Growing tomatoes in the cold climate of Scotland. Yup it is possible.

I think it’s fair to say that tomatoes have been one of my favourite things to grow over the past couple of years but I hear all the time that you can’t grow tomatoes in the Scottish climate.  Yet I grow lots, blue tomatoes, purple tomatoes, red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, even stripy tomatoes.

So what’s the trick?

Well simply, it’s about choosing the right variety for the space you have to grow them. Let me explain. You get two types of tomato plants determinate (bush type) or indeterminate (also called cordon). Determinate tomato plants grow as a bush, they are usually compact and all the fruits ripen at pretty much the same time. They don’t need a lot of staking or pruning. Indeterminate tomato plants grow to be tall, very tall, sometimes over 6 feet and continue to grow and produce fruit until they are killed off usually by cold weather. They also need a lot more care and maintenance, lots of pruning.

Within these plant types there are lots of different varieties which in turn will all have different positives and negatives for you as a grower. For example, the bigger beefsteak type tomatoes take a lot of sunlight to ripen, so if your garden doesn’t get a lot of direct sun or if your summer season is short, then these can be difficult to grow. The little cherry varieties, however, can be easier as they need a little less sunlight to ripen.

I am lucky because I have a greenhouse, which means I can have the tomato plants growing for an extended season, meaning when the weather changes in Scotland and we start to get cold and even frost (which is much earlier here than other parts of the UK, I can keep my plants safe in the greenhouse, unaffected. If I was growing my plants outdoors, I’d have to take this into consideration and chose a variety which would ripen quickly to get the best of the shorter season.

So here are some of my very quick tips for growing tomatoes.


You can plant your tomatoes directly into the soil or into pots. I prefer pots as this gives me the option to move things around in the greenhouse. If you use pots, make sure they are a decent size, your tomato plants get quite big. I usually go for around a ten-inch pot with good quality compost. You can also use grow bags, but try to keep it to one or two plants per grow bag.


This is one of the most important parts of growing tomatoes and I can’t stress enough how important it is to water your plants regularly and evenly.  The reason I say this is because if you neglect the plant, even just a little and then suddenly try to catch up on the watering, the skins can split, meaning you are likely to get mould growing in the fruit. Try to keep a strict watering regimen.


Feeding your plants is essential, once they start to flower you need to feed them weekly with a good, balanced fertiliser. After all the plants are making lots of fruit for you so they need lots of nutrition.


Your plants will need support, especially when they are full of heavy fruit. I use canes and wires to support mine. You can also buy cages especially for growing tomato plants but basically, you just need to find a way to keep them upright and support heavy branches.


Determinate varieties (bush) should have their side shoots removed from below the first truss of fruit to allow air and light to penetrate and prevent disease. Try not to remove too many shoots after this as it will reduce your crop so keep them “bushy”.

Indeterminate varieties (cordon) should be encouraged to keep only one or two main stems. Remove any “suckers” by pinching out the growing tips from the leaf joints. These plants will be tall.

Remove “suckers” from your tomato plants

With both types, you may have to regularly remove excess leaves to allow sunlight and air to reach the fruit and help it to ripen.

Good luck with your tomato growing, I hope you guys will get as much fun and pleasure from growing tomatoes as I do, and remember, there are lots of types to grow, so be brave and try at least one that’s not a standard red salad tomato?

Once you have a gut of tomatoes and don’t know what do do with, take a look at some of our tomato recipes to help.

Tomato chutney

Tomato and red pepper soup

Summer pasta

Some of our other posts on growing tomatoes

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  1. Dear Eli

    I just stumbled over your article about growing tomatoes.

    Since I am a huge fan of gardening and growing my own vegetables I wanted to thank you for the tips you have shared.

    BTW, what do you think about my resource on growing tomatoes? I did my best to cover everything in-depth, and although I’m a little biased I think it is a nice detailed guide for new gardeners 🙂

    I would love if I could get a feedback on it from an expert like you. I’m doing my best to get this in front of people who could really benefit from it, so if you even decide to share the article with your own readers, I would really appreciate it 🙂

    Thanks again,

  2. Hi Alexander,
    thanks for your comment.

    I’m afraid I have quite strict rules about good manners and I don’t allow my comments section to be used to promote websites etc without a prior conversation. I hope you understand.

    I did have a quick look at your site though and it looks clean and simple and has a lot of info. I couldn’t find any details about you though? The site implies you are a farmer but the content seems to be more for gardeners so I wasn’t sure who you were aiming your site at. Might be useful to make this clear so that search engines and potential readers know if the site is for them.

    If you think your site would be useful to our readers here at Ar Bruidair I’d be absolutely more than happy to discuss with you.

    Best wishes,

  3. Dear Eli,
    Many thanks for your tips and advice. Although I have used my greenhouse for growing tomatoes and cucumbers for many years, this year I am growing cherry tomatoes and cucumbers outside for the first time. I appreciate that the season will be a bit shorter in Scotland and I wondered how many trusses I should allow on my plants before stopping them to allow them sufficient time to grow successfully?.
    Also, I was unable to buy All Female cucumber seeds this year due to the covid shortage and my plants are taking longer to produce fruit bearing flowers and do not have the abundance of them as in all female plants. Can you tell me if this is normal.
    Kind regards.

  4. Hey Ian,
    I’m afraid I don’t grow cucumbers so I can’t really give you any advice on that. I know with my courgettes, pumpkins etc there were always more male flowers than female, but the first couple were always female and went unfertilised. Usually they caught up though.

    As for tomatoes outdoors in Scotland. I’ve never actually managed to get any tomato fruit when I was trying to grow outdoors but a quick google search says 4 trusses outdoors versus 6 in the greenhouse, so maybe try that and see how you go. You can adjust as need be with each season and lessons learned.

  5. Hey Eli,
    I was so looking forward to making your elderflower champagne today using dried flowers and under the guidance of your video tutorials but they have gone . Please please load these on with instructions again ASAP.
    Best wishes

  6. Sorry, but I have deliberately taken all of that material down because I simply couldn’t keep up with the number of emails, social media contact and comments they generated.

    Sorry, I won’t be putting it up again, but there are, however, plenty of other fantastic resources online that folk can use.

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