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Best expert advice on how to grow tomatoes

Tomato Seeds - F1 Fantasio from Suttons

If you need help growing tomatoes, here’s our pick of the best independent online advice. These are the expert home growers and allotmenteers whose blogs, Youtube channels, and Insta feeds offer the most helpful insights on everything tomato related.

From how to choose the right variety, through to sowing tomato seeds, growing and trouble-shooting tips, here’s everything you need to know about growing tomatoes. 

This article was reviewed by the Suttons horticultural team and updated on 11 January 2024.


Best advice on choosing the right tomato for your garden

Closeup of mini cherry tomatoes
‘Sweet Million’ is a popular cordon variety that grows fruit from one main, supported stem
Image: Tomato ‘Sweet Million’ from Suttons

For clarification on the correct tomato terminology, and help to decide which type to go for, Carol Bartlett at The Sunday Gardener discusses the pros and cons of ‘determinate’ tomatoes versus ‘cordon’ or upright varieties. ‘Determinate’ tomatoes are bushy and suitable for pots and hanging baskets. ‘Indeterminate,’ upright, or Cordon tomatoes require a little more care and attention, but Carol’s excellent resource page points you in the right direction.

For those who have access to a warm greenhouse, Kelly from @ohhomelygirl shows what you can do with a little extra protection. Even in autumn, her tomato plants are still growing strong in her gorgeous growhouse, providing a delicious crop long into the coldest months of the year. Check out her Instagram photos for a real treat! 

No greenhouse? Don’t worry, Francesca from @diaryofayorkshiregardener grows plenty of tomatoes outside in her north Yorkshire garden. Her ‘Sweet Million’ cherry tomatoes are grown on a sunny patio, and she uses simple bamboo canes to support her prolific cordon plants. Follow her on Insta for informative tips on growing veg in a rental garden and over at her allotment plot. 

Best advice on how to sow and plant out tomato seeds

Hand holding large beefsteak tomato
Growing from seeds gives you lots of variety choice
Image: Tomato Seeds ‘Burlesque F1’ from Suttons

Self-confessed heritage tomato obsessive and highly knowledgeable tomato blogger, Jane Perrone says you should sow your tomato seeds in a heated propagator in March or April. Beware planting out too soon though, Jane says, “The number one error in the month of May is being lulled into a false sense of security by the weather and planting tomatoes out too early.” Amongst Jane’s top tips for growing tomatoes outside, she recommends keeping your seedlings in old washing up bowls to make it easier to carry them in and out until the night-time temperature stays above 10°C.

If you live in the far north or England or across the border in Scotland, we suggest you bookmark the YouTube channel In the Garden with Eli and Kate. Eli explains that the trick to growing tomatoes in colder climates is to choose the right type. One of their favourite beefsteak varieties, ‘Marmande’ has a 65 day growing season from small plant to maturity. Whereas some very prolific cherry tomatoes need 75 days to mature. Eli says that her growing season in Scotland is about 85 days but she uses her greenhouse to extend it. Watch her helpful video for excellent advice on how to choose the best variety for your garden.

Once your tomatoes get going, you’ll need to support them properly. Over at Let’s Grow Wild, blogger Georgina Starmer recommends using either sturdy canes or ready made tomato supports to stabilise your plants. She also says, “as they grow, side shoots will appear. These grow between the leaf stems and the trunk on the plant. Pick off any side shoots you see, so the plant can put its energy into producing fruiting trusses.” 

If you grow your tomatoes in a polytunnel, H at @damsonsandlavender ties her support spirals into the top frame with twine so they won’t fall and damage the polytunnel cover. Then she winds the cordons around the supports as they grow, removing any side shoots that have formed. Her top tip for tunnel growing? “The beds get mulched in autumn, and I rotate which side of the polytunnel I grow tomatoes in year on year.” Follow her on Insta for regular updates. 

No-dig expert, Charles Dowding, trains his tomatoes using the clever string method. Do take a look at his excellent Youtube video where he demonstrates exactly how to string train your tomatoes by burying one end under your tomato’s root ball. He says the trick is not to stretch the string too tight so that you’ll have some slack to twist around the growing stem.

Best advice on how to grow and care for your tomatoes

Closeup of dark coloured tomatoes
‘Indigo Rose’ was bred to have the same antioxidants as blueberries
Image: Grafted Tomato Plant – The Black Tomato ‘Indigo Rose’ from Suttons

Good compost is key to healthy tomato plants and the sort of bumper harvest you’re looking for. Over at English Homestead, Kev Alviti likes to add a few extras to the shop-bought basics. Here he offers his very own homemade potting mix recipe. A very rich mixture, it includes eggshells, ash, and the secret ingredient – chicken manure pellets. It’s rocket fuel for tomatoes. 

Plant your tomatoes deep, says Benedict Vanheems of the professional gardening blog, Grow Veg. He says tomatoes can grow roots from anywhere on their stems, so make the most of this by going deep at every stage of the potting on and planting out process: “By planting deeper we can create sturdier, more resilient plants that are primed to thrive.

Tomatoes do need plenty of water, says Sarah Carter at Let’s Grow Cook. A lady with more than a decade of successful tomato seasons under her belt, her blog is well worth a visit. She checks her plants twice a day, watering to the roots, remembering that wet leaves can scorch in the sun or encourage blight if they don’t dry quickly. She also emphasises the need to feed your tomato plantslittle and often.”

Best companion plants for tomatoes

Dill herb on a table
Try dill as a companion plant for tomatoes
Image: Dill from Suttons

If you’re looking for companion plants to grow alongside your tomatoes, Lee at Project Diaries offers some excellent choices. He says as well as tasting lovely with your tomatoes, growing basil nearby also helps to improve the flavour of the fruit. He also rates garlic and the edible flower, borage as excellent choices for warding off pests and diseases. Check out his video for more companion plants and plenty of tips for growing better tomatoes.

If you’re wondering which companion plant helps your tomatoes yield the greatest harvest, Gareth Richards at @thegrrdener rates dill, which he says helps attract pollinators. “Result – most tomatoes ever,” Gareth says, and if his photo is anything to go by, he’s onto something! 

Best advice on common tomato problems

Closeup of tomatoes on a hanging basket
Blight resistant varieties like ‘Lizzano’ can be grown in greenhouses our outside
Image: Tomato seeds ‘F1 Lizzano’ from Suttons

Tomato blight can decimate your crop in just a few days, according to this helpful guest post published on the hugely popular Byther Farm blog. Experienced grower Becky Searle says that if you remove the blighted material straight away, you can still be left with a perfectly healthy plant. However, “it’s likely that once blight is in your garden, it will be there for the remainder of the season. So be vigilant, and don’t be afraid to prune back hard,” she advises.

Outdoor tomatoes are particularly susceptible to tomato blight, says Chris at GoTropicalUK. Make sure you check out his Youtube video in which he shares highly effective top tips to keep the problem at bay. Chris says you should always thin the leaves to ensure good airflow around your plants and he also removes the foliage from the first foot of each stem. 

Plant your tomatoes at least 16 inches apart, says Huw Richards at his ubiquitous YouTube channel. This helps to improve air circulation and reduces the chance that your tomatoes will suffer blight. Blossom end rot and cracked fruits are also common problems, usually caused by inconsistent watering. If you set up a consistent watering schedule your tomatoes should remain strong and healthy. 

Yellowing leaves? Magnesium deficiency could be the problem, says John Harrison at Allotment & Gardens. Fixing the issue simply involves spraying the leaves with an Epsom salt solution, for which John’s informative blog post provides full instructions. He says overdosing on potash is often the source of the issue. To avoid it, replace one feed in three with a standard nitrogen fertiliser.

Best tomatoes varieties to grow

Orange tomatoes in a wicker basket
Sungold is a superb orange-coloured, cherry tomato with exceptional sweetness. 
Image: Tomato ‘F1 Sungold’ from Suttons

If you’re wondering which tomato varieties to grow, the horticultural team at Suttons blog gives you a comprehensive rundown of the most popular options. We provide easy-to-grow choices like the determinate variety, Gardener’s Delight or, for an indeterminate, we recommend the vibrant red cherry tomato, Sweet Aperitif. For a tough, disease resistant variety, try F1 Lizzano.

If you’re looking for a heavy crop of medium-sized tomatoes to grow without a greenhouse, Georgina Starmer of Let’s Grow Wild recommends giving tomato Moneymaker a go. She says they’re easy to grow “in garden soil, or they work well in containers and growbags.”

Edinburgh-based Sheila from @sheilamaverbuch writes, “this is a magnificent tomato that I was able to grow outside.” She’s talking about the beefsteak tomato ‘Burlesque’ that she chose especially for adding to homemade burgers. Not only were her long-awaited burgers very tasty, Sheila says each tomato weighed in at about a pound, “so there’s plenty of eating in every one”! Follow her on Insta for more inspiration. 

Over at @oxfordshireherbandspice, it’s a case of all tomatoes large and small, with the emphasis on variety. Why? Because, says this tomato fanatic, variety plus spice equals the best tomato salsa you’ll ever taste which, afterall, makes all the effort it takes to grow tomatoes thoroughly worthwhile.

Now you’re equipped with all the knowledge you need to have a go at growing your own tomato plants, all that’s left is to wish you the best of luck. If you have any queries about this or any other gardening subject, do get in touch via our Facebook page. We always love to hear from you.

Lead image: Tomato Seeds – F1 Fantasio from Suttons

See expert contributors here

  • Carol Bartlett, Gardening blogger and content creator.
  • Kelly Haworth, Cuprinol Shed of the Year Winner 2022, gardener, blogger.
  • Francesca Chadwick, Allotmenteer, YouTuber, gardening content creator.
  • Jane Perrone, Houseplant expert, former gardening editor at the Guardian.
  • Eli and Kate, Gardening content creators, YouTubers, bloggers.
  • Georgina Starmer, Blogger, writer, agricultural journalist and author.
  • Charles Dowding, No-dig gardening pioneer, horticulturalist, author.
  • H, Smallholder, no dig gardener, content creator.
  • Kev Alviti, Smallholder, gardening content creator, carpenter.
  • Benedict Vanheems, BSc. (Hons) degree in horticulture, garden and wildlife YouTuber, writer and editor.
  • Sarah Carter, gardening cook, blogger.
  • Lee Gardener, YouTuber, gardening content creator.
  • Gareth Richards, Gardening writer, editor, podcaster & allotmenteer.
  • Liz Zorab, Award-winning blogger, YouTuber, gardener and author. Winner of GMG’s Vlog of the Year 2022.
  • Becky Searle, Ecologist, gardener and freelance garden writer.
  • Chris, Gardening YouTuber.
  • Huw Richards, Gardening YouTuber, author.
  • John Harrison, Winner of Grow Your Own’s ‘Great British Growing Awards’ 2015, author and garden writer.
  • Sheila M. Averbuch, Author, former journalist, gardener.
  • @oxfordshireherbandspice, Plantsman, seed guardian, gardening content creator.

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