Tomato

Tomatoes

The tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) is one of the most popular vegetables for garden growing. Home-grown fruit is much more flavoursome than shop brought and the skins are usually more tender. Hardier varieties can often be grown in the open in the south but for the rest of the UK a greenhouse is usually required for an early ripe harvest.

How to Cook >> Popular Varieties

Growing Conditions

Soil Type: Well drained fertile soil with plenty of organic matter incorporated or good a quality compost.

Conditions: Full sun.

Ease of Cultivation: Easy

Type: Fruiting Vegetable.

Hardiness: Not hardy in the UK (protect from frost).

When to Sow: February-March (under cover).

Harvest Season: August to October.

Planting and Growing Tomatoes

Most tomato plants are tender, so are best suited to greenhouse cultivation. Certain varieties can be grown outside in a sunny sheltered position but take longer to mature and yields will be lower.

Preparation

Use a top quality compost for the best growth and least problems. Tomatoes should not be grown in the same place year after
year as this will cause a build-up of pests in the soil.

When to Sow

For greenhouse varieties: sow from February to March under cover in a steady temperature and good light. Shade from strong sun until seeds germinate. Thin as soon as true leaves appear and prick-off singly into small pots. Pot on into larger pots as they grow.

For outdoor varieties: sown seed in March under glass using a hardy outdoor variety. Harden off (acclimatise) for a few weeks and plant out around the end of May, once all danger of frost has passed. Outdoor crops should be grown in a warm, sunny, sheltered possition - ideally south facing.

Note: even outdoor varieties are not fully hardy in the UK, so will need protection from frost.

Taking Care of Tomatoes

Water copiously at every period of growth. Irregular watering once the fruits are developing can cause the fruit to split and encourage diseases. Also, due to the extensive amount of watering required they will also need regular feeding to replace nutrients leached from the soil.

Greenhouse Cultivation

Plant either directly into well-drained moisture-retentive soil, 10 inch (25 cm) pots of compost or growbags (no more than three plants per bag). Plant deeply too encourage more roots and boost growth quickly.

Support upright, cordon or vine plants with string, canes or wires. The trusses can become very heavy once the fruits form, so good strong support is essential.

For cordon (vine) grown plants, remove all the side shoots (leafy shoots that form at the joint between the stem and leaf), allowing only flower trusses to break from the main stem. Pinched out the growing tip as soon as they reach the top of the supports, or when seven trusses of fruit have begun to form. Note: large side shoots can be used as cuttings to start other plants.

Pollinate the fruit by passing a small soft brush over the flowers daily or by mist spraying.

Provide ample ventilation and keep at a constant temperature. Do not allow the plants to over-heat.

Once the fruits begin to swell, apply a commercial tomato feed as per the instructions or use liquid comfrey feed once a week.

Towards the end of the season, remove any leaves shading fruits to help them ripen.

Outside Cultivation

June is usually the best time for planting tomatoes outsite. Any earlier they will suffer from the cold. Harden off plants well before planting out.

Plant in a medium loam with good drainage, spacing 18 inches (45 cm) apart or more. Ideally site them against a south-facing wall in full sun. Provide support for each plant with sturdy canes. If you are growing a lot of plants, support them with a frame or wigwam of canes, as you would for runner beans.

Bush varieties don't usually need support and are good for planters and patio containers. Dwarf varieties are even suitable for hanging baskets.

Protect with horticultural fleece at night if a late frost is forecast.

Water well with liquid feed to keep up rapid growth, but stop feeding once the blossom-buds appear. Remove the intermediate side-shoots (not flower trusses) and pinch off the growing tip of cordon varieties once they reach 3ft high. Start regular feeding again once the fruit starts to set.

If the fruit fails to ripen at the end of the season, cut off the trusses and hang them in a warm, dry greenhouse to mature.

Pests and Diseases

Greenhouse crops are susceptible to whitefly and red spider mite. Spray at the first sign or use an organic control. Outdoor tomatoes can be subject to potato blight, eelworm and mosaic virus.

To keep pests at bay try growing tomatoes with French marigolds to deter whitefly, and basil, chives or mint to deter aphids and other pests.

Tomatoes can suffer a magnesium deficiency due to the high feeding rate. A tell-tale sign is yellowing leaves. To cure this problem, dissolve a heaped tablespoon of Epsom salts in 4 litres of water of warm water. Allow to cool and spray the leaves every few of days.

Harvesting & Storing Tomatoes

Harvest when ripe and fully coloured, usually around 20 weeks after sowing.

How to Cook Tomatoes

Apart from eating them raw in salads or sandwiches, tomatoes can be grilled or fried, or stuffed with a savoury filling and baked.

Chopped tomatoes can be added to sauces, casseroles and stews.

Nutritional Value

Tomatoes are a major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.

Popular Varieties of Tomato

Varieties are available for both greenhouse and outdoor production, in a range of fruit colours and sizes. Growing your own means that you can grow forms that are generally not available in the shops. Also, don't make the mistake of just choosing varieties developed for commercial growers. Whilst these usually produce a consistent crop of good looking fruits, other less productive varieties are often much tastier and more rewarding. Note: plug plants and seedlings are only available in season.

Cordon Tomatoes

Tomato varieties usually either grow in a bush form or as a vine. The 'cordon' is a method of growing vines where the plant is trained to grow up as a single stem, which is supported on wires or tied to a cane. Any side shoots that form between the stem and the leaves are removed as the plant grows. Varieties that are suitable for cordon growing are listed below:

Tomato 'Ailsa Craig' heavy cropping round-red, medium-size tomatoes. Harvest from August until the first frosts. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Marshalls and Suttons. Available at Van Meuwen.

Tomato 'Alicante' a traditional medium-sized early variety, producing round-red tomatoes, with a tangy, succulent, sweet flavour. Reliable and disease resistant. Grow indoors or out. Harvest from July onwards. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Marshalls and Suttons. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Gardening Direct.

Tomato 'Craigella' a cordon variety similar to 'Ailsa Craig', with round, deep red fruits. Grow under glass or outdoors, to produce heavy crops with a very good flavour. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Cristal' (F1 hybrid) a cordon variety that produces good round glossy, scarlet-skinned, fruits with dark ruby-red flesh. Greenback free. Best grown under glass. Good disease resistance. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Gardener's Delight' a classic cordon variety that produces flavoursome, average sized cherry tomatoes that are incredibly sweet and tasty. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Marshalls and Mr Fothergills. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Thompson & Morgan. Available at Gardening Direct.

Tomato 'Green Zebra' an attractively coloured cordon variety. The round fruits are lime green, mottled with darker green. A heavy cropper with a tasty rich, sweet, tangy flavour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Ildi' a compact cordon variety with yellow pear shaped cherry tomatoes. Great for containers or planters in the greenhouse, on the patio or in the garden. Height 72in (180cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Moneymaker' a highly popular cordon variety that produces an abundance of smooth, medium-size fruit throughout summer. Grow in the greenhouse or outdoors. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Marshalls, Suttons and Mr Fothergills. Available at Gardening Direct. Available at Thompson & Morgan

Tomato 'Nimbus' (F1 hybrid) a cordon tomato similar to 'Moneymaker' but early to ripen and good resistance to disease. Suitable for outdoor or under glass. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato Shirley (F1 Hybrid) still one of the most popular cordon varieties for a cool greenhouse, producing beefy tomatoes with good disease resistance. Excellent vigour, robust and a heavy cropper. They can be grown under cooler temperatures and are less sensitive to drought, humidity and cold weather. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Marshalls, Mr Fothergills and Suttons. Available at Gardening Direct. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Yellow Mimi' a versatile cordon variety. The tasty yellow fruits are sweet and crunchy and have a wonderful colour. Excellent disease resistance. Available at Marshalls.

Indeterminate (Vining) Varieties

Determinate tomato varieties tend to reach a mature height then set all their fruit at once, whereas indeterminate varieties continue to grow in length throughout the season, like a vine. They should continue to produce tomatoes all through the growing season until frosty weather stops the growth.

Tomato 'Ferline' (F1 hybrid) a full-flavoured deep red fruit. Can be grown under glass or outdoors. Good disease resistance. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Philona' (F1 hybrid) a high yielding variety that produces early crops of tasty red fruits. An indeterminate tomato with high resistance to late blight and powdery mildew. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato Shimmer (F1 Hybrid) produces attractive streaked fruit with green and red stripes. Good cropper with high resistance to disease. Available at Marshalls, Mr Fothergills and Suttons.

Tomato 'Tigerella' an attractive cordon variety with red and yellow stripes. Completely greenback free. Crops heavily and earlier than most .Suitable for cultivation outdoors or in a greenhouse. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Tiger Red' (F1 Hybrid) a premium variety with large rich-red round fruits, with green striping and delicious red flesh. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Bush Tomatoes

Bush varieties are compact plants that don't usually need training.

Tomato 'Cherry Kisses' a compact, upright bush variety that produces good crops of sweet cherry tomatoes. Ideal for patio containers or even a sunny windowsill. Height and spread: 30cm (12). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Divinity' (F1 hybrid) a bush variety that produces excellent yields of large, cherry tomatoes. Resistance to late blight. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Essex Wonder' a classic medium-sized, round, red tomato with a good balance between sweetness and acidity. High yield of good sized fruits. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Falcorosso' (F1 hybrid) an excellent bush variety ideal for growing in the greenhouse. Early to ripen. Large cherry-sized, plum shaped fruits. Good disease resistance so perfect for organic gardeners. Height 39in (100cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Losetto' an outstanding new cascading bush tomato with good blight resistance. Long harvest period from July to September. Perfect for containers or planters in the greenhouse or on the patio. Height and spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Maskotka' a compact bush variety with a delicious sweet flavour. Suitable for growing in baskets and containers. Height and spread: 30cm (12). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'The Amateur' a medium sized, early ripening variety with a good flavour. This bush variety requires no staking or side-shooting. Produces good yields outdoors or in a greenhouse. Height 36in (90cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Outdoor Varieties

Tomato 'Orkado' (F1 hybrid) a useful outdoor cordon variety. Early to ripen. Producing firm, well-flavoured, medium sized fruits. Good resistance to splitting. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Red Alert' a heavy yielding, quick maturing, outdoor tomato. Smaller than average fruit but with good flavour. Can also be grown in the greenhouse if required. Height and spread 18in (45cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Mountain Magic' (F1 hybrid) grows exceptionally well in sunny border or a patio container. Excellent protection against disease, wilt and cracking. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Stupice' a cold tolerant cordon variety from the Czech Republic that is suitable for growing outdoors or under glass. Early ripening, it produces clusters of medium, golf ball sized, red fruits with a lovely flavour. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Tamina' a popular 'potato-leaved' variety with rounded, rich red fruits that are especially well flavoured when cultivated outdoors. Can also be grown in the greenhouse. Usually grown as a cordon but needs minimal training and side shooting. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Compact/Trailing & Cherry Varieties

Tomato 'Celano' (F1 hybrid) a bite-sized, cherry, plum tomato. Blight resistant. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Cherry Cascade' a popular high yielding cascading cherry tomato, producing abundant sweet and juicy currant sized fruits throughout the summer. Great for growing in a hanging basket or container. Height and spread: 30cm (12). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Cherrola' (F1 hybrid) a red cherry tomato with outstanding flavour. Heavy cropping cordon variety suitable for growing outside or under glass. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Garnet' a dark bronze cherry variety producing long uniform trusses of super-sweet fruits with just the right balance of acidity. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Golden Pearl' golden-coloured bushy cherry tomato with a good sweet taste. Ideal for hanging baskets and patio containers. Height 47in (120cm), spread 24in (60cm). Available at Van Meuwen.

Tomato 'Goldkrone' early cropping sweet yellow cherry tomatoes with high sweetness, a juicy texture and balanced flavour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Green Envy' (F1 hybrid) a meaty, tangy, green cherry tomato that is sweet and juicy. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Primabella' a good performing blight-resistant cherry tomato, bearing large red fruits. Ideal for growing outdoors. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Red Profusion' early ripening, bush cherry, basket/container tomato. Forms a neat and compact plant with a superb branching habit. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Ruby' (F1 hybrid) produces bite-sized fruits in long trusses. A good productive variety with plenty of vigour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Ruby Falls' a compact cordon variety that produces long trusses of dark red cocktail tomatoes with a rich, sweet flavour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Santonio' (F1 Hybrid) produces thick-skinned, glossy red 'cherry plum' fruits of exceptional taste and sweetness. Best grown in the greenhouse or in a sunny spot in the garden. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Suncherry Premium' (F1 Hybrid) (RHS AGM variety) a sweet tasting, red-skinned, bite-sized red cherry variety. Best grown in the greenhouse, but will also grow in a sheltered, sunny spot outdoors. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Sungold' outstanding cordon cherry tomato, these sweet, juicy, tasty bite size fruits are one of the most popular tomato varieties. Grow in the greenhouse or outdoors. Good disease resistance. Available at Marshalls and Suttons. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Gardening Direct. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Supersweet' if you want sweetness, this high yielding variety produces masses of super-sweet cherry tomatoes with thin skins and a particularly good flavour. This cordon variety is best grown in the greenhouse or a sheltered spot outdoors. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Sweet Aperitif' a superb, sweet red cherry tomato. This bushy, cordon variety will produce an excellent harvest of bite-size fruits. Grow in a greenhouse or a full sun location outdoors. Ht. 2m. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Gardening Direct. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Sweet Baby' an excellent cordon variety producing prolific crops cherry tomatoes with a delicious sweet flavour. Grows well outdoors or in the greenhouse. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Sweet Million' (F1 Hybrid) a popular easy to grow sweet, cherry variety, that produces long, heavily laden trusses of rich orange-red tomatoes. Ready to harvest from July. A cordon type of Tomato suitable for growing in the greenhouse, allotment or garden. Height 47in (120cm), spread 24in (60cm). Available at Marshalls and Suttons. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Gardening Direct. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Sweet Success' a bite sized cherry tomato with a long harvest season. A vigorous, heavy cropping variety with good disease resistance. Available at Marshalls and Dobies. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Terenzo' (F1 Hybrid) produces high yields of sweet, red cherry 'Tumbler' type tomatoes, ideal for baskets and containers. Good quality fruits that are sweet and full of flavour. Resistant to splitting. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Totem' (F1 Hybrid) a compact variety especially bred for patio containers and window boxes. Small to medium sized fruit. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Tumbling Junior' (F1 Hybrid) a compact tumbler/cascading cherry tomato with golden-yellow, sweet, cherry sized fruits. Ideal for baskets and containers. Height and spread 12in (30cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Tumbling Tiger' (F1 Hybrid) a superb basket/container variety that produces prolific crops of striped, plum shaped tomatoes with a delicious, juicy flavour. Gentle trailing habit. Height 30in (30cm), spread 18in (45cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Tumbling Tom Red' trailing variety, perfect for hanging baskets and patio planters. Produces a good crop of cherry-sized, sweet, red tomatoes. Height and spread 12in (30cm). Available at Marshalls and Suttons. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Gardening Direct. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Beefsteak Tomatoes

Tomato 'Buffalosteak' (F1 Hybrid) large, tasty beefsteak tomatoes ideal for slicing or roasting. Harvest from summer into autumn. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Country Taste' (F1 hybrid) a cordon beefsteak tomato that produces substantial, meaty, tasty fruits. Height: 200cm (79). Spread: 50cm (20). Available at Marshalls and Mr Fothergills. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Gigantomo' (F1 hybrid) a large beefsteak tomato (one of the largest new varieties) with good flavour. Disease-resistant, strong and productive. Tomatoes average between 1 and 3lbs each and can be harvested from mid-summer onwards. Available at Marshalls and Mr Fothergills. Available at Van Meuwen. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Gourmandia' (F1 hybrid) a beefsteak variety which produces attractive oxheart-shaped fruits with exceptional flavour. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Oh Happy Day' (F1 hybrid) a red beefsteak cordon tomato with a classic balance of sweet and sharp flavours. High yielding. Renowned for its high blight resistance. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Super Marmande' an easy to grow semi-bush beefsteak. Produces large, juicy tomatoes with a rich sweet flavour. Grow in the greenhouse or outdoors. Height 59in (150cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Marshalls and Suttons. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Yellow Stuffer' a beefsteak cordon variety that bears firm, thick walled, shiny yellow fruits. One of the best tomato varieties for stuffing and baking. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor cultivation. Height 79in (200cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Plum Tomatoes

Tomato 'Orange Beauty' (F1 hybrid) produces succulent uniform baby plum tomatoes with tender skin and warm orange colouring. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Roma Nano' a traditional plum tomato producing juicy, fleshy fruits with very few seeds, making them ideal for pastes, soups, sauces and sun drying. Best when grown outdoors. As a semi-bush variety, it is easy to grow with minimal training. Height 59in (150cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Roma VF' a superb plum tomato good for preserves, ketchup, tomato juice and soups. The fleshy, juicy, almost seedless fruits have a deliciously flavour. This semi-bush variety is very heavy cropping and has good resistance to disease. Can be grown outside or in the greenhouse. Height 59in (150cm), spread 20in (50cm). Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'Romello' (F1 hybrid) deliciously sweet, plum-shaped cherry tomatoes. Resistance to blight and cracking. The compact habit is ideal fro hanging baskets and containers. Available at Thompson & Morgan.

Tomato 'San Marzano' a classic Italian plum tomato that can be grown in the greenhouse or outside. Full of flavour and ideal for tomato sauces and passata. Available at Marshalls and Suttons.

Plant Groups