Learn what time of the year to grow tomatoes

British weather in the summer is notoriously unpredictable, which can make growing warm-season crops such as tomatoes quite tricky! But when do you grow tomatoes in the UK, and how do we boost our chances of a good yield of delicious home-grown tomatoes?

The tomato growing season in the UK is from May to October; with peak production occurring during the warmer months of July through to September. Tomato plants need consistent warm temperatures to produce a reliable crop, and prolonged periods of cooler weather will result in slow growth and low yields.

The UK tomato season varies slightly depending on whether the tomatoes are grown outdoors or undercover in a greenhouse or polytunnel. The best season for growing tomatoes outdoors in the UK is from late May onwards, after all risk of frost has passed. Tomatoes grown undercover can be planted out sooner but may need to be protected with fleece or cloches if there is any risk of frost.

Can you grow tomatoes all year round in the UK?

The best season for growing tomatoes is in the summer, but some UK growers also have success growing them through the winter in carefully controlled conditions. For tomatoes to produce fruit in the winter, they require artificial heat and lighting, tricking the plants into thinking it is summer.

Are tomatoes grown in the UK in winter?

On a smaller scale, home gardeners can also grow smaller bush tomato plants indoors during the winter months. This is a fun project to try at home, and your efforts may be rewarded with a small yield of deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes during the coldest months of the year.

To grow tomatoes in the winter, they should be treated like a delicate houseplant. They will need a warm, sunny location, away from cold drafts and frequent watering. Artificial grow lights can help speed up growth, and the plants should be gently shaken when the flowers open to improve pollination.

Do tomato plants come back every year?

Although most gardeners grow tomatoes as an annual plant, sowing new seeds every year, these heat-loving plants survive for many years in tropical climates. Most of us sow new tomato seeds every year because they are unlikely to survive the winter months in cooler climates. However, with some care and attention, tomato plants can be nurtured through the winter to produce a second crop the following year.

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To do this, tomato plants must be overwintered in a frost-free and well-ventilated site to reduce the risk of fungal diseases. Smaller potted tomato plants can be overwintered on a sunny windowsill, while larger ones need a heated greenhouse.

A fun way to grow the same tomato plant year after year is to take stem cuttings late in the growing season. Place these cuttings in a jar of water in a warm, sunny location, and wait for roots to develop. Tend to these baby plants through the winter months, and you’ll be rewarded with an early crop of tomatoes the following year.

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