How to grow tomatoes

How to grow tomatoes ripe


Our Gardening team are taking a timely look at how to grow tomatoes as we’re celebrating British Tomatoes in the Garden Centre this week, with a great display of tomato plants, as well as all the tools and equipment you need to grow tomatoes at home. British tomatoes are famous for their flavour, and with global circumstances having been challenging for tomato supplies recently, British tomatoes will be stepping into the limelight to be more important than ever.

Read on to discover answers to the most often asked questions about how to grow tomatoes, together with our top tomato growing tips fresh from the Gates Garden Centre glasshouse. We’ll look at how to select the best plants for your purposes, some good tips and advice on how to grow tomatoes, how best to pick them, plus a genius hack for the optimum way to store fresh tomatoes to preserve that just-picked flavour and texture. Whether you’re thinking of buying fresh tomato plants or are growing from seeds, this is an essential guide of how to grow tomatoes.

What are the advantages of growing tomato plants at home over buying them from a shop?

The taste of a fresh tomato, straight from the plant can’t be beaten. Ripe, fresh tomatoes have a natural sweetness that is often lost in store-bought tomatoes that are picked and transported long distances before they are fully ripe. Fresh tomatoes are juicy and bursting with flavour which adds to their taste and texture. The floral, fruity and slightly earthy aroma of a ripe tomato also contributes to its delicious taste.

Both highly nutritious and versatile, you can grow tomato varieties that are perfect for preparation in a variety of ways. For instance, slicing in salads and sandwiches, consuming whole, as a topping for pizzas, or cooked as a delicious accompaniment on fresh pasta. What’s more, it’s so satisfying to consume something that’s come straight from your own garden, cultivated with love.

The advantages of growing tomato plants over buying tomatoes from a supermarket, can be classified into six main categories:

  1. Fresher taste: Tomatoes that are grown at home and harvested when they are ripe have a more vibrant colour fresher taste, crisper more juicy texture and floral aroma compared to those that are in the supermarket
  2. Healthier: Home-grown tomatoes are typically grown without the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, making them healthier for you and the environment
  3. Cost-effective: Growing tomatoes at home can be a cost-effective way to have fresh produce on hand, especially if you have a small garden or balcony
  4. Variety: When growing your own tomatoes, you have control over the variety you grow, allowing you to experiment with different colours, sizes, shapes, flavours and textures
  5. Satisfaction: There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from growing your own food, and it can be a fun and rewarding experience for people of all ages
  6. Sustainability: Growing your own food can reduce your carbon footprint and support sustainable living

Overall, growing tomato plants can be a great way to enjoy fresh, healthy produce while also reducing your environmental impact and increasing your sense of satisfaction and self-reliance. These are all great reasons for why you should learn how to grow tomatoes.

Are tomatoes easy to grow?

Yes it is relatively easy to learn how to grow tomatoes in the UK. There are however, a few things to bear in mind to ensure success which we’ll go over in this article. With our help it should be possible to produce a great crop of tomatoes right there in your own back garden.

What is the best month to grow tomatoes?

The best time to sow tomato seeds in the UK is from late March to early April, and you can buy tomato plants in Gates Garden Centre throughout May and June. The weather in April is usually warm enough for tomatoes to grow outdoors, but there is still a chance of frost, so it is important to wait until the risk of frost has passed before planting tomatoes outside. Once the seedlings have grown to around 15cm tall, you can transfer them to a greenhouse or a sunny windowsill indoors, where they can continue to grow until they are ready to be planted outside. If you are growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can plant them earlier, as the greenhouse will provide protection from the cold.

How many tomatoes will I get from one plant?

The number of tomatoes you can expect from one plant in the UK will vary depending on a number of factors, including the variety of tomato you are growing, the climate, and the care you provide. However, you can expect to get between 10 and 20 tomatoes from one plant. Some varieties of tomatoes, such as cherry tomatoes, may produce more than 20 tomatoes per plant. Factors such as temperature, humidity, soil quality, and fertilisation can all affect the yield of your tomato plant. To maximize your tomato harvest, it’s important to provide your plant with consistent care, including regular watering, fertilisation, and pruning.

Additionally, choosing the right variety of tomato for your growing conditions can also make a big difference in yield. Some tomato varieties, such as cherry tomatoes or determinate varieties, are known for their high yields, while others may produce fewer but larger fruits. Our new grafted tomato plants provide yields of up to 75 per cent more fruit than traditional tomato plants. By following our guidance on how to grow tomatoes in this article, you should be able to maximise the number of tomatoes you can expect to harvest from each plant.

Can I plant seeds from supermarket tomatoes?

It is not recommended to grow tomatoes from supermarket tomatoes as many commercially grown tomatoes are hybrids, which means that the seeds may not produce plants that are identical to the parent plant. This can result in unpredictable growth patterns or differences in performance, flavour, texture, or disease resistance. You can be assured that the tomato plants and seeds we supply are disease-free and are designed to be grown in UK conditions so they will give you the best results if you are learning to how to grow tomatoes.

How to germinate tomato seeds and care for young seedlings

Tomato seeds should be started indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. The first step is to choose a variety that is suited to your climate. At this point you should also consider the size of the plant, the colour of the fruit and its flavour.

Start the seeds indoors. Fill a seed tray with good quality potting mix, such as Westland Jack’s Magic Multi Purpose Compost, sow the seeds 1/2 cm deep and cover them with a thin layer of soil. Water the seeds well and place the seed tray in the dark. The ideal temperature is around 24 degrees Centigrade. The seeds will take around seven days to germinate. Once tiny leaves are showing above the soil, take the pots out of the dark and place them on a light window sill but not in direct sunlight.

Once the seedlings have been transplanted into individual pots they need to be hardened off before they can be planted outdoors. Hardening off is the process of gradually exposing the seedlings to outdoor conditions. To harden off the seedlings, start by placing them in a sheltered spot outdoors for a few hours each day. Gradually increase the amount of time that the seedlings spend outdoors over the course of a week or two.

Once the seedlings have been hardened off, they can be planted outdoors. Choose a spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil. For the very best soil for growing tomato plants, use grow bags. Plant the seedlings at the same depth that they were planted in their pots. Water the seedlings well and mulch around the base of the plants to help retain moisture.

Then water and fertilise the plants regularly. Stakes or cages will prevent the plants from falling over and will also help to improve air circulation around the plants.

Levington Tomorite Giant Tomato Planter 52 Litre
Levington Tomorite Giant Tomato Planter
Hozelock Growbag Waterer in use
Hozelock Growbag Water
Garland Green Plant Halos filling with water
Garland Green Plant Halos

Do tomatoes grow better in pots or grow bags?

Grow bags are best as you can be certain that the soil in these bags of goodness is designed especially for the purpose of growing tomatoes and the soil will be weed and disease-free. Grow bags are also a better alternative to pots because they are more lightweight and portable than large pots. They can also provide better drainage and air circulation for the plant’s roots. Grow bags are known to retain moisture better than pots too, which is beneficial for tomatoes as they require consistent watering. However, pots are a popular choice for growing tomatoes, and they can work well if they are large enough to accommodate the plant’s root system. We recommend using our Elho Green Basics Stack and Grow Pots. Tomatoes need a lot of water, so it’s important to choose a pot with good drainage and to water the plant regularly. It’s also important to use a high-quality potting mix such as Westland’s Jack’s Magic Multi Purpose Compost that is rich in nutrients.

The Levington® Tomorite Growbags are full of nutrient-rich compost that promotes optimum root growth and full flavour. Perfect for growing a wide range of vegetables and crops, these planters are enriched with seaweed to help bring out the full flavour of tomatoes. They are also enriched with Tomorite Tomato Food so excel at growing tomatoes.

These tomato planters also ensure great moisture retention for thirsty tomato plants and can be used as as they are, or in conjunction with a Hozelock Growbag Waterer to help ensure your plants stay hydrated. Available in 42 litre organic and a giant 52 litre option which has been made deeper and thicker to promote optimum root growth. these large planters are the perfect base for tasty and healthy tomatoes or delicious and high yielding crops.

Alternatively, the planters can be used with Grow Bag Cane Support Frames in order to help support your tomatoes or crops and protect them from windy weather. Another idea is to use Garland Green Plant Halos which can be used in grow bags, pots, raised beds, or traditional vegetable plots to improve watering and support. Their central inner “pot” creates a deeper planting zone, which helps plants develop stronger roots and grow healthier. The outer “moat” features six watering spikes that deliver water directly to the plant’s roots. This ensures that water and liquid feed are delivered at a reduced rate so that the plant is better able to absorb it, preventing wastage and run-off. They also have three cane support slots. For a larger group of plants, the Gardena Micro-drip System is an easy, accurate, and water-saving way to hydrate your plants.

How many tomato plants can I fit in each grow bag?

Both our Levington Tomorite 42 and 52 litre Giant bags are designed for use with 3 plants at a time. Growing 3 plants at a time will ensure adequate room for their roots and enough ventilation around the root balls.

Do tomatoes grow best in full sun or shade?

Choose a sunny spot for your tomatoes as tomato plants need at least six hours of sunshine a day, in addition to plenty of water. A Grozone Tomato Growhouse will provide shelter from the elements and protection from predators whilst also also maximising light and keeping plants warm. This is a great space-saving and inexpensive alternative to a full-size greenhouse and makes it easier to get a great crop; which is valuable knowledge whilst you learn how to grow tomatoes.

Grow Bag Cane Support Frames lifestyle
Growbag Cane Support Frames
Grozone Tomato Growhouse Lifestyle
Grozone Tomato Greenhouse
Levington Tomorite Peat Free Organic Planter
Levington Tomorite Peat Free Organic Planter

How often should you water tomatoes?

One of the most often asked questions about how to grow tomatoes is how often they should be watered. Our advice is to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. After planting, water in using about 6 litres, and then water as necessary to keep the bag moist. Tomato plants should be watered regularly, especially when they are first planted as they will need lots of moisture for the growing process.

It’s also important to water plants regularly whist they are producing fruit as fruit production also requires plenty of water. If you think about how a tomato tastes and its texture, you can perceive it needs a lot of water to produce good fruit.

Water in the mornings so that the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. This will help prevent fungal disease. Also water deeply so that the water reaches the root the Garland Green Plant Halos can really help with this. Avoid overhead watering as this can splash water on the leaves and also encourage fungal disease. Check the soil moisture regularly and water when the top inch of soil is dry. Over watering can drown the roots and cause the plant to wilt.

What are the signs of over watering tomatoes?

Overwatering tomato plants can cause a number of problems, including:

  • Wilting leaves
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Brown or black spots on the leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Reduced fruit production
  • Root rot
  • Fungal diseases

If you think your tomato plants are overwatered, there are a few things you can do to help them recover:

  • Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings
  • Water deeply and less frequently
  • Mulch around the plants to help retain moisture and prevent the soil from splashing up on the leaves
  • Improve drainage by adding compost or other organic matter to the soil
  • Fertilise with a balanced fertiliser such as Levington Tomorite Concentrated Plant Food
  • Remove any diseased or damaged leaves

With proper care, your tomato plants should recover from overwatering and produce a healthy crop of tomatoes.

How late can you plant out tomatoes?

In the UK, it’s generally recommended to wait until after the last frost before planting tomatoes outside, which is usually around the end of May or early June. This will ensure that the young plants don’t get damaged by any late frosts, which can be common in some areas.

If you live in a cooler or more northerly part of the UK, you may want to wait a little longer before planting your tomatoes outside, to ensure that the soil has warmed up sufficiently. However, if you’re growing your tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can start planting them earlier, as the controlled environment will provide the necessary warmth and protection from the elements.

Levington Tomorite Concentrated Tomato Food
Westland Epsom Salts
Vitax Organic Super Concentrated Tomato Food

How do you maintain tomato plants?

Feed your tomatoes with a balanced fertiliser such as Levington Tomorite Concentrated Plant Food every week. If you are an organic gardener looking to grow bumper crops of tasty, juicy, tomatoes you may prefer Vitax Organic Super Concentrated Tomato Food. For heavy feeders such as tomatoes under glass, feed twice a week when the fruit on the second truss has set. A truss is the stem that carries the flowers which turn into tomatoes. These grow from the stem but not from the leaf joint. Protect your tomatoes from pests and diseases. Deadhead your tomatoes regularly. To boost magnesium in the soil, feed with Epsom Salts every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.

Should I cut back my tomato plants?

The fewer the trusses on a tomato plant, the earlier they will ripen. Although you understandably want to produce as much fruit as possible, it is generally accepted that once four or five trusses have formed it is good practice to prevent the plants producing any more as there is a limit to how much fruit the plant can effectively sustain. At this point the plant’s energy needs to go into ripening fruit, not producing new growth, before summer ends and the light fails.

What is stopping a tomato plant?

“Stopping” involves cutting the top of the tomato plant above the level where you have enough trusses. If you live in the North of England you might do this after 3 trusses have formed, especially in poor summers. In Southern areas you should aim for 4 to 5 trusses before stopping the plant. In a greenhouse or polytunnel you can increase this to 7 to 8 trusses in Southern areas, and 4 to 5 trusses in cooler areas.

How do you pinch out tomatoes?

After you have stopped a tomato plant it will respond by sending out sideways shoots called “Suckers”. These suckers will sap away energy from the main stem, so removing them will help your tomato plant produce more fruit. The removal process is called “pinching out”.

To pinch out a sucker, simply use your fingers to pinch it off just below the point where it meets the main stem. You can also use a pair of sharp scissors, but be careful not to damage the main stem. Suckers should be pinched out regularly, as soon as you see them and all the way through the growing season. The best time to pinch out suckers is in the morning, when the plant is turgid and the suckers are easy to remove.

If you don’t pinch out tomatoes, then the plant will put too much effort into growing the plant, rather than into growing fruit, and the crop will be smaller, less successful, and may not have time to ripen before the end of the season.

Gardena Micro Drip Irrigation Terrace Set
The Micro Drip Irrigation Terrace Set by Gardena regulates watering
Elho Green Basics Stack and Grow tomato plants
The Elho Green Basics Stack and Grow pots have ample room for roots

Which leaves should I remove on tomato plants?

As well as suckering, there are some other leaves you should remove from tomato plants. You should remove any leaves that are touching the ground. This helps to prevent diseases from spreading from the soil to the plant.

If you don’t fertilise enough with nitrogen, older leaves will turn yellow and die. When yellowing they are a sugar drain and should be removed. If leaves are green they are photosynthesising and producing sugars for the fruit.

Now we’ve addressed the basic guidance on how to grow tomatoes in the UK, it’s time to look at a few troubleshooting topics which might crop up from time to time.

What is tomato blight?

Look for signs of tomato blight, a common fungal disease that affects tomatoes. It is caused by the fungus Alternaria solani. The fungus can survive in the soil and on plant debris, so it is important to remove any infected plant material from the garden. The fungus can also be spread by water, so it is important to water your plants at the base and to avoid getting the leaves wet.

The symptoms of tomato leaf blight include:

  • Small, brown spots on the leaves
  • The spots may have a yellow halo
  • The spots may enlarge and merge
  • The leaves may curl and fall off
  • The fruit may also be affected

If you see any of these symptoms, it is important to treat the plants immediately. You can use a fungicide, but it is important to read the label carefully and to follow the directions. You can also try to prevent tomato leaf blight by:

  • Planting resistant varieties, such as Unwins Akron F1, or Mr Fothergill’s Country Taste F1
  • Watering at the base of the plants
  • Avoiding getting the leaves wet
  • Removing any infected plant material from the garden
  • Practicing crop rotation

Tomato leaf blight can be a serious problem, but it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to prevent and control it.

How tall should my tomato plants be?

The height of domestic tomato plants will vary depending on the variety of tomato, the quantity of sunlight it receives, how often it is watered and the quantity of fertiliser it is given. In general, domestic plants should grow between 2 and 6 feet tall, however there are many variables that affect this size, some of which will be outside your control. Indederminate tomatoes can grow to be much larger than other types of plant.

What is an indeterminate tomato plant?

An indeterminate tomato plant is a type of tomato plant that continues to grow and produce fruit throughout the growing season. They are characterized by their long, vine-like growth habit. Indeterminate tomato plants can grow to be quite large, reaching heights of up to 12 feet. They also require a lot of support, as they can easily become top-heavy.

Indeterminate tomato plants are often chosen by gardeners who want to have a continuous supply of tomatoes throughout the summer. They are also a good choice for gardeners who have a lot of space, as they can be trained to grow up trellises or fences.

Some popular indeterminate tomato varieties include:

  • Beefsteak
  • Roma
  • Sungold
  • Sweet Million

If you are looking for a tomato plant that will produce a large harvest of tomatoes, an indeterminate tomato plant is a good choice. Just be sure to provide them with plenty of support and sunlight.

How long do tomatoes take to grow?

The amount of time it takes for tomatoes to grow depends on a number of factors, including the variety of tomato, the climate and the growing conditions. In general, it takes around 60 to 80 days for tomatoes to grow from seed to harvest. Some varieties grow faster than others. Determinate tomatoes, which are smaller and bushier plants, typically mature faster than indeterminate tomatoes, which are larger and vine-like plants.

Climatic conditions are a little more difficult to control, but tomatoes need warm weather to grow. We recommend starting tomatoes indoors a few weeks before the late frost. If you don’t have space or the budget to plant out in a greenhouse, then a good solution is to use a GroZone Tomato Growhouse which is purpose-designed for growing tomatoes and provides excellent protection from the elements in a much smaller footprint. It will have the same heating effect as a greenhouse, provide ample room for growth and protect the plants from too much wind or rain.

Does picking tomatoes make more grow?

Yes, picking tomatoes does make more grow. When you pick a tomato the plant is signaled to produce more flowers and fruit. This is because the plant releases a hormone called ethylene when a tomato is picked which promotes flowering and fruit production. To encourage more fruit be sure to pick the tomatoes as soon as they are ripe.

Best way to pick tomatoes

How do you pick tomatoes so they keep growing?

There is a knack to picking tomatoes. Instead of removing them by tugging at the fruit, which can damage the plant, instead the best way of picking tomatoes is to cut them away from the vine using a sharp knife or garden shears.

Should I pick my tomatoes before they turn red or do tomatoes taste better if you let them ripen on the vine?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as some people believe that tomatoes taste better if they are allowed to ripen on the vine, while others believe that they taste just as good if they are picked when they are still green and ripened indoors.

Here are some of the arguments in favour of letting tomatoes ripen on the vine:

  • Tomatoes that are allowed to ripen on the vine will have a more complex flavour. This is because the sugars in the tomato will have more time to develop
  • Tomatoes that are allowed to ripen on the vine will be juicier. This is because the plant will continue to transport water to the fruit as it ripens
  • Tomatoes that are allowed to ripen on the vine will be more flavourful. This is because the plant will continue to produce flavour compounds as the fruit ripens

Conversely, these are the arguments for picking tomatoes when they are still green and letting them ripen in the home:

  • Tomatoes that are picked when they are still green are less likely to be damaged by pests or diseases
  • Tomatoes that are picked when they are still green can be ripened at home in a controlled environment. This will ensure that they ripen evenly and have a consistent flavour
  • Tomatoes that are picked when they are still green can be stored for longer periods of time

Ultimately, the decision of whether to let tomatoes ripen on the vine or to pick them when they are still green and ripen them inside is a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer, and it is up to each individual to decide what they prefer as they are learning how to grow tomatoes.

Do tomatoes need to be replanted every year?

Yes tomatoes need to be replanted every year as they are annual plants, meaning they complete their life cycle within one year. Tomato plants are killed by frost, so they cannot survive the winter in most climates.

When should I pull up tomato plants?

You should pull up tomato plants when the first frost is expected. Frost will kill the plants, so it is better to pull them up before this happens. You should also pull up plants if they are diseased or infested with pests. If you are not sure when to pull up plants, it is always better to err on the side of caution and pull them up to stop disease spreading in the garden. First use a sharp knife or garden shears to cut the stems of the plants at the base. Then be sure to remove all of the roots as they can harbour pests and diseases. Finally, dispose of the plants in the domestic rubbish bin, not your compost bin.

A genius hack for storing tomatoes once harvested

The best way to store tomatoes is very simple. All you have to do is remove any excess vine from the tomato then store the tomato on a flat surface like a plate, with the vine side down. This effectively seals off that defect, helping the tomato retain all its juiciness. If washed in water, dry thoroughly before storing. This method is perfect for storing tomatoes at room temperature for a day or two. For longer periods, you can use this method to store tomatoes in the fridge, however let them come back to room temperature before eating for the best flavour.

Can you save tomato seeds for next year?

Yes, it is possible to save seeds from some plants to be used the following year, however we would not recommend doing so with seeds that have come from fruit grown on F1 plants.

What is an F1 tomato plant?

An F1 tomato plant is a hybrid plant that is the first generation of offspring from two different purebred parents. F1 plants are often used in commercial agriculture because they are more uniform and vigorous than open-pollinated plants. They also tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases.
F1 tomato plants are created by crossing two different varieties of tomatoes. The resulting plant is then self-pollinated for several generations to stabilize the desired traits. F1 plants are not true-breeding, which means that the seeds from an F1 plant will not produce offspring that are identical to the parent plant.

F1 tomato plants are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. They can be determinate or indeterminate, which refers to their growth habit. Determinate plants grow to a certain size and then stop growing, while indeterminate plants continue to grow throughout the season.

F1 tomato plants are typically more expensive than open-pollinated plants, but they offer a number of advantages, such as:

  • More uniform fruit size and shape
  • More vigorous growth
  • Better resistance to pests and diseases
  • Higher yields

If you are looking for a tomato plant that is easy to grow and produces a high yield of high-quality fruit, an F1 tomato plant is a good option.

What are the best tomato plants to buy?

Choose a variety of tomato that is suited for your climate and your preference in terms of size, shape, colour and eating purpose. Whether you want the sweet and tangy flavour of a Cocktail Crush cherry tomato, the large fruit of a Beefsteak which is ideal for salads and slicing, or perhaps the disease resistant all rounder of an F1, you can be sure we’ll have something to suit your purposes.

Additionally, some of our tomato plants have a Royal Horticulture Society Award of Garden Merit (AGM). The RHS grows plants at its gardens in the UK, and compares how these plants perform on a number of factors. Plants that are awarded an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) should be a good performing plant in all areas of the UK and should grow well in your garden under normal circumstances. This certification shows the plant will be:

  • Excellent for ordinary use in appropriate conditions
  • Available
  • Of good constitution
  • Essentially stable in form and colour
  • Reasonably resistant to pests and diseases

The AGM certification is another point to look for to orient your decision about which tomato plants or seeds to select.

How to Grow Tomatoes with board


We hope this information has been helpful for learning how to grow tomatoes. With a little care and attention you will find it straightforward to grow a delicious and bountiful harvest of tomatoes in your garden. If you have any other questions about how to grow tomatoes then visit our gardening team instore, or you can contact them on 01664 454309. We have a full range of tomato seeds, tomato plants and all the supplies you need to grow tomatoes at home. Browse the full range instore or alternatively shop our Gardening department online.

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