Greenfingers - June 2020

Warming the passata sauce made from home grown tomatoes in the middle of winter releases the lovely aromas of freshly mown grass, hot sunshine and long summer days. Unfortunately, we tend to run out of the home grown produce around the year end, and the commercial alternatives lack the flavour, so I’ve been looking at ways to increase the productivity of the tomato plants, given the space available allows around 12 to 14 plants. One possibility is to try an outdoor variety and take over one of the vegetable beds. Another is to grow more vigorous and productive plants in the greenhouse, and one way of doing this is to graft the tomato plant onto a more vigorous root stock, so I’m informed.

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The rootstocks generally available are F1 Aegis, Submarine F1 and Estamino F1, which are very vigorous and disease resistant. For grafting, the seedling stems should be of similar size, about 4mm dia, typically with 2 to 4 true leaves, and before the stem becomes woody. The scion stem is cut into a wedge and this is inserted into a slit in the rootstock stem, and held in place with a clip. Humidity is maintained with a clear plastic bag and the plant is kept out of direct sunlight at about 17°C. It should be checked daily to ensure it is moist but not too wet, and after a couple of weeks, when it is growing strongly, the cover and clip can be removed. Growing two plants of the same variety in the same conditions, one naturally and one on a rootstock would be a good way to determine how effective this technique is.

Whilst on the subject of growing tomatoes, mine often suffer from cracking, which is due to variable water supply and/or fluctuating temperatures; and blossom end rot which is due to a lack of calcium, generally caused by a variable water supply. I grow the plants in pots, which should be maintained at a consistent moisture level, so perhaps an automatic watering system may be in order, together with the application of shade and better ventilation during the hottest weeks, (and possibly a bigger freezer.)

The grass is looking better for some attention during April. After the first cut, mainly to tidy it up, much of the moss was removed by hand raking. This material was added to the compost heap, but forked over with clippings and cardboard to ensure it was well mixed. The piece of carpet over the heap seems to have made a big difference to the temperature, and hopefully eliminated the weed seeds. A chemical weedkiller for lawns, Weedol, was then applied specifically to the weeds, rather than everywhere, and finally a simple lawn feed was watered on. I’ll top dress with some sharp sand over the next few weeks.

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The displays of buttercups across the Park, and cowslips along Besbury bank were excellent in early May.

There will be 2 eclipses during June, and both will not be visible from the UK. The first, on 5th June is a penumbral lunar eclipse, and the second is an annular solar eclipse on 21st, the day after the summer solstice. In around 200BC the ancient Greek astronomer Eratrosthenes used the information generated by the solstice to determine the radius of the earth, and was well aware that the earth was spherical and how big it was, long before it had been circumnavigated.

PS: I’m not sure if it’s my imagination, but do newcomers to the town refer to it as Minch’, whilst the locals call it ‘Hampton?

Pete Smith