Growing tomatoes on the allotment is awesome. They’re wonderful to look at, smell gorgeous and taste infinitely better than anything you’ll grow in the shops.
I’ve regularly stayed clear of a Real Men Sow growing tomatoes post as I’ve always found them fiddly to grow, but in the last couple of years I’ve had great crops and now feel confident with these allotment Summer staples.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up whilst I’ve been learning to grow tomatoes.
Which Type Should I Grow?
Broadly speaking there are three I like to grow: the big fat beefsteaks, little sweet cherry toms, and a generic, heavy cropping ‘normal’ tom, such as Moneymaker.
My favourite beefsteak variety is Marmande, which I’ve grown for a couple of seasons now. The tomatoes grow to a whopping size without losing flavour, and slice easily. Cherry tomatoes, such as Tumbling Tom, are excellent in salads and if you’re short on space, grow well in a container.
Sow More Than You Need
I’ve found tomatoes can be fickle germinators if the light and heat aren’t just right. Sowing a few seeds in each pot increases germination chances, and you can pinch out the weaker seedlings later on.
Remember to Pinch Out the Sideshoots
One thing I am useless at remembering to do is sideshooting. Sideshooting is pinching out extra shoots to allow energy to be concentrated on stems producing the main crop.
The best way I’ve heard sideshooting described is to stand on your head, and imagine something growing out of your armpit. That’s the bit of a tomato that you nip out.
Stake the Plants Up
A fully laden tomato plant can be really heavy, so tie the main stem to a bamboo cane for support. The stems are quite soft though, so don’t tie the string too tight as it will dig into the plant.
Remember to water often as tomatoes are thirsty plants. Consistency is also important with tomatoes – irregular watering can lead to blossom end rot, which causes the base of the fruit to go soft and black. I try and give the plants a good watering 3 times a week during Summer.
Extend the Growing Season
If you’ve got a greenhouse, it is well worth giving space over to tomatoes. Here in the South East, my greenhouse tomatoes last until the end of November. Tomatoes are one of the most expensive veg to buy in the shops, so having fresh, tasty tomatoes that late in the year is not only brilliant for my dinner table but my wallet too.
Leave Plenty of Space Between Plants
Don’t plant your tomatoes too close, or in tight blocks. Plant them a good few feet apart to ensure good airflow and light around the plants. This helps the plants dry quicker after wet weather and helps prevent the dreaded blight.
Keeping the foliage dry is important, so I always water from the bottom of the plant. Watering the morning is a neat idea too, as the foliage can dry before night time.
Don’t be tempted to pick a pale tomato – you’re missing out! Try and leave the fruit on the plant until fully reddened. This way, you’ll guarantee your tomato will be as tasty and juicy as possible.