‘Best results’ for watering tomato plants, according to Sarah Raven

Alan Titchmarsh gives advice on how to plant tomatoes

Tomatoes are delicious and sweet and taste even better when they’re freshly picked from a vine in the garden. While these crops are popular to grow in greenhouses and gardens, they are tricky to get right when it comes to watering.

Gardeners with tomato plants need to avoid both under and overwatered the plants as they grow.

Now, gardening expert and author Sarah Raven has shared how to water the plants for the “best results”.

Sarah said the plants need to be staked and watered properly in order to thrive.

She said: “Undercover or outside they need staking, regular watering, and weekly feeding for best results.

“Water the soil, not the plant, tomato leaves and stems dislike getting wet.”

Cordon tomatoes need to be pinched out so the plant puts more of its energy into growing fruit rather than foliage.

However, gardeners need to ensure they are removing the correct parts of the tomato otherwise the plant’s fruit production could be disrupted.

Sarah said: “For cordon varieties you also need to pinch out any side shoots that develop between the main stem and where the leaf branches out as they divert valuable energy from the developing fruits and will end up as an unruly sprawl.

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“Bush tomatoes (e.g. ‘Micro Cherry’) will not need such attention but you will need to allow plenty of space for them to spread.

“For the large-fruited varieties you will need to pinch out the tops once they have set five or six trusses of fruit.”

Unfortunately, tomato plants are prone to pests like aphids, spider mites, white flies and thrips.

To deter these pesky pests, Sarah suggested companion planting rather than using harsh chemicals.

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She said: “Companion planting works well with tomatoes.

“Try basil underneath as a sacrificial planting – white fly is drawn to it rather than your tomatoes – or try garlic, nasturtiums or tagetes to repel aphids. 

“Cordon tomatoes fruit over a long period. You should be picking tomatoes in July and continue harvesting from the cordons until October, some like ‘Gardener’s Delight’ and ‘Sungold’ might even carry on until November.”

At the end of summer, it’s likely some fruit won’t be completely ripe.

To ripen green tomatoes, gardeners can put them next to a banana.

Sarah explained: “At the end of the summer, any unripe tomatoes can be picked and placed next to a banana – the ethylene released helps them to ripen.

“Tomatoes can be kept at room temperature for four to five days (they will lose their flavour if kept in the fridge) and will freeze well.”

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