TOMATOES are the most popular grown vegetable or fruit, whichever you prefer, around the world. The range of varieties is astounding, none more so than those grown by Howard Hollingsworth, a friend from Yass.
Most garden writers provide their infinite wisdom of how to grow tomatoes at the beginning of the season. Just to be different, I bring you the expert knowledge of Howard so that you will have more success next year. Recently, Howard gave us a basket with just a few of the varieties he grows in the open garden, picking them four weeks before Christmas.
His secret is that, in late winter, he grows a green crop of mustard seed. When it’s about 30cm high, he digs it into the soil with garden lime. Then he plants the tomatoes with at least four sets of leaves under the soil and mulches with Lucerne hay (for its nitrogen content). The tomatoes are grown under shadecloth. After planting no other fertilisers, chemical or organic sprays are used.
Howard likes to stress the tomatoes by only watering every 7-9 days.
In the basket were Ponderosa Red, Ponderosa Pink, Pederson’s Beefsteak, Polish, Hungarian Heart, Tommy Toe, Moneymaker and Elfie.
THANKS to the vagaries of the weather, many autumn flowering shrubs have jumped the gun and are flowering early. One example is Lagerstroemia indica or crepe myrtle and it is timely to visit your local garden centre to see the glorious range of colours of this outstanding shrub. Available from dwarf varieties, that can be grown in containers, to 3-4-metre specimens for the larger garden.
THE famous Collector’s Plant Fair weekend is more than a month away but, given the popularity of the event, accommodation nearby can be at a premium. This yearly event is held at the Hawkesbury Race Course, Clarendon, near Windsor, on April 12-13. More than 50 specialist growers from all over NSW and Victoria attend with keynote speakers from the UK and the US. More information at collectorsplantfair.com
I LIKE this quotation from the eminent British landscape architect, Russell Page (1906-1985): “When folk visit your garden, remember that one of your aims must be to lift people, if only for a moment, above their daily preoccupations. Even a glimpse of beauty will enable them to make a healing contact with their inner world. Nor must you ascribe such an idea as sentimentality. It is one most valid and justification for gardens and gardeners.”
THE demand for sun hats and proper sunglasses has been huge with the recent rolling heatwaves. The place to buy these used to be the now-closed Cancer Council shop at Fairbairn. But don’t despair, the Sun Protection Shop at Federation Square, Gold Creek Village, off the Barton Highway, stocks the official Cancer Council range. Call 6230 2887.
• From now until the end of April is bulb planting time.
• Have a look at perennials in your garden. If the dried flowers have a full head of seeds, sprinkle them around in bare spots. Then the perennials can be dug and divided to further fill bare spots.
• Sow sweet peas against a wire or lattice frame for support.
• Don’t be misled, the recent rain has barely laid the dust and watering should continue as normal. Plants growing close to the house or under the eaves will have received no rain, so do not neglect these areas.
• Keep the fork out of garden beds if you have drip irrigation installed!
Win a book
GIVEN the interest in last week’s subject of cacti and succulents, there’s an excellent book on the subject called “Cacti and Succulents for Cold Climates” by Leo J. Chance (Timber Press, 2012). It lists 274 outstanding species for challenging conditions of extreme heat to cold.
I have a copy of this for one lucky reader. Write your name, suburb and a contact phone number on the back of an envelope and send it to Cedric’s Cactus Book, GPO Box 2448, Canberra 2601 by Friday, March 14. The winner will be announced in the edition of March 20.