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The tomato originated in the Andes, South America where they grow wild. They were first grown by the Aztecs and Incas as early as 700 AD. The tomato plant arrived in Europe and the UK in the 16th century.

They were brought back from Central America by the Spanish Conquistadors, while another legend suggests that two Jesuit priests brought them to Italy from Mexico.


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Latin Name
Lycopersicon esculentum

Perennial, grown as an annual in the UK

Site and Soil
Full sun, well-drained water retentive soil

Plant to Harvest Time
14 weeks but dependent on variety and where grown (e.g. pot or direct in the soil).

How Many?
2 to 3kg (4.5 to 6.5lb) per tomato plant.

At that time they were also known as wolf's peach and Peruvian apple. The Elizabethans in the UK thought the bright red colour of tomatoes was a danger signal and regarded them as dangerous fruits. In fact, tomatoes are related to the nightshade family.

That's enough of the history, fresh from the garden, the tomato is delicious wherever they originated from!

Where To Grow Your Tomatoes

Tomatoes are sub-tropical plants and therefore require a full sun position. This is especially important in most areas of the UK where sunlight and warmth are at a premium even in mid-summer. A position against a wall or fence will give an even better chance of success as long as they can receive sufficient water.

Tomato plants grow very well in raised beds, they appreciate the soil conditions which provide moisture without water-logging. Click here for our page on growing vegetables in raised beds.

How to Grow Tomatoes - Soil Preparation

Two or three weeks before planting, dig the soil over and incorporate as much organic matter as possible. The aim is to make the soil able to retain the moisture needed so much by tomatoes. Incorporating organic matter into the soil has the added benefit that it will help it warm up much quicker compared to dense soils which do not drain well.

Spread a handful or two of fish blood and bone meal over each square metre / yard as you are digging the area over. This will provide a base, long-lasting feed containing many trace elements which tomato plants require for good growth.

How to Grow Tomatoes - When to Sow Seed

Tomatoes are unable to tolerate any degree of frost, the timing for planting/sowing outside is therefore key to successfully growing tomatoes. If the tomato seeds are to be sown directly outside (not really suitable in the cooler UK climates), they must be sown when the soil temperature is (and will remain) above 10�C (50�F) - any lower and the seeds will not germinate. In practical terms this normally means 3 weeks after the last frost date in your area.

Where the seeds are sown under cover (poly tunnels or cloches) or indoors, aim to sow the seeds so that they reach the stage where they can be transplanted outside, three weeks after the last frost date. Click here to view different types of poly-tunnel or cloche online from our recommended suppliers.

Tomato plants plants take roughly 7 weeks from sowing to reach the transplanting stage. They should transplanted outside one or two weeks after your last frost date which is early May in your area. Sow them 7 weeks before you plan to transplant them outside.

How to Grow Tomatoes - Sowing Seed

The following sowing / transplanting methods are available to the amateur gardener in the UK who wants to grow tomatoes outside without the use of a greenhouse.

Click on any method below for a detailed description plus the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Note that we have included the option above of sowing tomato seed directly outside but this is only recommended for the warmest areas of the UK. If your last frost date is past mid-April then sowing seed directly outside is not really an option.


Name: Mike Quinn
Date posted: September 02, 2011 - 07:49 am
Message: To grow tomatoes in containers, could you tell me the minimum depth of soil that will be required

Name: r hodges
Date posted: August 29, 2011 - 04:52 am
Message: i have glut of tomatos this year but are all green could u tell me y

Name: w c roshan
Date posted: July 06, 2011 - 12:20 pm
Message: I need. To know tomato plant can grow in mud

Name: Bob Hill
E-mail: Private
Date posted: June 18, 2011 - 03:00 am
Message: I find the best way to grow tomatoes in my unheated greenhouse is to raise them from seed sown in sterilised compost in disposable plastic "drinkups" transplanting them (plant+compost)into 4"pots when the young plant has grown to around 4" tall and a good root ball has formed. The plants are then grown on until 12" high when they are then transplanted (plant+compost) into bottomless 5 litre plastic pots which sit on circular holes cut in the top of grow-bags. The growbag compost is scooped out first where each hole has been cut for the bottomless pots (2 per growbag) and the young tomato plant put into the empty 5litre pot with its root ball on the bottom of the grow bag. The pot is then filled up with a mixture of sterilised soil and the growbag compost that was removed to which a dessert spoonful of ground rock phosphate has been added and well mixed in. This encourages the plant to develop more roots higher up its stalk and it is having a good root system that will give the plant good strength and growth.
As the plant grows taller keep removing all the lower leaves except the top 4. This allows the plant's strength to develop its FRUIT not its leaves, and also allows more light in to help fruit ripen and provide good air circulation round the plant to prevent any moulds forming.

Name: Akumbong mandella
Date posted: June 02, 2011 - 03:37 pm
Message: I am 23yrs old and a second year Biochemistry student. i have developed an interest in tomatoes cultivation but i do not know on how to start.please sir if you could be of help i will be very grateful,THANKS.

Name: warren ramponi
Date posted: December 13, 2010 - 03:38 am
Message: I am growing tomatos in 5 gallon bags. Can I re-use the same soil in the bags next year or is there an additive I can put in the bags to make the old soil good to go.

Name: chris
E-mail: Private
Date posted: September 08, 2010 - 03:45 pm
Message: I grow gardeners delight tomatoes every year without a problem until this year. My Plants are covered with some kind of green caterpillar and I dont know what to do. Would be gratefull for your advise. Thank you

Name: Kelvin Ngoma
Date posted: September 07, 2010 - 12:17 pm
Message: We are just starting to grow tomatoes. Give us step by step know how/ process

Name: Valerie
Date posted: August 27, 2010 - 08:35 am
Message: Hi
I am growing tomatoes in pots. I have a good crop from several varieties. Bu over the last couple of days I have noticed some of them splitting!!! Can anyone advise me what could be causing this and how to prevent it.

Thank you

Name: William Jacks
Date posted: August 10, 2010 - 12:23 pm
Message: My tomatoes have done well this year but the early ones are not ripening what is the cause and what can i do to halp them

Name: m azeem awan
Date posted: August 04, 2010 - 04:52 am
Message: pls send about tomatoes how to gro

Name: R Stephenson
Date posted: August 03, 2010 - 11:54 am
Message: my tomato plants are growing well with a lot of fruit, do I need to remove some of the leaves so as the plants can get more sun and light and how many leaves do I remove.