Time to think about getting your toms in

Tomatoes need sun to ripen the fruit
Tomatoes need sun to ripen the fruit
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It won’t be all that long – three weeks – before we can plant some tomato plants outdoors.

So before filling up the garden with other plants, consider a nice warm spot for the toms. The warmer the place where they are to be grown the better, as tomatoes are one of the tenderest of plants. They hate cold soil and the wind too.

A sunny place is ideal because we need the sunshine to ripen the fruit, otherwise we’ll end up with half a hundredweight of green tomato chutney!

When I was a boy the plants were not put out into the garden until the first week in June, but in most areas it will be possible to plant them during the third week in May. We must watch out for frosts though because they will damage the plants, thus reducing the crop. Or in very severe frosts, the plants may actually die.

If you aren’t sure, then wait. What is a good idea is to re-pot the plants from their three-inch pots into the next size pot and they will continue to grow. You can do this if you think they may be starving.

Before planting the plants, they must be hardened off. This means if you have them in the greenhouse or a cold frame, then about a week before they are to be planted you should place them outdoors in their pots during the day and then bring them back indoors for the first three days. After that they can be left outside, but keep an eye on the weather forecasts for frosts so that they can either be covered or brought back indoors until the frost has gone.

Now is the time to fork the area of ground over to a depth of about a foot. If you have some well-rotted compost or manure, calculate you will need about a gallon bucket measure of manure for each plant.

Fork this in and then, once the bed is ready, spread over 4ozs of Vitax Q4 fertiliser to each square yard and lightly rake it into the soil.

By the time the plants are ready to plant, the fertiliser will already be working in the soil. Before planting, insert 5ft-long stout sticks so that about four feet is above soil level and then the plants are planted and tied into the stakes.

What’s the point of growing plants and then stabbing that wonderful root system with a great stake!

Use a hand trowel to knock the plant out of its pot. Don’t disturb the roots, leave a circular ridge shape of soil around the plant to ensure future waterings will stay within the ridge and then give each plant a good drink.

Quite a few gardeners plant the flower pot alongside the newly-planted tomato so that the pot can be filled with water. This ensures the water goes down to the roots and is not evaporated in the very hot weather.

Outdoor tomatoes will provide four trusses of fruit and, if we have a good summer, all fruits on the first three trusses will ripen.