Gardening: Cuttings: Weekend work

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The Independent Online
LAST year I picked my first outdoor tomatoes ('Tumbler') on 4 July. This year the plants are struggling. The nights have been too cold for them to grow unchecked. Sometimes the thermometer has slumped to 45F, which is not what you expect by the end of July. Perhaps by the end of August I may have something to pick. Once again it is the cherry tomatoes that are keenest to set fruit. This year I have grown 'Sweet 100' (Unwins, pounds 1.85). The beef tomato 'Muchamiel' which I brought back from Spain is not yet showing a truss. Autumn will have to be very late for that one to succeed.

Any outstanding pruning jobs should be tackled as soon as possible: lilac, spiraea, philadelphus and other early summer flowering shrubs. The idea is to encourage strong new shoots to grow from the base of the shrub. These are the shoots that will carry next year's flowers.

Continue to make successional sowings of radish and lettuce. I have just sown another row of the lettuce 'Warpath' (Suttons, 85p), which is half-cos, half-iceberg, but small and fast to mature. Suttons say that it is very successful in Gro-bags. I have only grown it in open ground, where it makes excellent hearts.

Seed of many perennials is ripening fast. Some is best sown as soon as it is gathered. Aquilegias, for instance, germinate well if seed is gathered now and sown in boxes of damp compost standing in the shade. Primula seed is also best sown fresh and, like pansies, will germinate well in the cool, damp sort of weather we have had this month. Seed of astrantia, campanula, foxglove, hellebore, hollyhock, honesty, herbaceous geraniums and polemonium can all be sown freshly gathered.

Lift garlic as soon as the tops begin to wither, and leave the bulbs spread out in a place where they can dry off completely before being strung up to store. Turn down the tops of onions now to help in their ripening.