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1 Jun 2022

5 secrets of how to grow the tastiest tomatoes

The Which? Gardening magazine experts share advice from our rigorous growing trials over the years

Home-grown tomatoes are a world away from supermarket ones in terms of flavour and texture. Growing your own is surprisingly easy and you don't even need a greenhouse to do it as they'll thrive in a pot or a growing bag outdoors.

To take your tomatoes to the next level and produce great crops every time, check our tips from years of trialling tomatoes for Which? Gardening magazine.

Grow the tastiest fruits with our Best Buy tomato varieties

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1. Water twice a day

You might be tempted to miss out watering tomatoes occasionally, but they're vulnerable to problems such as blossom-end rot and splitting that are related to frequency of watering. We trialled different watering frequencies and found that watering twice a day largest yield and best quality of fruits. 

Don't despair if you can only water once a day though as this gave the second-largest yield. Watering once a week is definitely not recommended as it gave the smallest yield and fruit. Make sure you water regularly or we found the fruit will be poor quality.

How to deal with blossom end rot and split fruit

2. Feed to get the sweetest tomatoes

Growing your own tomatoes is all about the flavour. Breeders are striving to create sweeter varieties for us to grow in our gardens, and we’re always on the look out for tips on getting the best crop so we were interested to see if how you feed affects tomato sweetness.

We found that feeding is important for sweetness. Liquid feeding with tomato feed produces sweeter fruits for longer but mixing in a controlled-release feed to the compost when planting produces sweet fruits with less effort.

Try a Best Buy tomato feed or controlled-release feed

3. Always grow a blight-resistant variety outdoors

Tomato blight is a devastating fungal-like disease that particularly affects tomatoes grown outdoors. It usually spreads from infected potatoes, is widespread, and there are no chemical treatments available for it. Infection frequently kills plants just as the tomatoes are starting to ripen.

The first signs of attack are usually dark brown spots or blotches on the leaves, which develop fuzzy white growth, especially under the leaves. This spreads quickly to the stems, where very dark lesions or patches appear. The fruit may look healthy at first, but the infection spreads fast and they develop reddish brown patches, which later rot. Unripe fruit, even if picked quickly, will usually rot rather than ripen.

The good news is that there are blight-resistant varieties, such as 'Crimson Crush', which our trials have shown will fruit successfully outdoors and taste great.

Learn more about tomato blight

4. Feed more often for firmer fruits

If you prefer firmer tomatoes with less jelly around the seeds, we've found that feeding more frequently after the second or third fruits appears makes a a difference. You may have heard that not watering for 24 hours before picking makes the flavour more intense but we didn't find this to be true.

5. Don't bother with bananas to ripen green tomatoes

Tomato plants usually keep producing fruit well into late summer, and this inevitably means that as the weather starts to get too cold for the plants to keep growing, they will still be carrying a lot of green tomatoes.

One of the most-common techniques recommended for ripening green tomatoes is to put them with a banana as it will release ethylene which encourages ripening. However, we found that more tomatoes became soft, wrinkled and rotten with this method than in any of the other methods apart from the ones on the greenhouse shelf. We got the best results from placing green tomatoes in a dark place with a gentle, room-temperature level of warmth, such as in a kitchen drawer.

Get more tips about growing the best tomatoes