3 April 2015

A bumper crop of Tomatoes


This week in partnership with the Allianz Garden Show Ireland 2015’s very own Gardening Guru, Geoff Stebbings from  bring you some top tips in how to grow your own super Tomatoes this year.

Tomatoes are the nation’s favourite home grown crop. Even if you do not grow any other crop the chances are that you have a few tomato plants in a growing bag or a pot somewhere in the garden. The reasons are not difficult to work out because home grown tomatoes are the perfect crop: they are simple to grow and taste far better than anything you can buy in the shops. Most people buy a few tomato plants at the garden centre and do not worry too much about varieties but it is worth looking out for unusual varieties to be sure of a crop that is a cut above the rest. 


Everyone knows the old standby, ‘Moneymaker’. This is the standard red tomato and is perfectly OK but if you grow your own do you really want OK? You should be aiming for great! Whatever the variety look out for F1 after the name. This signifies an F1 hybrid and these are specially bred for vigour and uniformity. The seeds cost more than usual but that shouldn’t affect the price of plants. ‘Shirley’ F1 is the modern equivalent of ‘Moneymaker’ and will give better crops of tastier fruit. Cherry tomatoes are loved by children and are easy to pop into lunch boxes or salads. Although the fruits are small the plants produce more of them so you get a heavy crop. ‘Gardener’s Delight’ is popular but there are lots more. Look out for ‘Sungold’ F1 which is an orange cherry tomato that is universally considered the sweetest and best tasting tomato of all. 

How to grow them

Most tomatoes, and all those mentioned, are called cordon or indeterminate types which means they are grown as a single stem, usually tied to a cane, but they do try to make sideshoots all up the main stem. These should be removed as they grow or your plants will end up a mass of tangled stems and you will get a crop of small fruits that will not ripen well. You may also find bush tomatoes and these need no pinching out or training. They are suitable for pots, windowboxes and hanging baskets. Most have small fruits and they are often the first types to ripen but they tend to crop for a shorter period. Tomatoes will not tolerate frost so do not plant them outside until the risk of frost is passed, usually in mid May.

Grow your tomatoes in growing bags (three per bag) or pots or in the greenhouse border. Use a good quality multipurpose compost. Tomatoes need sun to grow and warmth to ripen the fruits so choose a bright, sheltered spot.


As soon as your plants start to flower you must feed them. You can buy tomato fertiliser and this should be given once a week. Do not allow your plants to dry out. Keep the sideshoots pinched out at all times and, once the plants have produced four or five trusses (clusters) of fruits take out the growing tip to prevent more forming. Late trusses are unlikely to develop fruits and ripen before the first frost of autumn. 

Possible problems

Tomatoes are generally easy to grow but there are a few problems that can spoil your fun.

Blight. This is the same disease as potato blight and usually strikes in August when it is warm and the leaves are wet. You can avoid it completely if you grow tomatoes under cover and avoid getting the leaves wet. Diseased plants rapidly develop dead leaves that turn brown or black and hang from the stems.

Blossom-end rot.

This is not a disease but the ends of the fruits develop sunken, black ends. It is caused by irregular watering and happens from midsummer onwards. It can be prevented by making sure your plants never lack water or wilt.

Slow ripening

Although it is annoying there is not much you can do if your tomatoes are slow to ripen. Warmth is the main factor and stripping off low leaves will not speed ripening and may damage the plants and fruits. If the fruits are mature you can help speed ripening by placing a ripe banana or banana skins near the fruits. 

Antrim Castle Gardens. will be bursting with colour at this year’s Allianz Garden Show Ireland, this three day festival of flowers, food and fun awaits visitors to these magnificent gardens from 8 – 10 May 2015. The packed programme includes appearances by international gurus from the world of gardening and food, including the return of special Festival visitor, Monty Don, on Saturday 9 May. As well as the thousands of plants on display, the new Food Pavilion with local food producers, local craft, tea tent and show gardens, will be fun filled activities appealing to all age groups. Live music, garden theatre, a dedicated kids zone, a garden cinema, and much more.


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