Small and perfectly formed are the watchwords for this year’s tomatoes – all cherry varieties and in a host of bright colours, some old, some new.
Last year, I did get a massive crop from Green Zebra, but my family hated it, so I decided to stick with the acid/sugar balance in the cherry tomatoes they will all eat.
They’re also the most expensive in the shops, so it makes economic sense to be self-sufficient in them from late June to November fresh.
They are all cordon varieties (upright vines that need support and side-shooting) that need to be grown under glass.
New to me this year are:
Rainbow Blend F1 Hybrid*: A mix of four colours of baby plum shaped fruits – Katiebell (yellow), Lizziebell (orange), Luciebell (red) and Flamingo (pink). Fruit weight 16-20g.
Super Sweet 100: Very long trusses of sweet cherry-sized fruit. Reliable, high-yielding and disease resistant. Fruit 20-25g.
Artisan Mix: Varieties Artisan Blush Tiger (pink blush on golden skin) and Artisan Pink Tiger (pink and gold stripes) – tapering, 5-6cm long fruits, weighing approximately 18-20g.
Old favourites getting another go:
Suncherry Premium F1 Hybrid*: The best tasting, shiny, red cherry tomato. Weight 13-15g.
Rosella: Stunning dark smoky rose flesh and skin with equally good taste – a high sweetness to acid ratio. Long compound trusses with approximately 15g fruits.
Sungold F1 Hybrid*: Usually named as the best-tasting yellow tomato, it is splendid (but Orange Paruche is just as good if you want a change). Approximately 13-14g fruits.
The first seedlings are through, the grow light is on to extend daylight hours so the seedlings don’t get leggy, so watch this space for tomato growing tips and updates.
*F1 hybrids cost a lot more to produce and don’t come true from seed, so they’re much more expensive than other varieties.
SOWING TIME: February-March (only sow very early if you use grow lights). Sow 0.5cm (¼in) deep, thinly in a seed tray and cover with Vermiculite or Perlite, 15-20°C (60-68°F).
HARVESTING TIME: June-November.
ASPECT AND SOIL: Full sun, rich, well-drained.
JOBS TO DO THIS WEEK
Sow seeds in modules/pots in an unheated greenhouse: broad beans, leeks, lettuce, rocket, coriander, peas and Swiss chard. Sow sweet peppers, tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers, aubergines, celery, salads and globe artichokes in a propagator.
Sprinkle granular fertiliser around clumps of spring bulbs.
This is the best month for planting roses in heavy soils or in cold areas. Don’t plant a rose where one was grown before, otherwise new introductions may suffer from replant disease. Feed plants with a granular rose fertiliser as they come into growth. Prune established bush and standard roses as they start growing but before any leaves unfurl.
Plant onion sets in modular trays of compost, raising plants under cover to plant out later.
Dig compost into borders (if workable) to improve water retention and clean up fallen branches and leaves as you go.
Hoe bare areas of soil on dry days to remove weed seedlings.
Keep feeding the birds and put up nesting boxes.
Buy and plant shrubs and perennials as soon as possible. It gives them more time to get their roots established before the growing season - drought and heat kill more first-year plants than the cold.
Cut back ornamental grasses and other herbaceous perennials to make way for the new growth. Lift and divide large clumps of hosta, or any other hardy perennial with a crown.
Add copper rings to pots to protect plants from slugs and snails.
Cut off old leaves of hellebores that produce flowers from ground level to expose the flowers and remove hellebore leaf spot.
Continue to deadhead winter-flowering pansies. Watch out for downy mildew and black spot. Remove any infected leaves and destroy badly-affected plants.
Aphids can multiply rapidly during mild spells. Protect sweet pea plants in particular, as they can get sweet pea viruses, which are transmitted by the sap suckers.
Last chance this month to prune late-summer flowering deciduous shrubs, such as Buddleja davidii, Caryopteris clandonensis, Ceratostigma, Hydrangea paniculata, Leycesteria, Lavatera, Perovskia, hardy fuchsia, and deciduous Ceanothus. Shrubs such as Eucalyptus gunnii and Cornus sanguinea cultivars are cut back very hard to deepen the stem colour and keep them manageable.
Cut back late summer and autumn flowering (group 3) Clematis, if not done last month. Cut to the lowest pair of strong buds above ground level, then mulch and feed.
Prune back stems on pot-grown overwintered fuchsias, and place them in a well-lit, warm spot to re-shoot. Pot them on in fresh compost and start feeding six to eight weeks later.
If you have seedlings and cuttings in the greenhouse, make sure they are getting the maximum light, or they will become weak and leggy. Turn them once a day so that they get light on both sides.
It’s your last chance this month to plant bare-root fruit trees, and ideally plant container-grown ones too. Apply a mulch around fruit trees, nuts, and bushes as long as the ground isn’t frozen and repot or top dress container-grown fruit.
Continue chitting early and main crop potatoes.
GET IN TOUCH
For more on these topics, plus cook what you grow, traditional recipes, North East information, environmental news and more, log on to www.mandycanudigit.com (now smartphone friendly), www.sunderlandecho.com/gardening, follow me on Twitter @MandyCanUDigIt or you can like me on Facebook at Mandycanudigit