Late tomato crop

Dear Lynn

We had a dreadful tomato crop this year. Worst of all it was very late – we didn’t start eating them until well into September. I’d like to start eating my own tomatoes in June, or even earlier if possible.

Are there varieties I can grow which crop early and have you any advice on how to look after them?

We have a greenhouse with no electricity but I have a paraffin greenhouse heater.


Simon - South Wales

Dear Simon

Firstly you are not alone.  A lot of our tomatoes were late this year due to the lack of sunshine we had in July & August.  Our plants got off to a good start with the warm spring but come mid to late summer we had so many green tomatoes waiting to ripen.

Your Email didn’t say why you had a dreadful tomato crop this year.   There are so many factors as to why but without knowing the details, it’s difficult to say.  Did you grow your own tomatoes from seed?  Did you start them at the correct time?  Where did you plant them?  Did you feed & water them? 

Tomatoes can be grown in a greenhouse, conservatory and even behind polythene but essentially your tomatoes will ripen earlier due to the extra warmth.

If you are planning on growing your tomatoes in a greenhouse, you can start sowing seed earlier, sow from mid-January to early February (heated greenhouse) or late February to mid-March (unheated greenhouse).  The young seedlings need to be kept at 18C (65F). Sow either in seed trays or small pots and transplant into 7.5-9cm (3-3.5in) pots when two true leaves have formed.  Transfer to 23cm (9in) pots, grow bags or plant 45-60cm (18-24in) apart outside when the flowers of the first truss are beginning to open; plants for growing outdoors should be hardened off first.

To start your tomatoes early you either need to heat the greenhouse or alternatively provide heat from underneath by using a Heat Mat and also provide daylight to extend the daylight hours.  We have heating in our greenhouse but we prefer to use propagators, heat mats and the lights.  By doing this the plants get the heat/light where they need it and you don’t have to fork out to heat the whole greenhouse.

There are several products available from our website I’ll list some of them but the website has a full range of heaters, lights, propagators and heat mats depending on how you decide to grow your tomato seeds.

ROOT!T Heat Mats 

ROOT!T Grow Light System

Self Watering Super 7 Propagator

Indoor Grow Light Garden  

If you need any further help or advice with products please let me know.

Kind Regards

Lynn Burton
Horticultural Adviser