Start your tomatoes off by sowing seeds in a seed tray or pot towards the end of autumn. Leave them to germinate in a warm, frost-free location such as a windowsill. If you prefer to grow tomatoes from seedlings, begin at step 4.
1. How to sow tomato seeds
Fill a 7.5cm (3in) pot with seed mix, lightly firm the surface and water gently. Thinly scatter the seeds, cover with a small amount of compost and label the pot. Keep the compost moist but not waterlogged – preferably using a light mist sprayer.
2. Handling the seeds
Once they are large enough to handle, carefully prick out a single seedling using a dibber or pencil, bringing along as many roots as possible. Lift the seedling gently by holding a leaf. Avoid holding the stem as this is easily damaged.
3. Pricking out the tomato seedlings
Take the seedling and plant it in its own 7.5cm (3in) pot of seedling mix, gently pushing it into place. Water it gently and place in a warm, frost-free, well-lit location. Remember to turn the pot daily if it’s on a windowsill.
4. Planting out the tomato seedlings
When risk of frost has passed, drive a stake around 3cm (0.75in) in diameter into a prepared garden bed. The soil should have been turned over with organic matter several weeks before transplanting. Dig a hole a little deeper than the height of the plant’s pot next to the stake, gently place the plant in the hole and firm in; Tomato cages, or trellises can be used for support in lieu of stakes. The tomato seedlings should be planted 45cm (18in) apart to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit.
5. Staking tomato plants
Use soft twine or special tomato ties to tie the plant’s stem loosely to the stake. As the plant grows, check the ties regularly and loosen them occasionally to prevent stem damage.
6. Remove sideshoots
Regularly nip out sideshoots that develop between the leaf and the stem using your thumb and finger. This helps to channel the plant’s energy into its fruit. Watering and regular feeding with a potassium based fertilizer will ensure a plentiful and healthy crop.
7. Harvesting tomatoes
When the fruits have ripened, pick them by bending back the fruit at the notch on the stem. They can be eaten straight from the plant or can be stored for up to a week in the fridge. Continue to water and feed the plant to help the remaining fruit to mature.