It’s possible to grow tomatoes even in cooler climates like ours. You just have to lay the groundwork.

A gardener’s advice

  • Tomato seeds should be sown indoors 8 weeks before the date of the last expected frost in your area. Sow 3cm deep in flats or pots, and when the seedlings are 3cm tall, transplant them to individual 8 to 10cm pots.
     
  • Keep the seedlings moist and set them in a warm, sunny spot. Be sure to harden them off before transplanting them outdoors.
     
  • If you do not want to start your own tomato plants, seedlings are widely available at garden centres. Ask which types would grow best in your area, and choose sturdy plants in uncrowded flats.
     
  • Soil preparation is important for a good tomato crop. During the autumn before you plant, dig your tomato plot, and work it several cm deep, incorporating a 5cm layer of compost or organic matter into the soil. 
     
  • Or, if you have not prepared the soil, simply dig a hole for each plant: 5cm deep and 60cm in diameter for early tomatoes or 90cm for later ones. In the bottom of each hole place a 5cm layer of compost mixed with a handful of balanced organic fertiliser and some of the topsoil you have dug up.
     
  • Plant the seedlings and then harvest throughout the summer and into the autumn. For the best flavour, allow fruits to ripen on the vine.

Need more veg in your diet? Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstall's River Cottage Veg Every Day might help. Click to find out.

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