How to grow tomatoes from seed March 06 2016

Tomato

There are many different types of tomatoes you can grow in the ground, pots or grow bags. Each plant is capable of producing a heavy crop of fruit containing naturally high levels of antioxidants. Cherry or salad tomatoes make a superb addition to sandwiches and salads.

Sowing seeds

Sow indoors from February to April. A greenhouse or polytunnel is ideal but a sunny windowsill will provide all the heat, light and shelter required to germinate seeds.

Sow in small pots
Fill 10 cm wide pots with compost and sow one seed in each pot about 1 cm deep. Sprinkle over more compost and firmly pat down. Gently water and place the pots somewhere light, warm and sheltered. Keep the compost moist.

Seedlings should appear within two weeks and be large enough to plant out in about eight weeks. A few days before planting out, harden them off by keeping the pots outside during the daytime and inside at night for a few days.

Sow in a module tray
Module trays are a great way to start off seedlings, especially if you want lots of plants. Sow a seed 1 cm deep in each module. After four weeks re-pot the seedlings in 10 cm wide pots. Plant out a month later, hardening off first (see above).

Planting out

When seedlings are around 15 cm tall, plant them into grow bags, 30 cm wide pots or fertile ground. Space 50 cm apart and make sure they get plenty of sunlight.

Supporting the stem
Stake a long bamboo cane in the soil for the tomato plant to climb up against and tie the growing stem to it. Don’t tie the knots too tightly as this could damage the plant stem.

Looking after
Pinch out any small side shoots growing between the stem and the trusses (branches). As the fruits develop, cut off more of the lower trusses to allow the air and light in. Remove yellowing leaves.

Water frequently (daily in pots) but reduce if tomatoes split.

Apply a weekly tomato feed once the flowers appear.

In late summer cut off the plant’s main growing tip.

Harvesting

Pick fruits as soon as they are ripe, around 16 weeks after sowing. When the temperature drops, pick off any remaining green tomatoes and ripen in a sealed box.

Eating

RAW    Slice into salads with torn fresh basil and olive oil.

GRILL    Cut in half and drizzle with oil. Grill for four minutes.

ROAST    Roast whole or halved for 30 minutes with herbs, sliced garlic and baby leeks.

PURÉE    Put tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and remove skins. Blend, sieve and heat until reduced to a paste. Use as a pasta sauce base.

Storing
Store fresh tomatoes in a bowl or basket rather than in the fridge.

FREEZE    Put into the freezer in bags or make into purée first and freeze in a plastic container.

Buy organic tomato seeds from SowHow