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OUT IN THE GARDEN: When tomatoes need some help

It may come as a major surprise to you all but I do actually have real and not just imaginary friends and as evidence of that I enjoyed an evening of good food and good wine at Patricia’s
annual summer party. Social distancing guidelines were observed at all times.

Whilst chatting to Bob the husband of the host and my arch nemesis when it comes to growing giant leeks, he mentioned in passing that his tomatoes had failed to impress this year.

I don’t think he meant to raise the subject as he quickly tried to steer the conversation onto his new ride-on lawn mower with diamond tipped cutting blades.Jenny, my neighbour but one, who I believe has a soft spot for Bob, asked him what was wrong with his tomatoes.

Tomatoes sometimes need some help with pollination.
Tomatoes sometimes need some help with pollination.

Fighting hard to hide my growing smile, we all listened to his reply. “At the beginning of the season my tomato plants were strong and healthy but the tomatoes that developed on the trusses grew no bigger than a frozen pea.”

He then laughed as if making the world’s best joke.

I waited for Jenny to stop giggling like a school girl before I answered as I didn’t want to spoil the moment. Did I really know something that Bob didn’t? This delicious thought kept racing through my mind. I took a deep breath and announced to Bob and the group that he had pollination problems and that he needs to attempt IVF for his tomatoes.

Wait until midday tomorrow and go into your greenhouse and give your tomato plants a really good shake or a sharp jolt.Everyone in the group gave me the ‘what are you talking about face’.

“Look,” I said, “your tomatoes are suffering because the pollen within the stamen has failed to make it successfully to the stigma.

“By shaking the plant, you are releasing any trapped or stuck pollen and allowing it to find its way to the stigma. Once there, pollination can begin.”

Both Jenny and Bob looked like a pair of goldfish at this point with mouths wide open.Leave the plants for about half an hour after shaking them and give them a really good hose down before closing the doors and vents of your greenhouse. This will raise the humidity levels and should encourage germination of the pollen grain and help the grain travel towards the ovules of the flower. Ovules are where the plant’s eggs are stored.

Don’t forget to open the vents before dusk as you really don’t want the leaves to be damp overnight –and keep the greenhouse well ventilated to avoid disease. Repeat this all throughout the growing seasons.

At this point the whole of Patricia’s garden party was listening to me. You could hear a pin drop.My wife then came over and took me by the arm and said: “Shall we head home now?”

When we returned home my wife told me about how proud she was of me and that she wanted to give me something special. So I closed my eyes and felt my shirt buttons slowly being undone.When I opened my eyes my wife had placed half a dozen Cadbury’s chocolate fingers on my chest.Now that’s true love that is.

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