How To Grow Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

brandywine tomatoes

How To Grow Tomatoes – Introduction

Growing Tomatoes, or any vegetable for that matter, can be a very rewarding and satisfying thing to do. Not only do you have the satisfaction of eating quality vegetables produced by your own hand, but you can also save a small fortune on the shopping bills as well – a real win, win situation.

How to grow tomatoes

To answer the question How to grow tomatoes, we must first of all decide just where and indeed if, we can grow them indoors or outdoors.
For instance growing tomatoes outdoors in the deep south of the USA is just a little different from growing them indoors in a heated greenhouse in Scotland !
Soil conditions as well as weather or temperature conditions, have always to be taken into account. Tomatoes thrive in full sun and in a temperature of between 70F / 21C and 89F / 29C, and thrive best in a well fertilised soil especially when the fruit is starting to grow on the stems.

For organic growing Tomatoes I always prefer a mixture of horse manure mixed with water, when it comes to ‘feeding time’, which would be about a ladle full twice a day when the tomatoes are in full growth. It goes without saying that care must be taken when handling any kind of manure or rotting material – though I have to say I have never suffered any adverse effects of getting muck on my hands.

Another option is to use a simple Comfry ‘tea’. The Tomato in the picture below was grown just by feeding with comfry tea and as you can see it certainly thrived on it!

tomato container gardening

To make the ‘tea’ is simple. Just add a few handfull of russian comfry, which is rich in nitrogen and potassium amongst other minerals, into a deep pail of water and leave for approx 3 weeks to infuse. When feeding add about 2 inches of this ‘tea’ into your watering can an top up with water. This feed should be done about twice per week in the fruiting season.

The cleaner way would be of course to just go for a more commercial tomato feed – there’s loads on the market – however just as many precautions have to be taken when handling chemical feeds also, so I suppose it’s a matter of choosing your ‘poison’!
Organic growing methods are most certainly in the ascendancy though, and feeding methods I used as a Lad to save money, are now all the rage – go figure.
How to grow tomatoes – In a greenhouse

Growing tomatoesOpens in a new tab. in a greenhouse means for one that you can start a lot earlier in the season, just make sure that you have a small heat source going to keep away a late

growing tomatoes in containers
Tomatoes can be grown in many types of containers, indoors and out.

frost. Tomatoes cannot stand frost at all, so be sure to protect them from it at all costs.
As the season progress and the temperature heats up, then it is time to open the vents to try and maintain a constant temp around 80F or so. Care must be taken to water them regularly, and try and avoid splashing the leaves of the plant as this will result in the leaves being burned in the hot sun.

As the plants grow, and the tomatoes start to show, then I would normally trim away the excess leaves about halfway up the plant. This will concentrate the plant on producing tomatoes and not just filling the leaves. Side shoots should also be plucked away as they grow as they will just take energy away from your tomatoes in the main stem.

How to grow tomatoes – Avoiding pests

Pest control is an on-going labour for all gardeners, without doubt. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse means that they are perhaps not quite so prone to the ravages of caterpillars, they can usually be fairly easily spotted and disposed of if they do appear. However Tomato plants are very susceptible to the ravages of Aphids such as greenfly and blackfly .

To control Aphids with the use of chemicals is probably the most popular and perhaps the easiest.
It has to be said however that any chemicals that you use on your food plants, is likely to remain to some degree at least on the fruit or vegetables treated. The solution may be to go Organic and consider other alternatives to chemicals, such as a very diluted soapy water sprayed on the plant once a week or so. I have had success with this in the past and continue to use it.

A word of caution however, if the soap mixture is to strong it will act like ‘agent orange’ and strip all the leaves away along with the Aphids…ouch.
Another page on the Organic control of pests will follow shortly – stay tuned !!

How to grow tomatoes – Support

There is no definitive way of supporting your tomato plants as they grow, but they must be supported. Canes are the most popular, although string set into a spike in the ground at the tomato plant base and tied to a supporting beam in the greenhouse roof works just as well.
Make sure the plants are well tied to the string or cane – without choking the stem – and that the weight of the tomatoes does not pull them down.

gigantomo tomato

How to grow tomatoes – Outdoors

Growing tomatoes outdoors is the privilege of those that live in warmer climate’s – unlike Scotland ! The principle however is pretty much the same.
The differences are mainly that the overall temperature cannot be maintained as well, and that outdoor tomatoes are more susceptible to the predations of pest’s such as caterpillars, slugs etc.

In fact the main difference is that they are more exposed and so vulnerable you could say.
Feeding the tomatoes is the same as indoors, although if you have a good fertile soil then it may not be so often. As for the predations of Rabbits for instance, they do not seem so keep on tomato plants, but they will chew on them just for the hell of it – so best to keep them away by any means possible. Check out this page for more on Rabbit control.


There are of course other things to look out for when it comes to growing tomatoes, such as controlling leaf mould or tomato blight for instance. These and other tomato growing issues I hope to cover in another article, on how to grow tomatoes and vegetables in general.