Sweet promise of tomatoes
Friday, May 30, 2014 - 14:38
RESCUE from my blighted start to the season — thanks to slugs and snails — came from unexpected quarters.
I held back one of Eddie Grove’s Queen of Hearts tomatoes for myself but that was my only mature specimen after the attack of the gastropods — until, that is, the Island’s former High Sheriff and British seed company D. T. Brown rode to the rescue.
I swapped one of Eddie’s precious Queens for a New Zealand variety ex-sheriff Mary Case has kept in the family since a visit there two decades ago by saving seed year on year.
Bred by a Mr Helm, Mary promised me it was very sweet and had no acid content.
Then, D. T. Brown sent me its grafted tomato collection after I had gone on about it in a previous column, although it was lacking the one I was really looking forward to — the Russian Black Prince.
It has been ages since I received live plants through the post but these arrived fresh as daisies in their own little 'greenhouse’, all ready to be planted out in my newly prepared beds.
It was highly impressive packaging and handling by the carrier because hardly a crumb of compost was spilled.
Snails had despatched my early tomatoes and only now are the next generation of my grown-from-seed plants becoming large enough to resist attack.
So, added to the grafted varieties — Shirley, Supersweet and Country Taste — will be Thompson and Morgan’s Rosella, a rosy red cherry tomato which looks just my cup of tea, Mary’s Antipodean, that old standby Moneymaker, which used to be the tomato but which has probably been overtaken, and another favourite, Sungold.
Rosella is promised to have high levels of sweetness and acidity and has lots of thin-skinned fruits.
The cordon variety can be grown in the greenhouse or in a sheltered, sunny spot outdoors.
The grafted varieties should not be planted as deeply as traditionally produced plants.
The graft line should be above ground, whereas ungrafted should be planted deep because roots are produced from the stems.
Shirley is the D. T. Brown favourite. Tried and tested to deliver sweet and juicy tomatoes from heavy cropping plants, it is early to mature and very reliable. Supersweet has a heavy crop of small, sweet, red cherry tomatoes.
This prolific fruiter was also in the top three of the 2007 Tastiest Tomato competition.
Country Taste is a really meaty, beefsteak tomato — perfect in sandwiches, with a burger or simply drizzled with olive oil in a salad.
The fruits are said to have a full, rich flavour and can each weigh up to 1lb. The plants are notably disease-resistant.
Sungold has small golden yellow-orange tomatoes with the sweetest flavour of any.
Because it looks so good and is so sweet, it is the perfect way of attracting children to tomatoes.
It is very prolific and if kept frost free, and the tips not pinched out, Sungold will crop until November, smaller fruit ripening even when light levels are low.
These are more varieties than I have grown in recent years and it will be interesting to compare grafted against non-grafted for taste and yield when each grafted plant costs the same as a packet of F1 seed.
Colin Rushby, from Shanklin, sent me this handy hint.
"Those sideshoots you nip out from your tomato plants are easy and quick to turn into new plants — especially useful if, like me, you suddenly spot a six-inch or more sideshoot that wasn’t there yesterday!
"Put the shoot into wet compost, stand the pot on a saucer of water and place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. In seven to ten days, the shoot will have rooted and you have a plant to give away or provide a late supply of your favourite tomato."
Companion planting: Try growing tomatoes with French marigolds to deter whitefly, and basil, chives or mint to deter aphids and other pests.
What a difference a year makes for garden
BLUE Haze in Beachfield Road, Bembridge, opens for the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) tomorrow (Saturday).
"This year, things are very different when compared to last year," said owner, coastal gardener Gerry Price.
"Admittedly, the garden has had another year to mature but the contrast in the two photographs shows how much further on everything is this year.
"I hope people who came last year will re-visit and enjoy seeing everything in full bloom."
Gerry has planted some new areas and has new plants in established areas too.
Like last year, he is opening for NGS charities in conjunction with 1 White Cottages in the High Street, Bembridge.
They will both be welcoming visitors between 11am and 4pm, selling plants and serving home-made cakes and tea in the garden.
Combined admission is £3, children free.
New to the NGS fold is Rhys and Nicola Nigh’s Saxons, in Kemming Road, Whitwell.
It is a garden 19 years in the making, with three terraces and as many ponds and rare or unusual trees and border shrubs.
A stream flows through it and sculptures add further interest.
Admission between 11am and 5pm on Sunday is again £3 and children go free.
Seven gardens are opening this year in Freshwater Bay on Sunday, June 1, from 2pm to 5pm in aid of the Freshwater Independent Lifeboat and the Freshwater Bay Residents’ Association projects’ fund.
Visitors can start at any garden, and see all seven for just £3. There is the added bonus of tea and cake at a couple and plants for sale at several.
The gardens are:
Bakers Farmhouse, Gate Lane, owned by Jane and Kirk Wolley Dod — one-and-a-half acres with an informal rose garden among its attractions.
Japonica Lodge. Victoria Road, owned by Felicity and Michael Wareham — mixed borders and small kitchen garden.
Steepdown Cottage, Blackbridge Road, owned by Irene Baggott — a garden of two halves, exposed and sheltered.
Well Close, Blackbridge Road, owned by Judith and Sandy Hunt — a large garden, flowers, fruit and vegetables, hens, log piles and more.
Lisarda, off Gate Lane, owned by Susan and Derrick Ross — a medium-sized coastal garden only 200 yards from the Bay.
Westbourne, The Square, owned by Eileen and Brian Leach — a medium-sized garden with mixed borders and fuschia collection.
Havelock House, Gate Lane, owned by James and Dorothy Day, Alan Sheward — re-planted in 2007 with herbaceous borders, shrubs and bulbs. Low maintenance.
"Once again we are delighted at the generosity of people opening their gardens to provide an absorbing afternoon garden trail and raise valuable funds at the same time," said the association’s Judith Hunt.