Tomatoes are a fantastic ingredient to grow yourself, and you can get great results in small spaces, or indoors. Nothing beats the smell of toms ripening on the vine, and the difference in flavour between a homegrown tomato and a standard shop-bought one is out of this world!
Plus, you can explore all sorts of unusual, exciting heritage varieties that really sing in simple salads, like this stunning tomato carpaccio. Here’s our simple guide to achieving beautiful ripe tomatoes at home.
Jekka McVicar’s super-useful video explains how to prepare compost, and drop seeds into modules. Here she’s sowing beetroot and mustard – but the same technique applies to tomatoes! For good results, start sowing seeds from March up until May.
Tomatoes are tropical plants, so they like to be kept warm. A sunny windowsill is a great place to keep your seed trays. A little heated propagator will get your seedlings off to a flying start as well.
Once the germinated shoots have grown a couple of inches, move them into larger, individual pots. Carefully lift the seeding (and the soil) from its seed tray and embed into a larger pot. Later, once the shoots start to sprout flowers, you can move them once again into soil outdoors, or into bigger pots. You can also buy pre-potted tomato shoots that simply need to be planted out into more compost once they are strong enough.
CARING FOR YOUR PLANTS
Lots of sunshine and plenty of watering will give you a bounty of colourful tomatoes. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist – if you accidentally allow your soil to dry out but then you flood it with water, the sudden change in environment will make your tomato skins crack as they grow. You may need to tie your plant to a frame if it becomes too heavy from all the tomatoes.
With luck (and a bit of sunshine!) your first tomatoes will be ripe early in July. Start picking as soon as your tomatoes reach the perfect colour – depending on your chosen variety that might be red, yellow, striped, green, or even purple!