How To Grow Tomatoes In The UK

Tomato Plant

In the past few years, I have noticed a rise in popularity of tomato plants but in fact, our love affair with them started hundreds of years ago and we named them the love apple.

When To Plant Tomatoes

If you wish to raise tomato plants from seed and grow outdoors in the summertime then the seeds need to be sown from the middle to late March so they are ready to be planted outside at the end of May or the beginning of June when the risk of frost has passed.

Types Of Tomato Plants

There are two distinct types of tomato plants.

Bush Tomatoes

This type of tomato can just be left to grow almost wild, they just need thinning out a little to let some light get at the fruit.

Cordon Tomatoes

The most common type of tomato is grown as a single stem, the reason for doing this is so that all the plant’s energy and effort are diverted up one main stem and into the flower trusses.

Tips For Growing Tomatoes

When a side shoot does appear on a cordon tomato’s leaf axil, the best thing to do is get a little sharp knife and cut it out.

When the flowers are open spray them gently with tepid water every day if you can to encourage fruit setting.

A cordon tomato tends to get top-heavy as they grow, the best thing to do is tie it in with some soft twine by making a figure-of-eight around the stem passing the twine around the cane at the back, so it comes around the plant very gently tying it in. Don’t make it too tight and constrict the flow of the sap up the stem.

You should get around 4 or 5 flower trusses on a cordon tomato grown outside. The best thing to do is snip out the top of the plant with a sharp knife or scissors, just cut out the very top of the shoot.

This will stop the plant from growing any further, and the plant’s energies are now being concentrated into the flower trusses already established. If you get too greedy the plant will start trying to do too much at the top, and nothing will ripen quite so quickly below.

Watering Tomato Plants

Try to keep the compost evenly moist at all times.

If you let the soil dry out between waterings, and then soak it, two things happen.

One, the fruit skin starts to get hard when it’s allowed to dry out, and when you re-water it can split because it’s no longer elastic.

The other thing is you can get sunken black areas on the underside of the fruit if you’re watering erratically, which is called blossom end rot. And makes the fruit inedible, they’re not poisonous, just unpleasant.

Feeding Tomato Plants

Once the fruit is set make sure you feed them with dilute liquid tomato food once a week.

Make sure you stick to the manufactures instructed dilution, don’t try and make it stronger, it does no good at all.

Making sure the soil is moist keeps the plant full of sap and a once a week feed will give the plant the nutrients to produce fruit which ripens.

Tomato Plants FAQ

Tomato Plant

Is It Too Late To Plant Tomatoes?

Most tomato plant varieties need 75-100 days to fully mature, so as long as the number of days to maturity is smaller than the number of days until the expected first frost in the autumn you can still plant tomatoes.

There are also some very good tomato varieties that only need 50-60 days to mature.

How Long Does It Take To Grow Tomatoes?

Tomato plants usually begin to bear fruit 9-12 weeks after planting.

Can You Plant Tomatoes In The Same Place Every Year?

Tomatoes are unlike most vegetables and prefer to be grown in the same place every year, so plant them in the same spot unless you have had a disease problem.

Can I Grow Tomatoes Indoors?

All tomatoes can be grown indoors, you do not need any special varieties for indoor growing.

Tomatoes also grow well from cuttings. If your tomato plant begins to take up too much space, but want to grow the same great variety continually, just take a cutting to start a new plant whenever the old plant becomes overgrown.

Should I Top My Tomato Plants?

As the growing season draws to a close, your tomato plants will often still be loaded with fruit. To speed ripening late in the season, remove the growing tip of each main stem about four weeks before the first expected frost in the autumn.

Called “topping” this type of pruning causes the plant to stop flowering and setting new fruit, instead, the plant now directs all sugars to the remaining fruit, This way, the fruit will ripen faster.

When Should You Feed Tomatoes?

Tomatoes should first be feed when you plant them in the garden. You can then wait until they set fruit to start feeding again. After the tomato plants start growing fruit feed once a week until the first frost kills the plant.

Do Tomatoes Plants Need Full Sun?

Plant tomato plants should be planted in a warm and sunny part of the garden.

Do Tomato Plants Survive Winter?

Although in their native habitat, tomato plants grow as perennials, they are usually grown as an annual in the UK.

Tomatoes are referred to as tender perennials, as they will generally succumb once temperatures drop, especially once frost hits.

Why Do Tomato Plants Flower But No Fruit?

There are 4 main reasons why your tomato plants have plenty of flowers but no fruit.


If you have plenty of flowers but no tomatoes, it may be too hot and dry or too cold and wet (which is probably more likely here in good old Blighty).

This results in what is known as blossom drop and will, of course, make it much more difficult for plants to produce fruit.

Poor Pollination

Cold and wet weather will also limit the amount of bee activity, which is helpful for pollination to occur and fruits to set. Without these pollinators, you will have only a few tomatoes, once weather returns to normal this should right itself.

Planting Too Close Together

Planting your tomato plants too close together can be a factor for limiting the amount of fruit that is set. If you plant them too close they are also more susceptible to disease.

Not Enough Feed

Even if you have planted your tomatoes in rich soil, from the moment the first flowers appear you should be feeding your plants with a feed that is high in potassium, or potash.