Monty Don shares his secret for maximizing your tomato harvest

TV gardening expert Monty Don reveals the one thing you need to do to boost the number of fruits from your tomato plants

harvesting tomatoes
(Image credit: Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images)

When it comes to the superiority of what you can grow in your own garden over supermarket produce, tomatoes are an object lesson. The aroma and taste of a tomato straight from the garden really is a world apart.

If you’re a firm believer in growing your own tomatoes, you might well have planted yours out already. But if you haven’t done so yet, get on the case. Celebrated gardener, broadcaster and author Monty Don has reminded us that it’s time to plant them.

Even better, he’s shared the secret of getting a larger harvest of fruits from your plants. Want to find out how? Just scroll down for the inside track from Monty. And for more on how to grow tomatoes, check out our guide.

Monty Don’s top tips on maximizing your tomato harvest

Grow your own tomatoes

(Image credit: Future)

Monty Don revealed the secret of maximizing your tomato harvest on his website. We’re sharing his top tips below along with some of our own. 

1. Let’s begin with the reminder from Monty that it is the moment to plant out tomatoes if you haven’t done so. 

2. Don’t forget that tomato plants need be hardened off before planting. To begin with the plants should be moved outdoors for a few hours a day, building up the time spent outside over a couple of weeks. The harsher conditions can check their growth otherwise.

3. Whether you're growing vegetables in pots or planting your tomatoes in raised garden beds, you should bury the plants deeply, Monty says. The idea is to go right up to the bottom leaf because the buried section of the stem will develop extra roots, he explains.

harvesting tomatoes

(Image credit: Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images)

4. As the plants grow, you have the power to influence the size of the harvest. The trick, Monty explains, is to look out for the shoots the plants form between leaves and stem as they grow – in other words, the sideshoots.

They grow vigorously, Monty says, and they will produce fruit. However, this takes energy from the plant, lowers the harvest overall and makes cordon plants – aka vine tomatoes – straggly.

Bear in mind that bush (otherwise known as determinate) tomatoes, which are shorter and, er, bushy and which don’t need staking like cordon tomatoes, will not need sideshoot removal. Trailing varieties grown as part of your hanging basket ideas don’t either.

5. The sideshoots need to be removed when they appear for the best tomato harvest in the long run, but how you do this will depend on what time of day you perform your tomato care, Monty reveals.

Ideally, you should remove the sideshoots in the morning. That way, they can be broken off just using your finger and thumb, according to Monty.

Doing the job in the evening? Monty says the plants will be limper. In that case the sideshoots need cutting off with a knife to avoid tearing the plant.

6. Don’t forget that you’ll need to water tomato plants regularly as they grow, keeping the soil evenly moist. If the water supply is uneven, the skins of the fruits can split. This won’t change their taste but often allows mould to grow. You should feed them regularly, too, with a liquid feed made for tomatoes.

Want more tips on getting a healthier crop? Head over to guide on companion planting for advice on what to grow alongside tomatoes to protect them from pests. 

Sarah Warwick
Freelance writer

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes and gardens and loves investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper.