People who know me will tell you that there is nothing I care more about in my garden than tomatoes. The first time I flicked through Real Seeds and Organic Gardening catalogues and discovered that tomatoes didn’t need to be red (they can be purple! yellow! black!), I was hooked. They’ve become a healthy obsession as far as gardening is concerned, and each year I’ve looked forward to February when I can start off my new varieties inside the bedroom window.
Last year started well enough. I chose ‘Galina’, a yellow cherry tomato from Siberia, ‘Costoluto Genovese’, an Italian variety with distinctive ribbing, ‘Purple Ukraine’, a beautifully deep purple plum tomato, ‘Orange Banana’, which basically does what it says on the tin, and the ‘Red Cluster Pear’ centiflor tomato, whose trusses bear tomatoes like a bunch of grapes. I was particularly excited about that one.
In May they went out to the garden and grew their sea legs. So far so good. In July, because I was pregnant and it was to be our last holiday “à deux”, we took off for the best part of a month, leaving a set of keys with our good friend and neighbour, who would water every now and again.
It really wasn’t his fault, because we’re talking about last summer, when it didn’t rain for about two months (this doesn’t mean it was sunny, you understand, just grey and hot, like being in a clay oven), but the tomatoes didn’t do quite as well as they could have. Our poor friend was convinced he’d killed the lot, and the email he sent us two days before we came home “to break the bad news before you go to the garden and freak out” had “it’s bad news however you look at it, but putting it into perspective it’s not that bad (comparing it to genocide for example)” as a subject line. Like I said, I care about my tomatoes .
In the end, they did fruit, just not very much (see right hand column for proof, and M., can I just say once more that I don’t blame you for anything), so it wasn’t quite the tomato genocide we’d anticipated after all (or ketchup, as my partner called it).
So the point of all this long-windedness being: the key time to water is when the plant is flowering. No flowers, no fruit, yes?
This summer, I’ve lined up ‘Clementine’, ‘Yellow Pear’, ‘Tigerella’, which as the name suggests has subtle red and yellow stripes, ‘Purple Calabash’, another ribbed variety which is known to turn black when properly ripe, and ‘White Beauty’, a truly beautiful variety whose milky white skin turns pale yellow when ripe, and I’m looking forward to being around.