How to grow your
Chopped into a salad, in a rich pasta sauce, or fried with your breakfast, the Gardening Angels absolutely love tomatoes! They're one of the most popular vegetables in our greenhouse, especially as they are so delicious fresh from the vine.
Fun Fact: In the UK, we eat 6oz (160g) of fresh tomatoes per person per week - that equates to more than 100 per year. This is actually very low compared with other European countries, especially those in the Mediterranean region.
Our Quadgrow planters are perfect for growing tomatoes - its certainly a favourite for our customers! If you are thinking of growing tomatoes this year, here's everything you'll need to know to grow and care for perfect tomatoes!
The Gardening Angel Guide
When to sow tomato seeds in the UK
If you are planning on growing your tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can start sowing seeds from late February to Mid-March.
If you are planning on growing tomatoes outside, we'd advise you wait until late March to early April to sow your seeds. For the best results and healthiest start, we recommend starting off your seeds in a heated propagator...more on that next.
How to germinate your tomato seeds indoors
To start off your tomato seeds, sow into small pots, seed trays or jiffy pellets indoors. Place your pots and trays into a heated propagator (we love using our Vitopod and Geopod propagators). The seedlings will need to be kept at 18°C - our propagators are thermostatically controlled and can be used with lights to stop seedlings from getting leggy.
If you don't have a propagator, sow into pots and place them in a plastic bag to keep in the warmth and humidity - place them on a sunny windowsill so they get enough light.
How long does it take for tomato seeds to germinate?
The time it takes for tomato seeds to germinate depends on the soil temperature, hence why a heated propagator is best - generally tomato seeds should germinate within 5-6 days.
When to pot on tomato seedlings
You should prick out and pot on your tomato seedlings once two 'true' leaves have formed - transplant them into 9cm (3 1/2 inch) pots. Once the flowers of the first truss are beginning to open, you can plant out into your Quadgrow pots - check out how to plant out here. If you're going to be growing outside, harden off your plants first.
How deep do tomato plants need to be planted?
The Quadgrow has been designed with pots that are easily deep enough to grow tomato plants. In fact, this is an advantage if your tomatoes seedlings are a little leggy - tomatoes have the ability to grow roots along their stems, so you can afford to plant them deep, right up to the first set of leaves.
How to harden off tomato plants to grow outside.
If you are growing tomatoes outdoors, hardening off the plants is essential - about 7-10 days before planting them outdoors, you will need to help them acclimatise them to temperatures, sunlight, and wind. Wait until the risk of frosts has gone before trying this - you don't want to kill your beautiful plants!
Start off by putting plants outside in a protected area for an hour or two, making sure they are out of direct sunlight. Gradually increase the amount of time your plants are outside each day, and start including some exposure to direct sunlight. They should be protected from strong wind however a light breeze can actually help to strengthen the stems. Keep a close eye on your seedlings and water them appropriately - move them to shelter if they appear stressed (we recommend giving them a spray of Revive Plant Tonic). Once forecasts are showing above 10°C at night, you can leave your tomato plants out over night - they'll now be safe in your Quadgrow on a patio or allotment.
Pinching out tomato side shoots
Some tomato plants can benefit from pinching out - check your seed packets to find out whether the variety you are growing is indeterminate (also called vine or cordon) or determinate. Determinate crops include varieties such as 'Tornado' and 'Tumbler' - these grow to become naturally compact and bushy so there's no need to pinch out, in fact it could do more harm than good, producing lower yields - we don't want that.
Indeterminate varieties such as 'Gardener's Delight' and 'Ferline', grow taller, meanign they need support from canes or support frames. Varieties such as 'Roma' and 'Rutgers' are semi-determinate types and will also benefit from pinching out.
To pinch out the tomato plant simply use your thumb and the fingernail on your forefinger to pinch the small stem that connects the flower or fruit to a larger stem, as close to a larger stem as possible.
You can see how Gardening Angel Paul does this in a video below.
How much water do tomatoes need and how often should I water my tomato plants?
Tomatoes need regular and consistent watering to stay healthy and avoid fruit splitting or nasty problems like blossom end rot. Luckily for you, growing tomatoes in a Quadgrow prevents over and under-watering meaning your plants stay healthy!
How does the Quadgrow avoid overwatering tomatoes?
The Quadgrow self-watering planter works by using a clever series of FeederMats to deliver water and nutrients to the pepper plants roots as and when it needs it. The FeederMats hang down into a SmartReservoir, which you keep topped up with water and nutrients.
What are the best nutrients for tomato plants?
Much like humans, plants can't live on water alone! For the healthiest growth and yummiest fruits, tomato plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, along with some trace minerals such as magnesium.
Our award-winning Nutrigrow is perfect to use with your Quadgrow. It's a two-part plant feed which will last you the whole season! The special blend of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium plus micro-nutrients and trace elements ensures your pepper plants receive everything they need for optimal health. Your plants will develop a larger root system, stronger stems, more fruiting sites and a bigger crop of peppers!
How to get rid of pests on your tomato plants
No matter how well we look after our plants, sometimes pests can come along to try and ruin the day (and our tomatoes)!
Look out for aphids - you'll see a presence of colonies of greenfly on the tips of plants or on leaves. Get rid of them by using your finger and thumb to squash the colonies or introduce biological control in your greenhouse or garden - this means using natural predators who will feast on the aphids. Ladybirds and lacewings are particularly useful - if you find ladybirds in your house through winter, gently brush them into a tub and move them to your greenhouse!
If the leaves of your pepper plants become mottled, pale and covered in webbing and the leaves are dropping prematurely, you may have mites. These pests thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist plants regularly to get rid of them!
You should be checking your pepper plants regularly throughout the growing season (trust is, you'll be so excited by the Quadgrow results you'll want to admire them anyway) - simply remove and dispose of any leaves that show symptoms of disease or are infested by pests.
How to avoid blossom end rot on tomatoes
Blossom end rot ruins many a tomato crop every summer - not in the Quadgrow though! Blossom end rot is when tomatoes and others vegetables get a dark, watery patch on the end, ruining the fruit. Blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiencies and erratic watering, something that the Quadgrow eliminates the risk of! With the FeederMat system, water is only taken to the plant's roots as and when the plant needs it, meaning there is no over or underwatering as long as you don't let the reservoir run dry! The SmartReservoir keeps plants watered for up to two weeks, and can be connected to a watering butt if you are going away for longer than that or if the weather gets particularly hot.
How to fix mould on tomato leaves
Tomato leaf mould can develop rapidly and ruin greenhouse-grown tomatoes. It is identified by yellow blotches developing on the upper leaf surface, and a pale, greyish-brown mould growth appearing on the lower leaf surface. Where the disease is severe the mould growth may also be found on the upper surface.
There are a few steps you can take to treat this - if your greenhouse is humid, ensure you have ample ventilation - open vents and doors to avoid an excessively moist atmosphere.
Ensure you don't wet the leaves whilst topping up the reservoir, or if you are watering other plants nearby - this is especially important when watering in the evening, as the leaves may then stay wet throughout the night.
Pick off infected leaves as soon as they are seen, and dispose of the affected plants at the end of the season. it's a good ideas to disinfect your greenhouse structure to get rid of any spores hiding that may come back to bite next season!
How to stop tomatoes from splitting
Inappropriate levels of water, light, temperature and nutrients can all cause a variety of physiological disorders in tomatoes - now, the water and nutrients you've got covered with your Quadgrow and Nutrigrow feed, so ensure that you have adequate ventilation and temperature control in your greenhouse or polytunnel - look at applying some greenhouse shading in the height of summer.
When do I pick my tomatoes?
You can start picking your tomatoes when the fruit is ripe and fully coloured. If you find you have green tomatoes late into the season, you can speed up ripening by placing a polythene ripening cover with air vents over your plants, or pick the tomatoes and place 5 to 10 tomatoes in a brown paper bag with a banana!