Tomato 'Shirley' F1 Hybrid - Seed
Grow your own tomatoes
Tomato seeds require no prior treatment although steeping them in lukewarm water for 12 hours encourages germination.Sowing
Tomato plants love the heat and can be sown indoors in a mini greenhouse (or in a simple seeding tray) or in the greenhouse from the beginning of March. Combining the use of turf pots filled with good potting compost and a mini greenhouse is the easiest. Perfect if you can also provide some heat on the bottom of the tray or mini greenhouse. Use 1 seed per pot, planted 0.5 cm deep and covered with some potting compost, then stand them on a sunny window-sill. Depending on temperature they should germinate within 10 days, after which you can reduce humidity in the mini greenhouse by opening the slides (or pricking through the plastic held up by bamboo skewers covering the tray). After 5 days, the seedlings will then be acclimatised and they can be potted up to larger pots.
Tomatoes thrive in the greenhouse but also grow very well outdoors, always choose a warm, sheltered spot. Tomatoes were brought from South America by the Spaniards and then proceeded to conquer the world. Tomato plants overlap seeking support so the stem needs help from the cane to grow strong. Compact varieties do fine in pots. Those grown in the greenhouse can easily reach 2 metres in height, the same varieties grown outdoors will not be so tall. Canes of 1.5 metres are usually sufficient – In the greenhouse for extra height, use twine twisted along the main stem from bottom to top and wrap it around the main stem.Use
Fresh toms are best NOT kept in the fridge – do not leave them in a plastic bag or they may go mouldy. Also we suggest if they are wet to dry them off before storing. Green tomatoes will ripen and turn red on a window-sill and will last for up to 2 weeks. Store with ripe apples and bananas in a paper bag to speed up the ripening process (the ripe apples and bananas emit ethylene which in turn initiates the ripening in the toms). Cherry tomatoes are both fruits and vegetables and very healthy containing vitamin C, minerals and lycopene – the latter gives the red colouring and are an antioxidant which helps prevent all sorts of disease. Cooking them makes the lycopene work even better. Tomatoes can be used in so many recipes. Wonderful in salads and great when picked and fresh. Many children find these tasty tomatoes preferable to sweet fruit as a snack during school breaks. Beef toms make great sauces, soups and curries. Green tomatoes are great for chutneys or a tasty tomato marmalade. Delicious on bread, great as garnish.
Your tomato plants can go outdoors when all chance of frost is passed and night temps are above 12°C. Do harden off first – gradually acclimatise them to being outside by standing them in the shade outdoors for one hour longer every day for a week. After a week, pot up – a large pot may contain up to 3 plants. Stand the large pots in full sun.
When planting in the garden, use a sheltered sunny spot in rows 70 cm apart. Tie each plant to a cane. Remove side shoots to encourage growth upwards. Tie up new growth and remove other new side shoots weekly. Shrub forming or hanging tomatoes require neither cane nor removal of shoots. Tomatoes grown outdoors need all the energy to go to the growing tip and for the formation of the flowers to produce fruit.
Tomatoes generally pollinate themselves but (bumble) bees will help too. However, to encourage fruiting, you can gently shake the main stem or cane – but be careful not to damage the plant. When the first bunches of fruit appear, remove the lower leaves for their development. Tomatoes respond well with a regular feed of Bakker's tomato fertiliser! Tomatoes in the greenhouse usually grow taller so will require longer canes or even twine stretched from roots to the top of the plant. When watering avoid wetting the leaves – water directly under the plant around the base - best is to water the soil.
Water extra in dry periods, keep the beds free of weed and your plants will thrive.
Use both hands when harvesting to avoid damaging the plant. Use a sharp knife and Just cut the fruit loose - either the whole bunch or just one tomato at a time. The longer you leave them hanging, the redder (or one of the other colours) they will become. Outdoor plants should yield 5-8 bunches per plant. In the greenhouse, you can get as much as 2 or 3 times more than that. You can also pick the tomatoes and allow them to turn red on the window-sill. This provides energy to the plant which allows the plant to make new fruit giving you a bigger harvest. At the end of the season, it's great to just harvest all the green ones and either let them turn red indoors or perhaps use them for your favourite chutney.