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How-To-Grow-Your-Own-Tomatoes

Easy to grow but producing abundant yields, tomatoes are often the first crop a gardener has in their allotment. In return for a sunny spot and the odd dose of feed, they will reward you with plenty of fruits that can be used for a range of recipes. Primed for beginners and experts alike, read on for a useful guide on growing your own tomatoes.

Determinate and Indeterminate Tomatoes

A tomato plant can either be indeterminate or determinate, and depending on which type they fall into, they will require their own unique care. For example, indeterminate varieties should have their side shoots pruned, while determinate varieties should not as this can hinder their yields. Below we detail key differences that will help you decide which type is best for you: 

Indeterminate Varieties
  • A vining habit. 
  • Grows indefinitely.
  • Crops until the first frost.  
  • Fruits can be larger in size. 
  • Requires more support. 
Determinate Varieties
  • A compact bush habit. 
  • Good for small gardens. 
  • Fruits ripen concurrently. 
  • Less support is needed. 
Do I Need to Support my Tomato Plant?

In principle, determinate tomato plants do not require support. Nonetheless, once fruits appear, they can become weighed down, and this can make them vulnerable to pests and disease. It is therefore not a bad idea to tie them to a sturdy stake or enclose them in a tomato cage.

With indeterminate tomatoes, it is important that you provide a good amount of support. This is because their stems can grow much longer than a determinate variety’s. We therefore recommend that you drive two stakes into the ground and carefully attach your plant with soft ties.

Growing your Tomatoes

How-To-Grow-Your-Own-Tomatoes

You can either grow tomatoes from seed or start them from young plug plants. Although growing tomatoes from seed requires a little more time, it is best if you wish to grow rarer varieties. Young plants, on the other hand, can be more convenient to grow as they allow you to stagger your growing schedule. This will spare you more time, space, and attention to focus on crops that are growing before spring (nevertheless, they should be hardened off first). 

Growing from Seed
  • Fill 7.5cm pots with moist compost. 
  • Apply a layer of vermiculite and provide a watering.
  • Cover each pot with cling film, and place in a propagator or sunny windowsill.  (Cling film will help retain moisture and heat, which are both important for allowing germination).
  • When two small leaves appear, it is safe to assume that germination has occurred. 
  • Transplant into 9cm pots that have been filled with all-purpose compost. 
  • Move to a windowsill that receives plenty of sunlight. 
  • Using increasingly larger pots, repeat these steps  as your tomato plants continue to grow. 
Growing from Young Plants

Once a truss begins to open, your tomato plants can be planted in your garden (a truss is the stem of a plant in which flowers, and later tomatoes, grow from). 

  • Plant your seedings out in 23cm pots (approximately), or in your garden’s borders, distanced 45cm to 60cm apart.
  • If you are planting in a border, make sure that the site is rich in organic matter. 

 

Caring for your Tomatoes

How-To-Grow-Your-Own-Tomatoes

Watering and Feeding 

We advise that you water your tomato plants once a day, making sure that the soil evenly moist. If you are growing your tomatoes in a container, you can water them twice a day; and this rule can be applied to tomatoes growing in borders if the weather is particularly warm. Signs to keep in mind are if the leaves are drooping, you have under-watered, and if the leaves are yellowing, you have over-watered.

Once every two weeks, feed your tomato plants with a balanced liquid fertiliser. This will keep the soil’s pH optimal for growing thriving plants. When the first fruits have appeared, you can then swap for a high potash feed. 

Sun Requirements

Your tomato plants will relish warm and sunny conditions, so they should ideally receive between six and eight hours of sun per day. As the season comes to an end, you can remove old leaves to allow more sun to come through. 

Pruning Tips

If you are growing determinate varieties, it is best to pinch out any side shoots that become visible. Unlike the lateral trusses of a tomato plant, these shoots are more vigorous, and as such, will compromise the plant’s energy. By keeping these side shoots at bay, you are leveraging greater energy into fruiting. 

Another pruning tip is to remove foliage beneath the lowest truss of fruits. This enables more light to travel through, but also helps ventilation and speeds up ripening. As more trusses develop, you can continue to remove more and more leaves. An added benefit of this approach is that blight or mosaic virus can successfully be treated; simply rescind all of the plant’s leaves. 

Harvesting your Tomatoes

How-To-Grow-Your-Own-Tomatoes

When the tomatoes turn fully red, they are ripe enough to be picked. Depending on the conditions outside, you may want to harvest your fruits when they are green. To aid their ripening, we recommend that you store them next to a banana. Bananas release a gas called ethene, and this encourages nearby fruits to soften and have their starches convert to sugars. 

 

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September is the month to enjoy the fruits if your labours.  A lot of your product will be ready to harvest this month, but it’s also time to start thinking about preparing for the frost and planning for next year. 

General

  • Complete pruning of soft fruit bushes –  apple and pear trees, in particular, will benefit from this
  •  Sow green manure, such as grazing rye – suppresses weeds over the winter
  • Feed all late crops with a general fertiliser – do this now for great crops when the time comes 
  • Dig up and compost any plants that have finished their season – ensure you have great soil for next years planting
  • Cut back old canes of blackberries – do this after fruiting and tie in the new canes

Harvesting

  • Beetroot
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflowers
  • Courgettes
  • Globe Artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Marrows
  • medlars
  • Onions
  • Pumpkins
  • Radishes
  • Spring Onions
  • quince
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Turnips

Sowing 

  • Alfalfa 
  • Beansprouts 
  • Broccoli 
  • Cauliflower
  • Fenugreek 
  • Radish
  • Red onion
  • Spinach 
  • Spring cabbage 
  • Crimson clover and Italian ryegrass – they act as ground cover during the winter. When dug in, they conserve nutrients and improve soil texture.

Pests and Diseases 

  • Watch tomatoes for blossom end rot, and other ripening problems. These are usually caused by irregular watering
  • Wasps are attracted this time of year due to the ripening of your fruit. protect any grapes or fruit from wasps with netting or mesh. 

 

 

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Garden Weeds

September is the time of the year where things start to cool down, the wind picks up and the days get shorter. This is the month to get started on your preparation for spring whilst enjoying your garden as much as you can before the frosts come in. 

General 

 

  • Net ponds – protect your pond before leaves begin to fall 
  • Clean out water butts – keep your irrigation in the best condition in preparation for autumn rains 
  • Clean ponds and water features of weeds – Remove duckweed, pondweed and algae from water features and ponds
  • Collect and bin brown apples and pears – reduce the spread of this fungi and protect your good crops 
  • Order bare-root fruit trees – to plant later in autumn or winter

Plants 

  • Divide herbaceous perennialsensure healthy, vigorous plants in the spring
  • Collect and sow seed from perennials and hardy annuals opportunity to increase the number of plants in your garden for free
  • Plant spring-flowering bulbs –  daffodils, crocus and hyacinths are a priority for the end of the month 
  • Sow hardy annuals –  cerinthes, ammi, scabiosa and cornflowers should be planted now  for flowers early next summer
  • Deadhead container plants –  encourage more blooms and keep your patio displays longer into the Autumn 

Wildlife 

  • Wash and disinfect bird feeders and tables – maintain good hygiene on your tables and you will see birds throughout the winter
  • Plant nectar-rich bulbs –  crocus, snake’s head fritillary, alliums and grape hyacinths can be planted now to feed next year’s hungry emerging bees
  • Start putting out fat balls – help those birds staying for the winter
  • Leave garden borders intact – don’t cut these back in autumn. Try to leave at least one border intact where seedheads can provide food for birds and fallen stems can create shelter for amphibians, insects and small mammals

 

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The best part about growing or foraging your own food is the delicious delights you can make with what you find. We’ve put together some easy recipes you can make with the top produce you can forage or harvest from September to November 

 

Raspberry Jam

Time: 30 mins

Makes: 3lb Jam

Note: you will need to sterilise your jars before you begin cooking your jam. You can do this by rinsing them in soapy water, then place on a baking tray in a low oven to dry completely. Keep them warm until you fill them

 Ingredients

  •         1kg raspberries, halved
  •         juice of 1 lemon
  •         1kg bag jam sugar

Method

  1.   Put a plate in the fridge or freezer
  2.   Put your raspberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan over a low heat and mash with a potato masher. Leave to cook until just boiling
  3.   Put the raspberries through a fine sieve to separate the seeds
  4.   Put the pulp back into the pan and add the sugar
  5.   Bring to a rapid boil for about five minutes
  6.   Drop a bit of your jam onto your cold plate. If it solidifies and wrinkles when you run your finger through it, it is ready. If not boil for another two minutes and try again, keep doing this until its ready.
  7.   Fill your sterilized jars

 Damson & Apple Crumble

Time: 60 mins

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  •         800g-900g damsons
  •         50g light soft brown sugar
  •         knob of butter
  •         1-2 tbsp sloe gin (optional)
  •         2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  •         For the crumble
  •         250g plain flour
  •         150g unsalted butter, cold
  •         80g light soft brown sugar
  •         80g demerara sugar
  •         50g ground almonds

Method

  1.   Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6
  2.   Put the damsons into a pan with the sugar, butter and sloe gin if using (or a splash of water if not) and heat gently until the damsons start to give off their juices
  3.   Tip into the base of a large shallow gratin dish (about 25cm long) and stir through the apple slices
  4.   Rub the butter and flour together until the mixture goes crumbly. Add the rest of the crumble ingredients and mix together
  5.   Put the crumble over the damson mixture and put into the oven for 30-40 mins until golden brown and the mixture is bubbling.
  6.   Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes
  7.   Serve with custard or ice cream

 

Aubergine and courgette bake

Time: 80 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  •         2 large aubergines cut into 1cm discs
  •         2 courgettes, cut into 0.5cm strips
  •         1 tbsp olive oil
  •         1 onion, finely chopped
  •         1 red pepper, finely chopped
  •         2–3 cloves garlic, crushed
  •         1 heaped tsp dried oregano
  •         1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
  •         50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  •         120g reduced-fat mozzarella, thinly sliced

Method

  1.   Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
  2.   Grill the aubergines and courgettes until lightly browned on each side.
  3.   Meanwhile, add the oil to a pan with the onion, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until they go clear
  4.   Add the red pepper, stirring regularly for another 5 minutes
  5.   Mix in the garlic, oregano and tomatoes, and simmer for 5 minutes
  6.   Add some of the sauce to an ovenproof dish and layer the aubergine mixture and parmesan and top off with the mozzarella.
  7.   Bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes until golden brown
  8.   Serve
  9.  

Nectarine puff tart

Time: 1 hour

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  •         1 sheet, ready-rolled puff pastry
  •         1 egg, beaten
  •         3 large nectarines, thinly sliced
  •         3 tbsp runny honey
  •         50ml  dark rum or amaretto
  •         large pinch ground cinnamon
  •         Zest of 1 lime

Method

  1.   Preheat the oven to 220C/200Fan/Gas 7
  2.   Lay the pastry sheet out on a sheet of baking paper and roll the pastry edges up to form a 1cm border and brush with beaten egg
  3.   Mix the nectarine, honey, rum and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well
  4.   Arrange the mixture in the middle of the pastry and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden.
  5.   Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes
  6.   Sprinkle the lime zest on top and serve sliced

 

Pumpkin Bubble & Squeak

Time : 30 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  •         700g mashed pumpkin
  •         200g chopped cooked cabbage
  •         6 rashers bacon
  •         2 carrots, sliced
  •         1 onion, sliced
  •         2 tbsp butter
  •         2 tbsp veg oil
  •         salt
  •         pepper

Method

  1.   Preheat the grill
  2.   Grill the bacon until crispy
  3.   In a bowl, mix the cabbage with the pumpkin and other veg. Season to taste
  4.   Form the potato mixture into round patties
  5.   Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan
  6.   Fry your patties on both sides until just starting to crisp. Remove from the pan and put onto a metal tray. Grill until crispy
  7.   Meanwhile, fry or poach your egg
  8.   Remove the potato mixture from the tray and serve with the cut-up bacon and the egg 

Pickled Beetroot

 Makes: 20 portions

Time:  20 mins

Notes: You will need a rack or tray to put in the bottom of your pan for the last step to keep the jars off of the bottom of your pot

Ingredients

  •         1.5kg beetroot, destemmed
  •         130g caster sugar
  •         1tsp pickling salt (can use sea salt if necessary)
  •         330 ml white wine vinegar
  •         8g whole cloves

Method

  1. Sterilise jars and lids by putting in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Place the beetroots in a large stockpot with water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook for around 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and reserve half of the beetroot water
  3. Once the beetroot has cooled, peel.
  4. Fill each jar with beetroots and add several whole cloves to each.
  5. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, beetroot water, vinegar, and pickling salt. Bring to a rapid boil. Pour over the beetroots in the jars and seal lids.
  6. Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot leaving a 5cm space between the,. Pour in more boiling water until the water level is at least 2.5cm above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Leave the jars to cool and store in a cool place

  

Roasted Plums

  •         6 dark plums, halved and pitted
  •         1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  •         1 tbsp sugar
  •         280g Greek yoghurt
  •         2 tablespoons chopped roasted hazelnut
  •         2 tsp honey

Method

  1.       Heat oven to 160°c /140 fan / Gas 3
  2.       Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place plums cut side up on the sheet
  3.       Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar
  4.       Put in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until soft and some juices run off
  5.       Divide among 4 bowls, top each with 2 tablespoons yoghurt, sprinkle with nuts and drizzle with honey

Pumpkin Soup

 

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

Notes: Can be frozen for up to 2 months

Ingredients

  •         2 tbsp olive oil
  •         2 onions, finely chopped
  •         1kg pumpkin ,peeled, deseeded and chopped into chunks
  •         700ml vegetable stock or chicken stock
  •         150ml double cream

Method

  1.   Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan
  1.   Gently cook the onions for 5 minutes until soft
  1.   Add pumpkin to the pan, then carry on cooking for 8-10 mins, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften and turn golden.
  1.   Add the stock to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins until the veg is soft.
  1.   Add the cream into the pan, bring back to the boil, then purée with a hand blender.
  1.   Serve

 Apple Bread and Butter pudding

Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 4 

Ingredients

  •         75g  raisins
  •         100ml  cold tea
  •         3 apples, cored
  •         squeeze lemon juice
  •         400ml full-fat milk
  •         125g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  •         3 eggs
  •         100g brown sugar
  •         2 tsp cinnamon
  •         1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  •         1 tsp vanilla extract
  •         ½ large bread loaf

Method

  1.   Grease a baking dish and preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 4
  1.   Put the raisins in a small bowl, add the cold tea and leave them to soak
  1.   Peel, core and slice the apples and keep them fresh in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice
  1.   Gently warm the milk in a saucepan, then add the butter and allow it to melt. Set the milk and butter aside to cool slightly
  1.   Put the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until well combined. Whisk in the milk
  1.   Tear the bread into pieces and layer in the greased baking dish. Strain the raisins, discarding the tea, and scatter them over the bread, then top with the sliced fruit. Pour in the batter and sprinkle with some extra brown sugar
  1.   Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pudding has set and has a golden crust on top.