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Ease of Growing [Scale 1-5] : 2 (Easy/Medium) Tomatoes

How Time Consuming

Tomatoes need daily watering, weekly feeding, pinching out side shoots and tieing in to obtain the best of crops.

Recommended Varieties

  • ‘Gardener’s Delight’ – An organic variety of this old favourite, sweet and abundant.
  •  ‘Moneymaker’ this popular organic heavy cropper produces stacks of fine flavoured medium sized fruit.
  • ‘Golden Sweet’ - Lovely, sweet tasting, orange colour, cherry tomatoes.
  • ‘Alexandros’ F1 organic variety with beefsteak-sized fruits. Capable of producing 8-10 toms per truss, has a vine-growing habit and will need substantial support - but the whopping fruits will be worth the effort!
  • ‘Tumbler’ – for hanging baskets.
  • ‘Pomodoro’ – Italian plum tomato.

Home Grown Vs Supermarket

Home grown will always have more flavour as the fruit have ripened on the vine, unlike supermarket varieties that are often harvested un-ripened.  There are so many shapes, colours and different varieties out there to grow supermarkets are only interested in uniformity and shelf-life and will never offer the different varieties available to today’s kitchen gardener.

Best Sites and Soils

  • Undercover - Greenhouse, conservatory and tomatoes grown behind polythene will ripen earlier due to the extra warmth.
  • Outside - Hanging Baskets, against the wall or shed or even in window boxes. Fertile soil is also vital.  Tomatoes do well in Growbags (doubled up even better!) or large containers of multipurpose potting compost.  Remember to renew the soil yearly to avoid the build up of pests and diseases. They can be grown in the ground provided that the soil has been enriched with well-rotted manure and crop rotation is practiced to avoid build up of pests and diseases.

When to sow

Sow seeds in early Spring for outdoor crops and late winter (Jan/Feb) for growing in an unheated greenhouse.

When to plant

Young tomato plants will be ready to be transplanted when they are 15-23cm tall and the first flowers have started to appear.  In a heated greenhouse (18C/64F) plants can be planted as early as mid February, in an unheated covered environment mid-spring or if placing your planters on patios wait until early summer or as soon as the weather warms up.  Tomato plants are sensitive to frost so should only be planted outside once all risk of frost has passed. 

Distance between plants - Plant two or three tomato plants in grow-bags, large hanging baskets or window boxes (depending on variety). If using the Harrod Tomato Success Kit two tomato plants are recommended. If planting in ground allow 45cm (18”) distance apart.
When to harvest - Harvest when ripe – usually between 15-17 weeks depending on variety chosen and amount of sunshine.

Meet the Author: Jo Blackwell
Jo  Blackwell

Jo Blackwell is new on the Harrod Horticultural block and has recently taken over her post as Horticultural Advisor and Kitchen Gardener in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden. She caught the gardening bug when she bought her first home 18 years ago.  Her first greenhouse soon followed and she later gained an allotment, where she grows her own organic fruit and vegetables.


Further Information

Watering  / Feeding - Pots and growbags require frequent watering. Roots should be kept moist but not waterlogged.
Tomatoes planted in the Harrod Tomato Success Kit are self watering – keep the water reservoir topped up for low maintenance tomatoes.
Regular weekly feeding with a Organic Concentrate Tomato Feed  is essential for all pot and container grown tomatoes.
If using the Tomato Success Kit use the Organic Concentrate Tomato Feed supplied with your planter kit to feed your tomatoes.  An initial application should be applied to the soil before planting and further applications spread on the top of the soil at monthly intervals (quantities are given on the side of the box).


Guide to sowing and planting - Fill a 9cm (3½”) pot with seed compost. Level and firm the compost and then water. Sow seeds on the compost surface spacing them a finger-width apart (to prevent damping off disease) and cover with vermiculite.  Keep at 21 deg in a heated propagator until seedlings emerge. Transfer seedlings to a heated greenhouse or alternatively a sunny windowsill. Seedlings will emerge after 5 days. Place them in the best possible light and at a temperature of around 18 Deg. C (65 deg F) to prevent seedlings becoming leggy. Seedlings should be large enough to prick out into separate pots of multi purpose compost two weeks or so after sowing. Ideally, fill pots two days before pricking out, water well and allow to warm up to room temperature to reduce the chance of seedlings damping off.  Hold seedlings by their seed leaves and not the stems. Make a hole in the compost big enough to take the roots and lightly firm the seedling in place.  Water with tepid water. Reduce the temperature to 16 deg. C (60 Deg. F) when plants reach 15cm (6”) high. Ideally grow on in the greenhouse or a well lit windowsill.  A month after pricking out the plants will be ready for planting into their final positions when the first flowers appear.
Tomato plants will need supporting up a cane and tieing in at regular intervals as they will become heavy with ripening tomatoes. Ensure this support is in place before planting up.
Using tomato Growpots will help you grow bigger and healthier tomato plants.  They add greater depth to the growbag allowing additional root growth and a ring culture feed and watering regime.


Problems to look out for - Blight – can be devastating on outdoor crops, turning leaves then stems and fruit black and ultimately killing the plants.  Blight usually occurs around late July/early August after a period of wet, humid weather when plant leaves are constantly wet.  Early treatment may be effective, by removing and destroying infected leaves and by spraying with fungicidal sprays at the very first sign of blight.  Tomatoes that are ripe on the plant can be used but the rest will probably rot without treatment. You can prevent blight by practising good hygiene when it is about and using clean mains water rather than water from an outside butt.
Virus Infections - Tomatoes can get virus infections and these too can be fatal. Symptoms are usually yellowing or mottling of the leaves and a reduction in yield.  Remove the badly affected leaves but often it doesn’t make too much difference and you can basically ignore the infection and hope to get a reasonable crop.
Tomato Pests – Indoor tomatoes can suffer from aphids, green fly, white fly and slugs. Use sticky yellow traps in the greenhouse to control white fly and slug controls for the outside ones.  Oil or soap based insecticides such as Savona can be sprayed on affected plants.  Diseases are usually avoided if good ventilation is present to keep the air and plants dry.  Also available is a Whitefly Control that uses tiny parasitic wasp (encarsia formosa) or you could try pots of Marigolds or Basil planted up beside your tomatoes.
Tomato Leaf Curl - You will often see curled up leaves on tomatoes – this is not a problem! It just happens and doesn’t seem to harm the plants, fruits or flavour.
Tomato Blossom End Rot - This is where a brown patch is seen on the base of the fruit. It is caused by the plant drying out so the cure is to ensure your plants never dry out. This disease should be avoided by using the Tomato Success Kit because of the built in water reservoir.


How to harvest by type - Pick fruits when ripe with the stalk (calyx) still attached.  When the plants start to die off in early Autumn green fruits can be kept in a warm, dark place to ripen.
Tip for ripening fruit:-  if you have a glut at the end of summer these can be picked and ripened on sunny windowsill or put them in a cupboard with ripe bananas and they will soon ripen.

Storing - Tomatoes will store in the fridge for a good length of time but are better eaten at room temperature for the best flavour.

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