‘Most reliable’ tomatoes to grow for ‘heavy delicious crops’

Gardening: Homebase shares tips to help grow tomatoes

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With Google data showing that UK-based searches for “tomato shortage” have grown by 238 percent in the last week. The shortage has caused searches for “how to grow tomatoes” and “tomato seeds” to skyrocket by 909 percent and 235 percent in the last week. However, getting started can be challenging for beginners. Craig Wilson, a gardening expert from Gardeners Dream, has shared his top tips for growing the “perfect tomatoes” in your garden.

He said: “Nothing is more satisfying than growing beautiful, fresh tomatoes in your garden. The best tomatoes are grown early. 

“You can grow them indoors as early as January, transferring to the garden after two months when the weather is milder. It takes about five months from seedling to harvest, so they should be ready in time for the summer.”

To grow tomatoes “successfully from seeds”, the expert said that gardeners need some starter trays and three to four inch pots to transfer them into after they begin to grow. 

Gardeners will also need rich, fertile soil or peat-free potting compost and a good spot with plenty of sun (around eight hours a day) and shelter. 

Those new to growing tomatoes, Craig suggested they opt for moneymaker seeds. He said: “They are one of the most reliable varieties of tomatoes, popular for being reliable and producing heavy crops of delicious tomatoes.”

Once seedlings are large enough to handle, around five inches tall, transfer them into individual containers or a seedbed. 

Once the last frost has passed, it is safe to plant them outside. If night temperatures drop below freezing, keep them inside for now. 

Next it is time to prepare the patch. To ensure tomatoes have the “best chance” of growing “plump and juicy”, gardeners need to check that their soil is of the highest quality possible with “four easy steps”.

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The first step is to remove any large weeds and debris where tomato plants are going to be planted.

It is important to remove the weeds as soon as they appear as they will steal essential nutrients from the tomato plant. To do this, Craig suggested gardeners treat the soil with weed killer.

The third step is to dig over the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches, then rake until the ground is level, which aerates the soil, helping oxygen and moisture reach the roots to encourage growth.

Before planting, the last step is to water the soil and work in a fertiliser to give the tomato plants the best possible conditions.

Households can create their own compost using old fruits, vegetables, and coffee grounds, which will help fertilise plants at no extra cost. 

Once the soil is prepped it is then time to grow the plant in the ground. The expert instructed: “Dig deep enough for the soil to cover about two thirds of the plant, encouraging strong roots and healthy growth. 

“Each plant should be around 20 inches apart in rows, and the spacing of each row should be double that. 

“Make sure to water the plants consistently. When watering, check the soil’s moisture, the water should go around 10 inches deep.”

Tomato trellises and support stakes can help plants to grow. Don’t grow tomatoes near cabbage, fennel, corn, or potatoes, as “this will harm the tomatoes’ growth”, according to Craig.

To maintain tomato plants, water them regularly and feed them weekly with a high-potash fertiliser once the plants begin to flower. 

Side shoots may appear on tomato plants – when this happens gardeners can prune these, which helps reduce the risk of disease and how much support is needed.

It is safe to harvest tomatoes in the summer, from July to October. Tomatoes ripen after picking but wait until they are beginning to change colour before harvesting. They should come off the vine easily. If not quite ripe, keep them in a well-ventilated area at home until they are ready to eat.

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