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Her Outdoors: Tomato catch-up II

Jane Merrick

Back in February I wrote about getting my tomato plants outside in the middle of April. True to my word, I tentatively put three outside on the front steps last week, and this week I’ve released more into the outdoors. Here on the steps they will stay, because at the allotment they risk being struck down by blight. The first lot shivered a little in the chilly nights over the weekend, but they more than survived, meaning there’s no going back now.

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Tomatoes out of the greenhouse and waiting to be potted on

To be honest, they were getting a little too tall inside the plastic greenhouse – where it gets very warm during the day. The more cautious gardeners will say I should have left sowing until February and March so they would never get to this stage, but partly impatience and partly a belief in our mild London springs means I cheerily ignore this strategy.

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The first of the tomatoes in their new home

If you’re keeping your tomatoes in pots, whether in a greenhouse or outside, they need to have plenty of room – an eight inch pot is the minimum. Even if they are small and upright, staking is essential because April winds can cruelly cut down your precious tomato at a stroke. This also means that when they start to grow taller and bushier, the stake is already in place and you don’t have to disturb the roots. I will finish potting on the tomatoes by this weekend. They need plenty of water, but also a good tomato feed once the little yellow flowers arrive to encourage fruit. I use Maxicrop seaweed extract and drench the soil once a week.

Even with the tomatoes leaving the greenhouse, I am still running out of space. There are cucumber seedlings indoors that started off in the propagator that are ready to go into the greenhouse – where they will probably remain all summer. I have a few lettuces ready to fill the gaps in the wooden crate. Down at Plot 35a, the bed where I’m planning spring-sown roots like carrots and beetroot still has purple sprouting broccoli and the last of the winter cabbages, but these are all-but finished and I need to get this clear before it’s too late.

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Lettuce seedlings ready for transplanting - and the last of a cup of tea

Despite rain and wind on Easter Day, the weekend was glorious and the plot is flourishing. Here are the broad beans, which must be close to podding:

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Broad beans close to podding

and there are flowers on the strawberries:

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Flowers on the strawberries

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