Tips for Growing Your Own Tomatoes

If you grow your own tomatoes, there are a few things you can do as they start to produce fruit, to increase your chances of getting as many ripe tasty tomatoes as possible.

I grow my tomatoes indoors to avoid them being affected by blight. It also means they are warmer, and I've found in the past that growing them in a greenhouse produces much better results, as well as that fantastic smell of their foliage when you enter.

I don't have a greenhouse now so I grow them in pots on windowsills. This works just as well as a greenhouse, but does mean they need more watering, due to them being confined in smaller pots.

Whether you are growing them on a windowsill like me, in a greenhouse, or outside, they are really easy to look after. They do need regular watering and feeding but nothing too technical.

By now they are likely to be flowering and then producing fruit, and there are a couple of quick and easy things I do to help get the best out of them.

Tips for Growing Your Own Tomatoes

Water tomatoes regularly to avoid blossom end rot

Tomatoes are thirsty plants. You can see how dry mine look after a day on a sunny windowsill. They look very limp and unhappy. In fact they will perk up very quickly after a thorough watering but you do need to be careful with your watering regime.

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Limp looking tomato plants after a day in the sun.

Although they bounce back pretty well, it's important that watering is regular. If they are watered inconsistently then they can easily develop something called blossom end rot, which is when the bottom of the tomatoes go all mouldy and can't be used.

Alternatively, if the fruits repeatedly dry out and get wet, the skin of the tomatoes can split and crack open. They can still be eaten (straight away) but will not be as nice.    

GREEN FINGERS TIP: Remember to water first thing in the morning or last thing at night whenever possible. Water will evaporate more slowly and give plants more time to take up more of the moisture.

Feed tomatoes once a week 

Tomatoes are hungry as well as thirsty. I feed mine weekly with a tomato feed to encourage more flowers and fruit. Just pour the recommended amount into a watering can and fill up the can to dilute the feed (too strong can adversely affect the plants). 

Pinch out side shoots

I mentioned pinching out side shoots of tomato plants back in June when I potted them up. This is only needed on cordon tomatoes, and not the bush varieties.

Related: Allotment Jobs for June

Removing the shoots that develop between the main stem and branches on cordon varieties helps produce more flowering stems. I keep doing this all the way through the summer.

Cut off the tops of tomato plants 

I also cut the top off cordon varieties. Left alone they will simply keep trying to grow higher and higher. Even if you are growing them outdoors, once they start fruiting you want the plants energy going into the fruits, rather than even taller stems.

Indoors, I simply cut the top off once they reach the top of the support cane. This encourages the plant to bush out sideways. Again this isn't necessary for bush varieties, just cordons. 
Tomato plants 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Snip off the top of the main stem when it reaches the top of the cane

Reduce foliage on tomato plants

Bush varieties of tomato, like "The Amateur", which is the one I'm growing this year, are great for growing indoors. They are compact and easy to grow, perfect for greenhouses or windowsills or balcony containers. 

However, although they are promoted as requiring no pruning or training, I've found they do need some pruning at this time of year. 

As I said earlier, there is no need to pinch out side shoots or cut off the tops, but they do become congested and can need a cane to keep them stable, as vigorous branches on one side can cause them to lean over. 

Apart from this they are fairly self supporting, unlike cordons which behave like climbers and really do need to be tied in well.

Tomato plants 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
A bush variety tomato before reducing the foliage 

So for cordon tomatoes and the bush varieties, once the plant has grown well and produced lots of foliage, they need to be thinned out for a few reasons.

First, once the plant starts fruiting, you want maximum energy going into the fruits to make them as large, ripe and tasty as possible. By this stage, you don't need the plant using its resources to produce more and more leaves.

Second, to ripen individual tomatoes sufficiently, they need to be exposed to the sun and some leaves can block out the light and slow the ripening process. 

Finally, good air circulation is important for healthy disease free plants, and reducing the amount of leafy growth can open up the plant and help with this.

Once fruits start to develop, I remove a lot of foliage from the base of the plant. Anything that has no flowering shoots on it can be removed. This will direct more energy to  stems that do carry fruit, and reduces the overall amount of  moisture lost via the leaves.

Then I remove stems that are growing across others, or through the middle part of the plant. 

I aim to leave an evenly shaped plant with branches that spread out from the centre without getting tangled with each other. This leaves a more open plant which helps air circulation.

This is what the bush tomatoes looked like after I'd finished. You can see how much foliage was removed from this one plant.  

Tomato plants 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Bush tomato "The Amateur" after pruning

Finally, I remove any leaves that are shading fruits from the sun. This is a slightly more delicate task, as it can mean removing individual leaves, and certainly smaller pieces than the earlier pruning.

I just look for any fruits developing, and take out anything above or in front of them so they can sunbathe nicely from now on, getting the maximum chance to ripen really well.

Tomato plants 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
Leaves were blocking the sun from these tomatoes...

Tomato plants 80 Minute Allotment Green Fingered Blog
...but not any more.

Those are my quick and easy tasks for the tomato plants. If you're growing your own, I hope you found them useful. If you've got any advice for tomato growers, please share it in the comments below. 

I try and keep things quick and easy because with everything else in life, I only average about 80 minutes a week to spend on growing my own fruit and vegetables. 

If you are also growing your own in limited time, keep visiting the Green Fingered Blog for more info on how I use my time to grow my own, whether on the windowsill, or at The 80 Minute Allotment.



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