Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Changeover time

I hate – almost to the point of wanting to stop growing them – tomato seedlings that have been in the house too long. Every time you water them the water spills out all over the windowsills (it’s gloss paint so it’s almost a waterproof tray, right) and it’s enough of a faff dashing to the bathroom to grab enough loo roll to stop the flow of water down the wall and behind the radiator, to ensure that I don’t water them often enough. So they start to look a bit dessicated and dusty, not at all the healthy, thrusting specimens they should be at this stage of their lives.

I like things that are low fuss, and look after themselves. I kill silly, dependent houseplants dead and i wont tell you what happened to the tadpoles. When I see my children climb up onto the sideboards and help themselves to slices of bread I smile: soon, I think, soon they will be making themselves omelette and chips…. Ideally I like my plants in the ground, fending for themselves, but if not then at least able to limp through a few days of neglect in big, water-retaining pots.

So I always approach this awkward phase when seedlings are so overly dependent with a little more gusto than I should, lobbing them out into the greenhouse when it is likely much too cold for them at night. I did it last week, the day before there was a late frost in many parts of the country.

I moved all the succulents that have been overwintering in the greenhouse outdoors, and moved the tomatoes, peppers, chillis, cucumbers and aubergines into the greenhouse, and gave them a long, dust-removing shower. We didn’t have the frost here, so I got away with it and they look happier, if a little chilly first thing in the morning. Now it’s a week later it seems warm enough, I think, but I’m glad I didn’t instantly write this blog. Do as I say, not as I do.