There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly picked tomato, warm from the sun. Here’s how to grow your own in ten little steps.
- Gather your supplies
You’ll need soil, gravel, a stake and seedling, plus a pot or container. Tomatoes need a fairly large pot – around 30cm at least. Try drilling holes in the base of an old bucket or oil tin for a low-impact option.
- Choose your seedling
Pick a variety that stays small and doesn’t take long to grow so you can be chomping on tomatoes sooner. Ask at your local nursery.
- Let the sun shine in
Tomatoes love direct sunlight, so find a nice sunny spot, ideally with a little breeze. Tomatoes need space to grow so don’t plant too closely together if you’re growing more than one.
- Grab some potting mix
Choose one that’s free draining and designed for container gardening. Pots need great drainage, so help that along by placing about 2cm of coarse gravel, small stones or broken clay in the bottom of your pot and top with potting mix.
- Plant your seedling
Take your seedling, turn it upside down, lift off the tray and pop it into your hands. See the hairy stem? All tomatoes have them and they’re actually the beginnings of roots. To make sure these hairs turn into strong roots, take off the first two leaves that form on the stem and plant slightly deeper than this point.
- Add a stake
Do it when the seedling is first planted to avoid damaging the delicate roots later. Bamboo or wooden ones are best. As your tomatoes grow, keep tying. Use a soft twine (strips of old stockings are good) and tie around your stake first, then the plant, so it won’t slip as it grows.
- Water and fertilise
Make a little basin around your plant for water. Keep the soil moist – avoid dry or wet. Water daily, first thing in the morning when hot and every second day when it cools. Don’t forget to add some organic tomato food to your watering can once a week to fertilise.
- Watch it grow
Remember not to prune. Tomatoes grow from the branches, so pruning will reduce your yield. If you find they’re becoming unruly, just thread the stems around your stakes.
- Keep an eye out for nasties
Birds and bugs love your tomatoes as much as you do. To keep them at bay, remove leaves that come in contact with the soil. You might also need a net over the whole plant or paper bags around each tomato. Make sure the bags have some drainage holes.
Leave your tomatoes on the plant until they’re really red – this way they’ll have the best flavour. After about 16 weeks they should be fully grown and ready to eat. Try them on bruschetta or in a fresh basil and tomato salad. Basil is the perfect growing partner for tomatoes – try it next!