Tomatoes have got to be one of the most rewarding crops to grow. With a little effort, you’re guaranteed a harvest of juicy tomatoes, with a flavour far superior to shop-bought tomatoes.
If you’re worried about being short of time, fear not – you can still grow and enjoy tasty tomatoes with little effort, even in pots and growing bags. In fact, tomatoes grown in growing bags and watered once weekly produced the biggest harvest, in our magazine watering trial.
Discover our top tips for getting a delicious crop of tomatoes with minimum effort, below.
Prepare your soil
Take time to fork manure and compost into your borders and greenhouse beds before planting to help conserve water through the growing season.
Forking compost/manure into the ground before planting
Grow in large containers
Choose as large a container as possible, if you’re growing tomatoes in a pot, to give your plants as much compost, water and nutrition as possible.
Planting a young tomato plant into a large container made from an olive oil canister
Use good-quality compost
Use a good-quality compost, such as John Innes No. 2, that won’t shrink or clump and will allow water to easily reach the plants’ roots.
Pouring good-quality compost from a plastic trug into a planter
Mix in water-retaining gel
Mix water-retaining gel into the compost before planting to increase its ability to retain water and to cutdown on the amount of watering needed.
Adding water-retaining gel to compost before planting
Mulch your tomatoes
Mulch, particularly plants in pots, to conserve water in the soil – use gravel, pebbles, bark or compost.
Mulching around young tomato plants
Keep them well ventilated
Keep plants grown indoors well-ventilated – avoid overheating and keep air circulating by always opening vents on warm days and not overcrowding plants.
Opening vents beside plants on a warm day
Water plants at the base
Water the plants directly at the base rather than over the foliage, to ensure that the water gets to the roots where it is needed and doesn’t cause fungal diseases.
Pouring water from a can onto the base of tomato plants in order to keep the foliage dry
Always water thoroughly. This is more important than watering every day and is definitely better than little and often.
Soaking the base of tomato plants bearing fruit with a hose
Use automatic irrigation
Use automated irrigation systems to make watering easier if you are away from home a lot or pushed for time. They allow water to drip slowly onto the plants’ roots, often as part of a timer system.
A slow trickle of water to plants roots from an irrigation system
Avoiding tomato blight
Prevent losing your crop to tomato blight by keeping tomatoes dry if planted outdoors, ventilated and by choosing blight resistant varieties like ‘Lizzano’ and ‘Jasper’.