Thursday 17 January 2013


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Tomato plants are ready to plant out when the risk of frost is over and the young plants when they are about 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) tall and the flowers of the first truss are just beginning to open.

Prepare a rich, free draining soil, incorporating organic compost or well-rotted farm yard manure. Plant the seedlings in a deep hole, so that the soil line is up to the first set of leaves. This will encourage a stronger root network to establish underground, resulting in healthier plants.

Tomatoes love a rich, free-draining soil. If planting outside prepare the soil for planting by digging in plenty of organic matter during the winter.  Rake in a general purpose fertiliser just prior to planting.  If you have used the border previously for growing tomatoes then it is wise to change the soil or sterilise it before using it for tomatoes again as this will help to avoid soil pests and root diseases becoming a problem.

Position your tomato plants in a sunny location, avoiding sheltered areas.  Avoid planting close to potato crops as these plants are closely related and diseases such as blight can be spread easily between the two.

Plant at 45cm spacing between the plants in rows 75 cm apart.  Plant in a deep hole up the the first set of leaves to encourage roots to grow along the underground stems, resulting in a more vigorous and stronger plant. If planting into a grow bag then plant no more than two plants per bag.  Back fill with soil and water thoroughly.

Depending on variety, your tomatoes may  require support to prevent them from toppling over so use pea sticks or short twigs for this purpose. Cordon varieties of tomatoes will need their side shoots (the shoots between the stem and the leaf stalk) removing. Bush varieties will remain low and will not need their side shoots removing.

Ensure you water well during dry periods or after flowering to achieve maximum fruit development and crop production. Water little and often for best results. Tomato plants growing in a pot or grobag will require a lot more watering and care then plants that are planted in the border. 

Tomatoes plants are very hungry and require regular feeding to maintain a healthy plant. Feed with a general liquid feed until the first truss is formed, then switch to a high potash tomato fertiliser once per week to encourage more flowers and fruit.

Regularly remove competing weeds and mulch under the plants in June. Tomatoes are ready for harvesting from early summer to autumn, depending on variety. 

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