You can't beat the taste of your own juicy tomatoes, picked still warm from the sun and eaten fresh in a salad. Growing tomatoes is easy, and there are varieties suitable for greenhouses, for pots on sunny patios and even for window boxes. We take a look at fun and creative ways to grow this refreshing fruit in your garden, enabling you to get one of your five a day.
Choosing your tomatoes
When to sow: Feb - Apr (indoors) Plant out: May – Jun Harvest: Jun – Sep
Tomatoes come in different shapes and sizes. Choose whether you’d like to grow cherry tomatoes are great for snacks and lunchboxes or plum tomatoes which are ideal for pasta sauces and cooked dishes. Why not try salad tomatoes which are the most common type or giant beefsteak tomatoes that are prized for their juiciness and flavour.
Ways to grow
Growing tomatoes upside down in the air is a great way to interest children and is also one of the most space efficient ways to grow them, offering better air circulation and a low picking height.
This technique works best with cherry tomatoes and smaller tomato plants, all you need a large bucket or container. Make a 1-to-2-inch hole in the bottom of the container and carefully push the root ball of a tomato plant through the hole, before adding soil to the bucket. Hang from your porch, pergola, fence or wall in full sun and watch your tomatoes grow!
Up a tepee
You can grow tomatoes up a tepee made from 3-4 long (6-8 feet) bamboo poles, to create structural interest in your garden or on your balcony. This is an ideal growing set up for those with limited space, simply secure the tops of the canes with some garden twine and place the bottom of the poles in the ground or container to form the tepee shape.
Your tomato plants will typically grow 4-6 feet and produce small cherry shaped fruit good eaten fresh and in salads. Tie the main stems of your tomato plant to the bamboo poles loosely with soft ties to avoid injuring.
Planting tomatoes in containers is ideal for balcony gardens or for urban, city spaces. One of the benefits of container grown tomatoes is benefit of container plants is being able to protect them more easily from and diseases that naturally live in the garden.
Firstly, it is important to choose a location which receives at least 8 to 10 hours of sun. Choose the right type of tomato - bush or compact varieties such as Sungold, Sweet ‘n’ Neat and Tumbling Tom, are usually the best tomato plants for containers, as they grow to a predetermined size.
Plants in containers need a good combination of breathability, absorption, and moisture retention, so dig in compost or well-rotted farmyard manure before planting. Our Milan Recycled Plastic Self-Watering Trough Planter With Saucer is the perfect vessel to grow your sweet, juicy tomatoes in.
Create a tomato fence
If you have a chain link fence in your garden or balcony, it would make an excellent support for your growing tomato plants. Whether they be planted in the ground, grow bags or containers, to create the fencing/wall effect, simply weave the plant’s stems through the gaps in the fence in when first planted to train their upward growth and soon you will have your own tomato curtain!
Another simple way to grow tomatoes is by upcycling old wooden pallets to act as a trellis. Lean two pallets against each other to create an A frame, secure the tops together with wire or strong twine, and voila, a repurposed tomato trellis for your plants to grow up. To keep your tomatoes headed up the trellis, use garden string, small cloth strips or tomato clips to keep the stems tied in to their support.
Why not also make your pallet trellises more attractive by painting them with some bright and eye-catching hues?
These are just some of the creative ways you can grow tomatoes, giving you a huge amount of fruit throughout the summer. To test for ripeness, check the colour and squeeze gently. Ripe tomatoes are slightly tender to the touch but not soft. Pick and use to add zing to your dishes!