Tomatoes are healthy, nutritious and tasty, and are one of the easiest fruits to grow in the garden or even on the windowsill. They come in a huge range of varieties and skin colours and we in the UK have been in love with them since their introduction to this country in the late sixteenth century.
One of the easiest ways of growing tomatoes in the garden is to invest in a growbag. These are miniature plastic planting beds that come filled with planting compost and are relatively straightforward to maintain. Growbags are suitable for tomato plants that need propping up with stakes; in the gardeners’ vocabulary this is called a ‘cordon’ plant, whereas those tomato plants that do not require staking are known as ‘bush varieties.
Increasingly people are buying the tomatoes as young plants from their local garden centre and then placing them straight into the growbag in the early summer. Tomatoes hate the frost and cold. The alternative method is to invest in a greenhouse and propagate the tomato from seed and only transfer the plant to the growbag when it is around five inches in height, using the warmth of the greenhouse to nurture these plants until harvest time.
There is a huge range of tomatoes. Some are more suitable for cooking and some are better as salad tomatoes. The popular cherry tomato or ‘Sweet Million’ is ideal for salads or even just eaten as one would a fruit. Another benefit of this particular fruit is that it can be grown either in growbags or in a plant pot on a sunny windowsill. There must be nothing nicer than relaxing on your garden furniture and stretching your hand out to pick and then eat a tasty homegrown tomato.
‘Ferline’ tomatoes are more commonly known as ‘beefsteak’ tomatoes and are widely used in salads, the greater their exposure to the sun the tastier this type will be. The ‘beefsteak ‘ is also believed to be resistant to blight.
If you don’t have much space then the ‘Tumbler’ and ‘Tornado’ varieties will prove to be a rewarding investment. These breeds grow in plant pots and are a ‘bush’ variety.
Tomatoes can come in many shapes and sizes and if you are adventurous try and track down some of the ‘heritage’ plants. Look for names, including, Black Russian Heirloom Tomato; these are black rather than red and have an amazing taste; or discover the ‘Brandywine Heirloom family; these beefsteaks first came to prominence in the late nineteenth century and will complement any salad. Alternatively if variety is the aim then try growing the ‘Green Sausage Heritage Tomato, a truly surprising fruit that is elongated rather than circular and has yellow stripes with green flesh.
Care and nurture
Never allow the tomato plant to become waterlogged. Try complementary planting techniques; some gardeners insist that planting the herb basil next to the tomato will deter most bugs and predators. Most ‘cordon’ plants will grow to around four foot high and it is important to check that the stems, with their heavy loads of precious fruit, are staked securely at all times.