Tomato pics to follow

ONE of this particular gardener's delights is the charming letters and e-mails I receive from readers of this column.

One such came from Eleanor Hewitt, who will be 83 years young this year and whose wit is evergreen.

She tells me she has just had for her lunch the last nine cherry toms from her greenhouse and still has a couple of pounds in her freezer to make soup for the rest of the winter.

“The harvest was all thanks to you — or was it Monty Don on TV? — I took six cuttings from last year's tomato plants and they all grew!

“If I ever get to meet you I will buy you a drink!!”

Sadly, it will be Monty who gets the claret and not me a pint of bitter, because I have not written about the cuttings technique.

When I get back from Nepal — Coronavirus permitting — I will be growing at least four varieties in my greenhouse and taking cuttings.

Gardener's Delight, from Thompson&Morgan is an old favourite. It is a perfect cherry tom, both sweet and tangy and without the woolly texture of so many of the supermarket fruit.

F1 Brandy Boy, from Suttons, also has 'heritage' tomato flavour and is larger, while Rosella, also from Suttons, is a cherry type with an attractive dark blush and unique slightly smoky flavour I have always liked.

I will definitely have Ruby Falls from Dobies' Rob Smith range again. They have been bred as compact plants with long trusses of small fruit occurring more frequently than other varieties with not too many seeds inside the fruit.

For cuttings, as the plants mature, unwanted side shoots of about six inches long can be utilised from the mother plant and can easily be rooted in a glass of water on a windowsill or the greenhouse.

Pop them in a large pot to give a late flush of fruit, especially if the greenhouse is warm, enabling you to extend that delicious taste experience, a la Eleanor.

Alternately, tomato seeds should be sown in a heated propagator this month.

Top Tips

Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost. Take care not to mound mulch up around the trunks.

Cover strawberries with a cloche to encourage earlier fruiting.

Mulch rhubarb with a thick layer of well-rotted manure to keep it healthy and reduce moisture loss through the soil. Take care not to cover the crown.

Protect the blossoms of apricots, peaches and nectarines from late frost with a screen or horticultural fleece.

Dig compost, well-rotted manure or green waste into your vegetable beds to prepare for the growing season ahead. Dig in a thick layer as soon as the soil becomes workable.

Cover prepared beds with sheets of black plastic or old carpet to keep it drier and warmer in preparation for planting.

Build a compost bin before the growing season gets started.

Begin weeding. It’s much easier to control weeds if you remove them while they’re still young.