This article has been checked for horticultural accuracy by Oliver Parsons.


Growing tomatoes is a fun and rewarding task, resulting in masses of fresh, nutritious tomatoes that taste better than anything you can buy in the shops. Tomatoes are easy to grow and taste best when grown in full sun. There are many different varieties of tomato to grow, including cherry, plum and beefsteak, each with its own distinctive shaped fruit, flavour and culinary uses.

Choosing tomatoes to grow

Tomatoes are split into two main growing types: determinate (bush) and indeterminate (cordon). Bush types are often planted in pots or large hanging baskets and their stems trail around the edge. Cordon types are trained to grow tall around one main stem and are supported by a cane or stake.

If you grow cordon tomatoes then you will need a stake or bamboo cane to support the plant, and you'll need to pinch out sideshoots to keep the plant fruiting on one central stem. You don't usually need to stake bush tomato varieties, but they may need a little support for any stems that are in danger of snapping or touching the ground under the weight of their fruit.

If you're a beginner gardener then it's a good idea to grow bush tomatoes, as you don't need to stake them or pinch out growing tips. Compact bush varieties such as 'Gartenperle' and 'Tumbling Tom Red' are great for hanging baskets.

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How to grow tomatoes at home

To grow tomatoes successfully, you need rich, fertile soil or large pots of peat-free potting compost, and a good sunny, sheltered spot. Water regularly and feed weekly with a high-potash fertiliser once the plants start to flower.

Why not use your harvest to make delicious sauces for homemade pizzas? Check out our tests of the best pizza ovens, in collaboration with BBC Good Food.

More expert advice on growing tomatoes:

How to grow tomatoes from seed

Watering pots of tomato seeds
How to grow tomatoes - watering pots of freshly sown tomato seeds

Tomatoes are available to buy as young plants, but if you’d like to try some of the more unusual varieties it’s worth growing tomatoes from seed.

Start sowing in early February until early April. Sow the seeds in a tray or small pot of moist peat-free compost, top with a thin layer of vermiculite, then water. Stand on a warm, bright windowsill with some clear plastic (such as cling film) over the top to stop the seeds from drying out, or in a propagator.

When your seeds have germinated, remove the cover and let them grow for a few days, but don't allow the compost to dry out. Transplant seedlings when they reach about 2-3cm tall into modules or 5cm pots filled with moist multi-purpose compost, planting deeply to encourage better rooting. Water these, then return them to the windowsill to grow on, watering as necessary.

When the roots have filled the pot enough to hold the compost in place, transfer them to a slightly larger pot to grow on until they're ready for planting out. Support stems by tying them to a pea stick with soft string.

In this No Fuss video guide, David Hurrion demonstrates the best way to sow tomato seeds:

Planting tomatoes outside

How to grow tomatoes - planting out tomatoes
How to grow tomatoes – planting out tomatoes

Move your tomatoes outside after the last frost in May. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot, where you can plant them into soil with plenty of well-rotted garden compost added. Alternatively plant them into 30cm pots, or put two or three plants in a growing bag.

Watch Alan Titchmarsh's No Fuss video guide to planting tomatoes in a growing bag:

Planting tomatoes in a greenhouse

Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse is very similar to growing them outside, except you get a longer growing season and usually more tomatoes. You'll need to shade your plants from excessive heat, which could cause tough skins and blotchy ripening. So fit some blinds, use shade paint, or hang woven shading fabric, adding this gradually rather than suddenly to avoid shocking the plants.

In this video, Monty Don explains how to support tomatoes in the greenhouse:

Where to buy tomatoes online

Looking after cordon and bush tomatoes

Pinching out tomato side-shoots
How to grow tomatoes - pinching out tomato sideshoots

Cordon tomatoes will require pinching out (removing sideshoots) and staking (tying plants to supports with soft string). When the first fruits begin to appear, strip away the leaves around them to allow light and air to reach them better. When there are four trusses (clusters) of flowers, pinch out the plant’s growing tip.

Watch Alan Tichmarsh's No Fuss video guide to caring for cordon tomatoes:

Once flowers appear, feed your plants weekly with liquid tomato food, such as Tomorite. Keep tomatoes well watered because irregular watering causes fruit to split or develop hard black patches, known as blossom end rot.

With bush tomatoes, which have a sprawling habit, you can pretty much leave them to get on with it. If the fruits are hidden under the leaves, thin out the foliage a little to let the sun through to ripen them. Support heavy trusses on top of upturned flowerpots to prevent the stems snapping.

Harvesting tomatoes

Harvesting tomatoes from the vine
How to grow tomatoes – harvesting cherry tomatoes

Leave tomatoes on the plants so they can ripen naturally, which greatly improves the flavour. Towards the end of the season, prune off the older leaves to let in more light and prevent grey mould fungus taking hold. When the weather turns cold, pick any remaining trusses to ripen indoors.

Storing tomatoes

How to grow tomatoes - storing tomatoes
How to grow tomatoes – storing tomatoes

Tomatoes are best eaten straight from the vine, when they're still warm from the sun. They don’t freeze well, but you can store them for a week or so at room temperature. Avoid storing your tomatoes in the fridge where possible, as this will give them a mushy texture.

The best way to store tomatoes is to make a tomato sauce and then freeze it.

Preparing and cooking tomatoes

Enjoy tomatoes in salads and sandwiches. Most types are also suitable for cooking, but plum varieties are especially suitable. If you’re lucky enough to have a glut of tomatoes, try experimenting with your own pasta sauces.

Our friends at olive have curated a delicious collection of tomato recipes, including a showstopping tomato and manchego tart.

Growing tomatoes: pests and diseases

How to grow tomatoes - tomato with blossom end rot
How to grow tomatoes – tomato with blossom end rot

Whitefly can be a problem for tomatoes growing in greenhouses, and tomato blight can particularly affect plants grown outside, especially in warm, wet summers. Blossom end rot (pictured) and splitting fruits are usually caused by inconsistent watering.

You may spot green shield bugs on your tomato plants. These are harmless bugs and will not damage your crop.

Especially in a damp summer, tomato blight can be a real problem. In this clip from Gardeners' World, Monty Don reveals the tell-tale symptoms of tomato blight, and how to deal with it. Find out how he salvaged the remaining crop and what you should do with blight-affected plants to limit any further spread of the disease:

Advice for buying tomatoes

Here’s our guide to buying tomato seeds and plants, including where to buy tomatoes: 
  • Make sure you know what you're buying – do you want to grow cordon tomatoes or bush tomatoes? Remember that cordon tomatoes need training up a support, while bush tomatoes are suitable for pots and hanging baskets
  • Check that your tomato variety grows well in the space you can provide for it. If you don't have a greenhouse, make sure you choose a vareity suitable for growing outside
  • Choose the right tomato for your plate – don't grow cherry tomatoes if you want to make tomato sauces, or plum tomatoes if you want to eat them raw in salads. Research which varieties are best for you, and stick to them.

Where to buy tomatoes online

Great tomato varieties to grow

Yellow and red tomato varieties

Outdoor tomatoes:

  • 'Astro Ibrido' – produces vast quantities of small to medium plum tomatoes with outstanding flavour
  • 'Gardeners' Delight' – a bush or cordon cherry tomato, with heavy crops of richly flavoured fruits
  • 'Garden Pearl' – also called 'Gartenperle', this compact bush variety is ideal for growing in a large pot
  • 'Ildi' – deliciously sweet, yellow, pear-shaped cherry tomatoes in large trusses of up to 80 fruits

Indoor tomatoes:

  • 'Juliet' – a cordon cherry plum, with fewer seeds than most. It cooks well
  • 'Reduna' – this cordon type has a delicious, classic flavour and is easy to slice
  • 'Sparta' – a cordon variety with lots of well-shaped and well-flavoured fruits

You can also check out some of our tried-and-tested gardening tools below, with a selection of great kit for planting and support.


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