Posted by: Naomi Slade | May 25, 2010

Green About Tomatoes

But not like the '70s cartoon...

Rhubarb Crumble and Custard at Chelsea

It is official. I have tomato envy.

 Yesterday was RHS Chelsea Press Day and after taking in the delights of the delightful, but rather veg-free show, (plenty of herbs and marigolds though, and Ken Muir’s strawberries did their thing) was the traditional glass-of-pop-and-a-catch-up in the Rose and Crown. Garden writers like to talk about their own gardens and compare plants, and eventually the conversation turned to tomatoes. Turns out that while mine measure in at a couple of inches, the tomato plants of one Martyn Cox are like, THIS big; (holds hand about a metre off the floor).

His expression was one of amazement, rather than derision that one’s crops could be so puny in late May but while I would be delighted to share in such vegetal might, I must shelve my pride. The truth is that Martyn lives in London. London with its nice warm microclimate. I live in Berkshire, and as I defensively explained, we have had sharp frosts here as recently as a fortnight ago. And Wales recorded -3 degrees even more recently than that: the neighbour’s first early potatoes were toast (or possibly mash).

In my experience, (gained rapidly and sometimes disastrously after leaving my own suntrap in the capital a couple of years ago) if you are going to sow, it is better to start with hardy things that can be moved out of the greenhouse to make room for the tender things. If you sow tender plants early you risk ending up with a greenhouse or windowsill crammed with huge, thirsty, etiolated plants with nowhere to put them.  And even a greenhouse may not be enough protection if it gets properly cold.

Also, later sown crops will pretty much catch up with earlier ones once the average temperatures rise. That is what I am telling myself. Small but perfectly formed and full of potential, that is what my tomatoes are. Yes.

Since we have all seen runty tomatoes before, the picture is of the Welcome to Yorkshire Rhubarb Crumble and Custard Garden at Chelsea.



  1. Did I only lift my hand a metre off the floor? The half of Spitfire I’d just been sipping had obviously made me coy – my tomatoes are at least 1.5m tall and I’m already removing sideshoots. I loved the rhubarb and crumble partnership at Chelsea.

    • It seems that I have unintentionally misrepresented the true magnitude of Mr Cox’s mighty vegetables! I do apologise. Tricksy stuff that Spitfire.

      But I think I did well to get to the end without resoring to double entendres….the temptation was enormous…

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