When to grow tomatoes if you want a bumper crop of extra tasty toms this summer

It's going to be a deliciously Mediterranean summer, tomato fans...

Tomatoes growing alongside a brick wall
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some people think knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Gardeners, on the other hand, are of the opinion that true knowledge is knowing when to grow tomatoes, especially if you want a bumper crop of delicious red goodies in time for salad and pasta season!

That's right; it's not just enough to know how to grow tomatoes (or how to utilise our favourite tomato tapping hack to perfection), because they won't have a chance to shine like the garden stars they are if you plant them at the wrong time.

Thankfully, tomatoes really are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, so once you've got the timings sussed, you'll be well on your way to a summer filled with bruschetta and BLTs... depending on your preference.

When to grow tomatoes

Tomato plant in terracotta pot in a greenhouse at Chelsea Flower Show.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Heather Young)

'If you want to harvest some of the most delicious of all the homegrown crops, it has to be tomatoes – they are so much more tasty homegrown than any you can buy in the supermarket,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

With that in mind, then, when to grow tomatoes if you want a perfect crop come harvesttime. 

'February and March is the best time to start sowing tomato seeds undercover,' says Morris, noting that doing so extends the season and enhances that all-important tomatoey flavour (making tomatoes one of the best things to grow in February).

Of course, there are some who believe the earlier the better. 'For the best tomatoes, start your seeds off in a pot indoors as early as January,' suggests Craig Wilson, co-founder, director and in-house gardening expert at Gardeners Dream.

Craig Wilson at Gardeners Dream
Craig Wilson

Craig Wilson, co-founder and director of Gardener's Dream Ltd has established himself as a key figure in the online gardening industry. With over two decades of plant knowledge and gardening experience, he takes pride in sharing his top tips and tricks for the garden.

'After around two months, you can transport them to your garden when the weather gets a bit milder,' he adds, pointing out that 'tomatoes generally take around five months to grow, so should be ready to harvest by June or July.'

Where to buy tomato seeds

That being said, you can sow seeds successfully later in spring if you are growing them outside, too.

'Aim for March to mid-April at the latest,' advises Morris. 'Tomatoes tend to grow better in UK weather planted undercover in a greenhouse or polytunnel, but many will acclimatise to growing outside if looked after well.'

Craig agrees, noting that late-March is 'the best time to start planting outdoors as the temperatures will have picked up'. 

'Tomatoes need temperatures between 15 and 32 °C to grow well,' he points out.

tomatoes in pots in greenhouse on white shelving in greenhouse

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp/Future PLC)

Of course, if you do skip the indoor period and grow your tomatoes outside, it's vital you make sure they are in a sunny, sheltered position.

'Keep an eye on them for blight, too,' says Morris. 'Blight is an air borne disease that turns the leaves brown and black, before eventually destroying the plant. Undercover tomatoes can sometimes avoid blight if it is in the air.'


Which month is best for growing tomatoes?

For the very best tomatoes, it's advisable to start your seeds off indoors between January and March, before popping them outdoors in a sunny position after two months.

If you're planning on planting your seeds outdoors, then it's best to wait until April when temperatures have picked up. Remember, though, that they will need around five months to grow and ripen, so adjust your harvest times accordingly.

What is the latest month to plant tomatoes?

May is the latest you can sow tomato seeds. If it gets much later than this, you can still hop on the tomato bandwagon: you'll just have to buy pre-grown plants from your local garden centre and pop them outdoors.

Can I grow tomatoes all year round?

In the right conditions, tomatoes can thrive all year round: they just need plenty of warmth and sunshine, so you will need to make use of a greenhouse or sunny windowsill when temperatures dip outside.

We don't know about you, but we're convinced that knowing when to grow tomatoes is half the battle. Anyone else tempted to start sowing a few seeds right about now...?

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.