WELL, it’s been great gardening weather and (with lighter nights) a great time to complete a lot of tasks, although one I started over Christmas is still keeping me busy!

That task is seed sowing. Most of my sowing has been under cover and using heated seed propagators, but now, given the warm weather, I’ve been able to prepare a few seed beds in the veg garden to directly sow some brassicas such as cabbage and cauliflower and have also begun direct sowings of beans and peas.

I’m still busy pricking off several seedlings which have been germinated by my heated propagator, particularly my tomato seedlings which I have potted up into 9cm pots. I’m growing two types – the cordon varieties Nimbus and an old favourite called Alicante, along with tumbling varieties Tom Red and Tom Yellow.

Cordon varieties are those grown with a single stem and normally supported with a cane – you pinch out the side shoots as they develop, growing to around 1.5metres and producing around five to six trusses. Tumbling varieties are those which are low growing, though bushy in habit and ideal for growing in baskets where it will tumble down the side of the basket, hence the name.

These varieties don’t need their side shoots removing, and as such they tend to produce many more flower trusses, with smaller fruits called cherry tomatoes.

The tomato is – of course – a fruit as it contains the seeds of the plant. However, in cooking, the tomato is often referred as a vegetable because its used in savoury dishes rather than sweet dishes.

Rhubarb has the same confusion as its red stems – which are often referred as the fruits and are used in sweet dishes – actually mean it is a vegetable.

Back to tomatoes. There are many varieties to choose from – almost too many! Most are grown as cordon, either under cover or outdoors. Tumbling varieties are becoming popular for growing in baskets or pots on the patio, and the beefsteak types which produce huge size tomatoes. The fruiting colour of tomatoes is just as varied, and although we mostly see them in red, tomato fruits do come in many other colours, ranging from yellow to black, and there are even bi-coloured tomatoes, such as Green Zebra.

The shape of the tomato can vary enormously. Most common is the salad tomato, followed by the cherry tomato and other shapes include the plum and the beefsteak I mentioned earlier. However, other odd-shaped tomatoes include torpedo (such as Casady’s Folly) and pear-shaped (such as Yellow Pear and Red Pear).

Regardless of what type of tomato you wish to grow, they all start off as seeds which need germinating – and if you haven’t done so there is still time to sow. Ideally this should be done indoors, in a pot on the windowsill or using a heated propagator where germination will be quick, normally around five to seven days. When large enough to handle they need to be picked off into 9cm pots using a good compost and grown on under cover/ frost free for a few weeks. there’s no need to feed them at this stage.

If you are growing in a greenhouse or poly tunnel, these can be planted into grow bags or large tomato pots at the beginning of May, and outdoor varieties around the end of May.

Whether growing under cover or outdoor, tomatoes do require a lot of watering, particularly if growing in pots. They also like it humid which helps the plant to set fruit. If tomatoes are not watered correctly they suffer from blossom end rot, when the fruit develops a black patch as its forming. Aphids can also be a nuisance – organic sprays, such as natural Pyrethrum, will help to control them.

Feeding is also important, and you should start feeding them when you see small fruits forming on the first-flowering trusses. As the tomato plants mature, remove leaves which show signs of yellowing as they age, and this will also allow more air and light around the fruit to help ripening.