Harvesting a crop of ripe, juicy tomatoes is one of the highlights of the gardening year.
To get the most from your plants, it pays to know which type you are growing and their particular requirements. Get to know some common varieties with our recommendations for 20 of the best tomatoes to grow.
One thing that can spoil your tomato crops is tomato blight, a fungal disease that thrives in warm, humid conditions. Consider growing blight-resistant tomato varieties to help avoid it.
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Discover eight tips for boosting your tomato harvests, below.
On tall tomatoes (vines, cordons, indeterminates), pinch out the sideshoots that appear between the main stem and leaves every few days, to concentrate growth on fruit production. You don’t need to do this for bush or trailing varieties.
Large cordon varieties need a stout stake or other strong support. Keep typing the main stem to the support as the plant grows. Bush tomatoes benefit from a short central stake, plus several encircling canes connected with string, to keep fruit off the ground.
It’s essential that tomatoes are watered regularly. Too little means fewer, smaller fruits and nutrient deficiencies, while too much ‘dilutes’ the flavour. An uneven water supply causes split skin, which can go mouldy. Water in the morning, pouring directly onto the roots.
Regularly feeding tomatoes with a liquid feed makes all the difference to crop quantity and quality. Use a specific tomato fertiliser, or make your own using comfrey leaves. Avoid over-feeding as this can cause problems.
Excess sun and heat can lead to sun scald, scorch and poor fruit set, so keep the temperature at or below 25°C by putting up shading (netting, whitewash), ventilating and damping down paths. Ventilate during cool weather as diseases thrive in damp air.
As cordon tomatoes mature, the lowest leaves turn yellow and should be snapped or cut off to improve air flow and help control disease. On all types, regularly remove any dead or yellowing leaves, without completely defoliating the plant.
In late summer, cordon varieties should have the main stem ‘stopped’ (cut off) to avoid wasting energy on the production of late fruit that won’t have time to develop. Let four fruit trusses form on outside plants (six on indoor plants), then pinch out the growing tip.
Ripe tomatoes come off easily when gently lifted and twisted. Don’t leave ripe fruits on the plant or they’ll soften, split and rot. At the end of the season, green fruits can be harvested and kept in a warm, dark place to ripen.