Growing tomatoes and flowers in challenging weather


Roxy the dahlia It's in our nature to rant occasionally at the weather but really, this week has been a right challenge! One minute we've glorious sun and then ten minutes later it's chucking it down.

At times like this I retreat to my greenhouse and potter around there until the rain clears. There's lots to do, especially with the tomatoes. They need tying in and, as I'm growing cordon (as opposed to bush) varieties, the side shoots are best pinched out.

The flower trusses of my Gardeners' Delight plants have an annoying tendency to produce a few leaves too, and these have to be removed as well so that all that energy is saved for the fruits.

The cut flower garden experiment is coming on well. I'm especially pleased with the white antirrhinums. After cutting the first single spike of flowers they've now bushed out and produced a second flush of at least six spires of flowers per plant. They look fantastic!

Last time I cut them a little late and they didn't last quite as long in water as I expected. This time round I'll cut them as soon as the lowest two to three layers of flowers have opened. That way they should last up to 14 days in water.

For mid to late summer colour, and for picking, I've planted some dahlias. Some of them, like Roxy (pictured above) have been blooming for a few weeks but the taller varieties are just budding up. The secret is to keep them well watered (even in this weather) and well fed, so they're getting a twice-weekly boost with Flower Power.

In this week's Amateur Gardening, I've just read about a new caterpillar that eats box plants. It's just started to appear in UK gardens. After losing my standard bay trees in the winter, I don't now want to lose my box balls. So I'm off to give them all a quick inspection. As long as it's not raining, of course!

Happy gardening!

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