If there’s something that spells summer to me more than anything else, it’s the pungent smell of a crushed tomato leaf.
Tomatoes can be grown outside in the ground or in pots, glasshouses, tunnel houses and hanging baskets. Those grown inside will fruit earlier and for longer – so if they are to be outside, choose a sunny, sheltered spot.
Tomatoes can be bought as small individual plants from garden centres or grown from seed. The seeds are quite small to handle and germination will depend on temperature. Even if your plants are destined for the outside, I’d always start them off inside.
There are many different varieties of tomatoes, and almost as many shapes and colours, but there are two main types.
The Vine or Standard Tomato: this grows upright and will need a large pot and staking as it grows. It has a central stem on which side shoots are arranged. New leaves will form in the join of the side shoot and the main stem and they should be removed when they are tiny. Just rub them out with your fingertips.
The Bush Tomato: there’s no need to remove the side shoots in this lower growing tomato and they’re great in hanging baskets.
Tomatoes are greedy and thirsty so keep them really well watered and once the second truss of flowers has set – that is, formed small fruits – start feeding them regularly with a tomato fertiliser.
Pick the fruit when fully ripe, but you’re bound to be left with some green ones at the end of the season. Stick them with some bananas which emit the ripening gas called ethylene.
All tomatoes, especially greenhouse ones, are prone to aphids so consider companion planting. I tucked pots of sweet basil in between my plants last year and it seemed to help.
Jacqui Stubbs is a landscape designer with Remarkable Gardens Ltd.
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