prefer heat and an English summer may provide little!
The first thing to do is select which variety you want to grow. I grow large beefsteak varieties because the yields are fantastic and because the people I grow the tomatoes for prefer them over a large quantity of smaller tomatoes. (You read correctly, the people I grow them for - I do not like tomatoes! I like them in a soup or puree only but cannot stand the texture of tomatoes, but that doesn't stop me enjoy growing them immensely). Some types grow a large amount of small tomatoes or a medium quantity of medium sized tomatoes or large varieties - the choice is yours.
What I love most about seeds is the cost. I purchased a packet of "Marmade" Johnsons variety from Wilkinsons in a 75% off sale. They are £1.85 for 75 seeds, I got 75% off which made them 46p - 46 pence for 75 seeds!! I have also made these last 2 years.
Tomatoes need heat, space and sunlight. I was fortunate enough to have a greenhouse where I used to live and a greenhouse where I live now - Tomatoes thrive and grow extremely well in a greenhouse but can also do well outdoors but with some risk. The last frost this year was only a few days ago where I live and its nearly mid-June - total madness! A tomato plant outside would be killed in a frost without protection so you must be careful to time everything correctly.
I started these Marmade varieties off in March last year - I planted 12 seeds from my packet of 75 and all germinated. I grew them in John Innes No 1 Seed Compost (I recommend this compost for starting off any seeds as it is very fine and provides a lot of good nutrients to seedlings for several weeks). These were kept in a seed tray with a clear plastic lid on top to retain the heat and moisture and also protect against frost (it can penetrate greenhouses). After about 3-4 weeks they were large enough to transplant and the weather also warmed up to help them survive and grow faster. I transplanted them into small individual pots - in another 4 weeks they were ready for their final position planting.
They don't need oodles of space but the more the better. I grow mine in potato bags which are easy to water, reusable and also easy to move around if plants grow out of control. These are the potato bags that are sold so people can grow potatoes on their patios.
Tomato plants set off my hayfever as they give off a strong scent! This doesn't stop me looking after them. The plants grow very fast once they get going and are helped along with certain fertilisers - I use two - Seaweed fertiliser once a week on the plants to help them grow prior to fruit emerging on the plants and as soon as fruits emerge from the flowers I switch onto Tomorite tomato feed.
The plants do need "restricting" if you want to see the best results. On the main stem shoots will form that produce flowers which turn into the fruits. Between that main stem and the shoots something called "side shoots" will form - these will need to be removed. If you don't remove them then the plant will basically put all its energy into growing the sideshoots on the plant rather than putting energy into producing fruits. I know this for a fact due to an experiment! I left one plant to do its thing, didn't remove shoots or anything and it fruited a lot later than the other plants and also grew to over 7 feet tall!
Once the plant is about 5 feet high it is also advisable to pinch the growing tip to prevent the plant growing any higher - again this is to allow the plant to put its efforts into growing fruit.
They are heavy plants with a heavy fruit crop on and will need good support. I use canes and tie the main stem using garden string - sometimes this wasn't enough and I had to have string all over the place dangling from the roof of the greenhouse to support the plant and its weight.
Tomatoes need a lot of watering - think of how much water is contained in the plant and all its fruits, that comes from somewhere - your watering can. Tomorite can be used once a week or once fortnightly to help the plants develop better fruit.
From late August to mid October I had tomato harvests last year - this is later than they should start because last year was terrible for heat and sunlight and it rained constantly.
The good news is this year I already have flowers which means I could be harvesting at the end of July!
Each plant produced approximately 20-25 juicy beefsteak tomatoes so I had nearly 300 in total... these were distributed amongst various family members, friends, people at work etc!
Top tip - if its getting cold and heading into Autumn/Winter time then you can pick your tomatoes in their green state and use them in various recipes before they are fully ripened - you can also help them along by putting them on a windowsill, they may turn red yet without their plant.
Why Grow Tomatoes:
If you have a square foot or two, thats enough to grow a few plants that can yield you enough tomatoes to last months! I grow them as a hobby and to make the people that get to eat them happy.
One thing I love about growing your own is that with all the effort involved you end up with such a fantastic feeling once you get your reward.
I paid 46 pence for 75 seeds and once all have been used up (keep in mind not all germinate, I have been pretty lucky). I went into the supermarket last week and saw the big juicy tomatoes similar to those I grew last year - they were 85p each. If 60 out of my 75 seeds germinate and each plant harvested 20 tomatoes then that works out at 1200 tomatoes for 46 pence worth of seeds - over £1000 worth at supermarket price - a staggering fact that makes it all worthwhile and opens your eyes to how much money you can save over time on the supermarket shopping bill.
Summary: Worth growing at least once in your life - try and you'll be hooked.