Growing Tomatoes For Beginners

Growing tomatoes is hugely rewarding, and a great beginner crop as they are so versatile for both eating raw and cooking. There can be some effort involved, they have quite a long growing season and need plenty of water. They are however worth the effort. I will be covering:-

  • What Variety
  • Where to grow tomatoes
  • Best time of year to grow tomatoes
  • Can I grow a tomato from a tomato?
  • What you will need
  • How To Start

What Variety

Cherry, Roma, Beefsteak, Early Super sweet. There are many varieties of tomato. It really comes down to your own taste. What type of tomato you prefer, eat the most, or cook with. One of the easiest to grow is the Cherry tomato. Bush variety tomatoes need little support and easily grow in containers. San Marzano Tomatoes are a long and thin meaty tomato, an early producer and cope well in a wet cooler climates like the UK and excellent for sauces.

Where to grow tomatoes

Tomatoes can be grown in pots, grow bags, raised beds, hanging baskets and the ground. Literally anywhere that you have space and sunshine.

They need watering and try not to let them dry out too much then flood them or you will have burst skins.

Depending on the variety you will need to provide support for the plant as it grows, this can be against a fence or wall or by using canes and/or cages.

Best Time Of Year To Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes thrive with 6-8 hours of daily sunshine, however mine have grown on less. They can be grown indoors, in greenhouses and outside. When planting out they will need to be after frosts, but seedlings can be grown inside so that they are ready to plant out once your frosts have passed.

Can I grow a tomato from a tomato?

Yes you can, you can take a slice of a tomato with the seeds in and plant it, keep it moist and within 7-14 days you will start to see seedlings.

What will I need

  • Some sort of container with drainage holes (If no drainage holes you can use Stones/broken pottery/used tea bags)
  • A waterproof container for the above container to sit in household plate/ lid/tray/gardening trays
  • Compost
  • Seeds
  • Water

How To Start

You can purchase ready made plants at nurseries and garden centres, however, if you wish to grow from seed, see below.

  1. Make holes in your container or fill with alternative drainage option
  2. Put in the compost allowing allowing about 2-3cm clearance from the top.
  3. With your finger just make a line I have made 2 lines in the soil in the square plastic container shown roughly 5-7 mm’s deep.
  4. Sprinkle or place seeds as recommended on the packet.
  5. Cover them back over with the compost.
  6. Water and place them where you want them to go depending on your climate, space or season.
  7. Once large enough to plant out (after first truss flowering) and your frosts have passed, then choose your container, area, or grow bag and move them into their new space.
  8. Once growing you may need to add a cane or some sort of support and carefully and gently tie the stalk to the support.
  9. As they grow cut or pinch of side shoots (those that are between the leaf and the main stem).
  10. Tomatoes need reach fertile soil, so feeding is recommended, there are many tomato fertilisers around. I tend to feed mine from my kitchen scraps, for example, coffee and tea pot leftovers, including the water. Onion and garlic leftovers, cut small and surrounding stems, to help keep slugs and snails away. I top up with home compost, I have tended to find that this is enough to provide a fruitful delicious harvest.

Its late September in the UK as I write this. I have been busy the last few weeks and rather neglected my raised bed tomatoes and they have gone crazy so this week as we are largely quickly running out of sunshine hours and certainly any sunshine, should we get any lacks any intense heat. I have therefore cut them right back, Only keeping anything with fruit on it. I would normally allow my tomatoes to get to the 5th truss before stopping any further growth. I tied them high out of the way of slugs and snails that are around as it is also wet. I’m hoping the sunshine due this weekend will help turn the last of them. There was also some flowers, I suspect it is too late for them, but it will be interesting to see if they develop should we have a blast of some sunshine come October, even if I get green tomatoes, they can still be used.

So you have a harvest…what now? Initially you are bound to have a few at a time. I love nothing more than picking my lettuce some tomatoes and herbs for a side salad with dinner or for a wrap with Falafel. As more start ripening, I then start using them in recipes or pasta sauces, and this time of year I love to make Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup, its one of my favourites…. Warm and hearty summer tastes on a chilly autumn night.

For Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup recipe click here

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Gardening For Non Gardeners

Most people will admire a beautiful, well maintained garden with diverse plants and colours, food crops and/or flowers. Whether big or small, they can amaze and inspire you. For the non gardener wanting to start however, it can seem daunting. Below are 5 very easy tips on how to get going for beginners…… real beginners, the type of beginners that have no gardening equipment, possibly not even a garden!

I will be covering:-

  1. What To Grow
  2. How To Start
  3. Space
  4. Equipment
  5. Growing Your Own

What To Grow?

This really is the first decision. Sometimes if you have been given something as a gift or offered plants and you’ve taken them, you can give it a go and start there. Otherwise, you need to decide, or browse around a nursery and see what inspires you. Flowers, shrubs or fruit and veg? Perhaps a little of each. This may change over time. I know plenty of people with beautiful gardens, that really enjoy gardening but only cultivate plants and flowers to and don’t touch fruit and vegetables and others who are more the other way. The rest of us are somewhere in the middle.

If you like to cook, or have a cook in the household, the chances are you’d like some of your own fruit and veg. If you are going to try fruit or veg then the next question is what do you like to eat? If you are going to go to the trouble of growing something, you really want to be making sure that you eat it, otherwise what’s the point!

Another pointer, particularly if you are going to grow things in the ground is, if it grows in a neighbouring garden, the chances are it will grow in yours! So getting to know your gardening neighbours, friends or family who may be local, if they are in to gardening, the chances are they will be happy to help. I’ve admired pretty plants before in peoples front gardens and when the opportunity has arisen, I have asked what they were, usually people are very accommodating.

I am in the UK so I’m in a temperate climate, www.gardenia.net gives extensive international information and links regarding what you can grow in your climate.

Easy plants to grow

Flowers – (From Seed or purchased as young plants) Sunflowers, Zinnias and Pansies

Shrubs – (from young plants) Lavender, Daisy & Dogwood

Fruit & Veg (from seed) – Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Radishes, Spinach, Turnip, Carrots, Mint, Strawberries, Potatoes, Onion, Garlic.

How To Start

How to start? – Just start! It really is that simple. Don’t be overwhelmed.

It really is all about confidence and having a go, letting yourself make mistakes, which you will laugh about later, but would have learnt a lot in the process. Everyone has been a non gardener at some point! My poor house and garden plants spent years having to deal with flood and drought, as I would forget to water them, or leave them too long in the sun until I would finally notice they had gone brown.

Here are some starting options:-

1. Buy a ready made pot or plant that you like the look of and nurture it. Watering them when they need it and dead heading (removing dead flower heads as they die off) You will soon get to know when they are thriving and when they are well…..not so happy!They are mainly found in supermarkets, home and garden stores and nurseries, usually come with instructions, mainly plants and/or flowers although you can find vegetable ones and can be for inside or outside.

2. Buy a starter kit. These usually come with everything you need with them, pots, soil, seeds. They can make nice gifts, and often in shops leading up to Christmas. Nurseries with gift shops and home stores are likely to stock them. They will often have flowers, herbs or salad to help you get going. I have been given a few over the years. One of my favourites was this below, particularly as it came in a box with biodegradable pots, sadly it did have plastic labelling sticks, however I did have some success with it.

3. Buy ready made baby plants from a nursery, supermarkets or home and garden centres for re-potting into a container or direct into the ground.

4. Growing your plant from seed. You will need seeds, soil (compost) and a container, reusing supermarket fruit containers is fine, or anything else you might have in the house.

Space

The incredible thing about gardening is that you can do it in a tiny space like a windowsill or balcony, to an allotment or large garden and land. A few choice pots may be all you need to get started and gain confidence. The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell is a great book for balcony gardening or small space ideas and inspiration.

Container gardening is an excellent way of managing plants and flowers, and reusing unwanted items in the house. You don’t need to necessarily buy expensive or plastic pots. If you are purchasing plants, rather than growing from seed, you very quickly acquire them anyway! It also enables you to move pots to another part of the garden, if there is a season change, or it its unhappy in a location. You are also more likely to notice changes or damage when you have less to look after or move them around because you fancy a change.

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