Grow your own - Dig for Victory - Tomatoes

Ketchup, passata, ratatouille, sun dried or simply sliced and added to a salad or sandwich.


There’s often much discussion about whether tomatoes should be classified as a fruit or a vegetable – botanically they are a fruit as the seed from which they develop starts off from a fertilised ovary of a flower.


Vegetables on the other hand are simply edible parts of a plant that isn’t a fruit – leaves (kale), roots (carrots), stems (asparagus), tubers (potatoes) and flowers (broccoli).

However whether they are a fruit or a vegetable doesn’t really matter. What we know is that they are tasty, relatively easy to grow and – depending on how you cook or use them – can provide some nutritional value – particularly Vitamin C.



Here are some tasty looking tomatoes that we sampled last year in the south of France! Whether we get anything to rival them depends on how we grow them!


How do we grow them?


We grow ours from seed. That way you get a far better choice of variety - many years ago we remember our father buying tomato plants from a local grower, taking them home, planting them up and watering and waiting. That worked as well then as it does now but unless you're lucky you are restricted to whatever variety you can find.


So we've gone for some old traditional favourites - Gardeners Delight and Ailsa Craig - chosen for their flavour and all round performance (the former does well when grown in a greenhouse, the latter does well outdoors) - and some Sweet Million and Tumbling Tom Red - smaller bite-sized fruits that can be grown again in a greenhouse or warm, sunny spot outdoors. The seed packet says that our Tumbling Toms can be grown in a hanging basket so we're going to give that a go!


As with the potatoes if you're quick you might find some seeds either online or at your local supermarket. Get some, some compost and some pots and get started!


Sowing them follows the usual pattern. Sow your seeds in some seed compost, moisten them and put them in a warm, sunny place. A propagator is ideal or a sunny windowsill can work just as well. If you can put your pot into a clear plastic bag then so much the better.


Keep the compost moist and try and keep the temperature at a constant 60 - 65 degrees and your seeds should germinate in a couple of weeks. Tomato seeds tend to germinate reasonably well.


When the seedlings have developed a pair of leaves you need to prick them out and pot them up in 3 inch pots. They need plenty of light - this stops them becoming leggy - and again a relatively constant temperature - now 55 degrees. We start to put ours outdoors during the day around now - but we bring them in at night. This starts to harden them off and introduce them to the vagaries of the weather here in Frome!




And here's an interesting fact. Did you know that botanically speaking tomatoes are known as being pubescent - they have hairy stems! Have a closer look.......



What do we do next?


Well if you're growing yours in a greenhouse you can plant them out towards the end of April. If yours are going outdoors then they can be planted out towards the end of May or early June.


Plant them up in large pots, growbags or straight in the ground - or if, like us, you've got some Tumbling Toms try a hanging basket. Give your plants plenty of space, water them regularly and feed them with an appropriate tomato feed.


Watch the side shoots appear and when they reach about an inch in length either pinch them out or cut them off. Tomatoes are a vine plant and we need to make sure that the plant's energy is directed to the vine and developing tasty fruit rather than lots of leaves!


In France we saw tomatoes grown on large frames.


Who knows? We might try the same at the allotment!


Harvesting takes place from July through to October. Pick them when they're ripe and juicy. If any remain green then they can still be harvested and then ripened on the same warm sunny windowsill that they started out on!


And that's about it. Give it a go.


Good luck.


Alistair


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