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The lost plot: How to grow tomatoes

Labour weekend is the traditional time to plant tomatoes, the definitive summer crop, but in warm weather they can go out earlier, or start seed inside to transplant when frosts are finished.

Growing your own means you get delicious flavoursome fruit. Tomatoes thrive in free-draining soil rich in organic matter and they need an open sunny position. Try not to plant them in the same place two years running, and plant basil as a companion crop.

Everyone has their favourite variety, from cherry tomatoes for early season snacks, to giant tasty beefsteak and heirloom varieties.

My favourite is Early Girl, which matures early and has an excellent flavour. If you don’t want to bother staking, try a dwarf variety such as Scoresby Dwarf but, as they sprawl, they take a lot of space and need a straw mulch to keep fruit off the soil.

You will get a better crop if you pinch off laterals, which are those shoots growing out where a branch joins the main stem of the plant. If you have a glut of tomatoes at the end of the season, freeze them whole in plastic bags, to use in cooking throughout the winter.

First published: Nov 2018