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Summer time, tomato time!

by Franziska Stampfli, gardens apprentice

Already three months have passed since I have started my gardener apprenticeship at Fulham Palace. How quickly time flies!

I really enjoy the diverse work in our garden; every day there are other opportunities to get to learn and discover the beautiful world of gardening. What a unique opportunity to be part of this amazing team with their extensive experience and knowledge.

At this time of the year, we spend a lot of time maintaining our vegetable garden. There are courgettes, spring onions, potatoes, cucumbers, leaves, the first beetroots, herbs and much more that is ready to be harvested. This year we are particularly proud of the beautiful and well-balanced mix of our crops and lovely patches of cut flowers.

Vegetables that I am particularly fond of are tomatoes. As most of our plants, we are growing them from seeds. More than 10 different varieties in all colours and forms can be discovered in our vinery. To mention a few: there is the flavourful ‘Gardener’s delight’; ‘San Marzano’, a plum tomato perfect to create delicious tomato sauce; ‘Sweet Million’, a luscious, shiny and sweet red cherry tomato; and ‘Sungold’ – as the name promises – a golden-orange tomato, which is exceptionally juicy and with a high-sugar content.  Fortunately, the season for this sweet and yummy fruit (yes, tomatoes are botanically a fruit) has just started!

Tomatoes need daily attention and tender loving care. We are growing them indeterminately (as cordon tomatoes) using a stake besides every plant and a string that reaches up to the canopy of the glasshouse. As the tomato is growing, we twist it around the string to keep it flexible but strong upright. An essential task is then to remove all the side shoots, so that there is no unproductive vegetation, which would otherwise take away the energy from the main plant.

When the tomatoes are fruiting, we additionally take away leaves above the fruits to give them enough light, which allows faster and better ripening.  Now into August we are striping away the leaves completely from the bottom half of the plants as its the top leaves now doing all the photosynthesizing.  Tomatoes also need frequent and regular watering and feeding to develop a good crop.

Nevertheless, please come by and see it with your own eyes! You are also very welcome to visit our volunteer run Barrow, where you find our tasty tomatoes in addition to vegetables and beautiful cut flower posies to buy. Why not combine our sweet tomatoes with a bunch of fresh basil (also here you have a choice of five different varieties) to create a real summer feeling in your kitchen? But hurry up, Fulham Palace tomatoes are always in high demand!

ripe red tomatoes on the vine