Tomato Plant Care

Do you dream of a huge crop of delicious homegrown tomatoes? While tomatoes are not all that tricky to grow, there are some easy tricks every gardener should know to maximise their chances of success. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to guarantee that your tomato plants will be laden with an abundant crop!

8 Top Tips For Growing Tomatoes

There is nothing quite like the sweet, sunkissed flavour of a homegrown tomato! No home vegetable garden is complete without a crop of tomatoes, freshly picked for snacks and salads or added to family-favourite meals. But while tomatoes are relatively simple and low-maintenance plants to grow, following these essential tips will guarantee the best possible yield.


Tomatoes must be grown in a sunny location sheltered from the wind. These heat-loving plants will sulk if exposed to cold temperatures, causing slower growth and reduced crop yields. If you don’t have a suitable spot in your vegetable garden for tomatoes, consider growing them in containers or growbags on a sunny patio area instead. Another great alternative is to use hanging baskets to grow smaller bush tomatoes on a balcony or decking area to maximise sun exposure.

Although tomatoes can be grown outdoors in the UK, growing them undercover helps to guarantee the regular and consistent warmth that tomatoes need to grow and ripen. If growing large quantities of tomatoes is your goal, consider adding a greenhouse, polytunnel, or small growhouse to your vegetable growing area.

Soil preparation

Once you’ve selected the perfect location to grow tomatoes, the next step is to prepare the soil. Tomato plants grow best in rich, loamy soil that holds water well without becoming waterlogged. Clay or sandy soils should be amended with plenty of well-rotted compost or soil conditioner before planting seedlings, and larger stones and rocks should be removed.

Traditionally, garden soil would be dug over before planting tomatoes, creating a fine tilth into which roots can quickly become established. However, many modern-day gardeners opt for the ‘no dig’ approach, where the soil is disturbed as little as possible, and weeds are mulched or hoed as they appear. In this system, compost is spread on the soil surface rather than digging it in.

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When growing tomatoes in containers, use a soil mix designed specifically for tomatoes and other fruiting crops. This will provide all the nutrients and moisture levels to allow young plants to thrive and become well-established.


Young tomato seedlings are ready for transplanting when they are 3-4 inches tall and have at least three sets of true leaves. At this stage, they should have a well-developed root ball but are not so big that they will suffer from transplant shock.

Before transplanting tomato seedlings outside, it is vital to ensure the soil is warm enough and that the weather conditions are suitable for these tender young plants. Make sure that all risk of frost has passed, and, if possible, pick a date when a period of mild weather is forecast. If the spring has been particularly cold, placing black plastic on the ground a few weeks beforehand can help warm the soil.

To transplant tomato seedlings, dig a small hole in the soil with a trowel – around double the height and width of the rootball is sufficient. Tomatoes are quite unusual as they can be planted deeper than most seedlings and will send out new roots from any part of the underground stem. Tall, leggy seedlings can often be ‘rescued’ by planting them much deeper than usual.

Gently ease the seedling from its container, holding it by the leaves rather than the stem to reduce the risk of damage. Place the rootball into the planting hole, filling the gaps with good-quality compost. Press down gently to firm the soil – a slight indentation around the plant helps to prevent water from draining away when watering.

To help your tender young seedlings become accustomed to their new location, consider protecting them from wind and cold temperatures with fleece or cloches. Water little and often until the roots have a chance to become well-established.


Tomato plants can grow very tall and need sturdy supports to prevent the fruit-laden stems from snapping. It is far easier to place supports when seedlings are planted out, and this also avoids disturbing the delicate root system.

The simplest way to support a tomato plant is with a single cane, but it must be tied every few weeks as it grows taller. Fruit cages and teepees are slightly more complicated to construct but, once in place, require no extra attention. Tomatoes grown undercover can be twisted up garden twine tied onto the roof structure.

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Tomatoes originate from tropical regions and, as well as warmth, need plenty of water to support their rapid growth and heavy yields. Insufficient water will lead to wilting and poor growth, and the long-term effects can be disastrous for your eagerly-anticipated crop. Additionally, fluctuating soil moisture levels are the leading cause of blossom-end rot, as the plant roots cannot access sufficient calcium from the soil.

How often tomato plants are watered depends on the soil type and weather conditions. Sandy soil dries out quickly, particularly in hot weather, and may need daily watering. Clay soils retain moisture well and may only need watering two or three times per week. Of course, outdoor-grown tomatoes will not need watering as frequently during periods of rainy weather.

To test whether tomato plants need watering, pull back the top inch of soil – if it is moist underneath, watering is not required. Overwatering can be as detrimental as underwatering, so a quick check is always best.

Tomatoes should always be watered at ground level to avoid splashing water onto the foliage. This helps to keep humidity levels low and reduces the risk of fungal diseases. Drip irrigation is a great way to provide consistent moisture to tomato plants and can help reduce overall water usage.


Tomatoes are notoriously hungry feeders; soil rich in organic matter will provide enough nutrients for vigorous growth, but extra fertiliser can greatly increase crop yields. The best time to apply extra nutrients is when the first small fruits appear, this is the time to use a high potassium fertiliser; and a general one before the flowering starts. Feeding tomatoes is essential for healthy plants and a bountiful harvest.

Compost tea is a simple and effective natural fertiliser for tomato plants. Well-rotted compost is steeped in water to extract nutrients. This is then diluted to make a weak tea-coloured liquid and used to water tomato plants weekly throughout the cropping season. Alternatively, many home gardeners swear by liquid feed for tomatoes made from banana peels, comfrey leaves, or nettles.


Regular pruning is essential to boost tomato plant yields and reduce the risk of various diseases. Bush-like determinate tomato plants require simple thinning to improve airflow, but taller indeterminate plants need more regular attention.

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During the initial stages of growth, the only pruning that indeterminate tomatoes need is the removal of the lowest sets of leaves. As the plants grow taller, you will notice small side shoots appearing at the point where the base of each leaf meets the stem. These sideshoots should be carefully pinched out to encourage fruit production.

Later in the summer, as the risk of blight increases, start to remove older leaves and obsolete fruit trusses from the lower portion of the plant. This will increase airflow and reduce humidity, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.

Toward the end of the growing season, pinching out the tip of the main stem is good practice. This prevents new flowers from developing, focusing the plant’s resources on ripening any remaining fruit.

Pest and disease control

Luckily, tomato plants grown in the UK are not normally targeted by many pests – aphids and spider mites can be problematic but are easy to control using natural methods. Good companion plants for tomatoes include marigolds, nasturtium, and basil,  all of which help to repel pests and attract beneficial pollinators. If a pest infestation should occur, remove any affected leaves and apply fertilizer to help boost plant growth. Homemade garlic spray is an excellent natural remedy for pest infestations on tomato plants.

However, one big problem affecting UK-grown tomato plants is blight, a fungal-like disease that spreads rapidly in warm, wet weather. Just three days of mild, humid weather conditions allow blight to take hold. Blight is such a significant issue in the UK that it pays to check plants every day for signs of this fast-spreading problem.

The home grower must be vigilant for signs of blight, as once this disease takes hold, the whole crop can be lost. Early blight causes leaves to turn yellow and eventually drop off, while late blight leads to browning of the leaves, stems, and fruits. All affected plants should be removed and burned to reduce the spread of this problematic disease.

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