Why grow your own?
Tomatoes are one of the most commonly grown crops in the world and they do very well in Scotland. I can remember as a child, eating lovely yellow tomatoes grown by my grandad.Tomatoes have long been an important crop in kitchen gardens and allotments, feeding families during times of war food rationing and earlier.
It is very satisfying to grow and enjoy your own tomatoes and they taste far better than most of the varieties you can buy in the supermarket.
There is also the fun of experimenting with different varieties and at the end of the summer, you can impress your friends with your own crops of heritage tomatoes at a fraction of the costs charged in trendy food markets!
Is a greenhouse vital?
It is definitely advantageous to have a greenhouse. The unreliable Scottish summers mean that even if it is hot and sunny some of the time, we never experience the sustained high temperatures and intense sunlight which is necessary of develop and ripen tomatoes. In addition, the inevitable rain encourages tomato blight.
However, I have successfully grown cherry tomatoes on a sunny windowsill, and tumbling cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket outdoors on a sheltered south-facing wall. I have also used those plastic greenhouses which are very much better than trying to grow in the wild outdoors, although once again, the weather can have an impact. Several years running, my plastic greenhouses were blown over by the wind and the tomato plants inside them were destroyed.
· Start by sowing seeds in individual seed trays to give plants the best start.
· Water regularly. The skin on tomatoes is adversely affected by infrequent or irregular watering.
· Feed regularly - once a week at least. Tomatoes need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and there are many excellent brands available widely. Here is a link to a short article in the Guardian on how to feed fruit and vegetables for a successful crop.
· Cut back regularly, and remove side shoots as they appear.
· Support the growing stems with canes and tie in regularly as the stems can be fragile and prone to snapping.
· Pick fruits as they ripen and more will ripen on the vine as a result.
· Any unripened green tomatoes which are left at the end of the season can be ripened in the fruit bowl next to bananas or turned into delicious green tomato chutney.