We’ve had a good month of mild weather now, temperatures not dropping below freezing, and plenty of hours above the magic six degree threshold. The first timid suggestion of new leaf from the crops and wild things here at Hawkwood are now turning towards confident renewal, and this is reflected faithfully in the Nursery turning its mind and sights to the growing season ahead.

The latest stage of the glasshouse reorganisation is not quite complete, but like so much in life it will never reach full completion: it has made it to the next base, and that’s enough. Now the seed sowing can begin in earnest: as is the custom in these parts, tomatoes were given pole position, to test out the new plug trays.

This year we’ll be growing a plethora of tomato cultivars for sale as plants to local gardeners, but for produce we will focus on medium-sized “salad” tomatoes – the English classic, if you will. By way of a twist, these will come in three different colours: striped red/ yellow, in the form of “Tiger Tom”; the yellow “Golden Queen”; and the red “Essex Wonder”. We will concentrate our heritage efforts on the latter whilst giving “Kondine Red”  a year’s well deserved rest.

Essex Wonder may well have been bred in the Lea Valley bioregion: it was certainly widely grown here in the area’s Tomato Age 1930 – 1950s, before London looked further afield for its vegetables, causing the decline of market gardens here. So sharp was this little tomato’s fall from popularity that it, like the Kondine, became virtually extinct. It only exists now after some eagle-eyed person found three seeds in a tobacco tin in an old allotment shed. From these, with the help of the Heritage Seed Library, the Essex has been brought back to life.

“From small seeds big trees grow”, goes the saying. In the metaphorical sense, it is a good time to be thinking about the small things we can do to effect wider change in the world around us;  in the literal sense, I’m hoping these small seeds grow modest sized tomatoes, not a bloody forest, in the glasshouse.


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