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I have grown six ‘Marmande’ tomato plants. So far all six plants seem to have a double flower on the first truss. Any reason for this anomaly?

Harold Bishop, Nottingham

Bob Flowerdew, Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time panellist

BOB SAYS: This is unusual but not unknown. Flowers doubling can occur from many causes: cultural conditions, inherited tendency, insect or pest damage, or weather. To have all six plants do the same is exceptional and indicates a genetic tendency, which could be the case as ‘Marmande’ is an old French variety which has long been self-fertlilised and not cross-pollinated, thus is ‘inbred’. Pleiotaxy, as it is called, is a form of doubling and is quite rare in tomatoes. Doubling usually involves the conversion of other parts and thus the flower may not function perfectly. However, as you need to reduce the fruits per truss to two at most (if you want them to get decently large) then I suggest simply removing the affected flowers along with several others.

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*** 5 Brand new videos inside! - for more, see here: *** September is traditionally a time for harvesting summer crops of fruit and vegetables and preserving any gluts so we can enjoy them through the long winter. However, there is still plenty we can do to stretch the growing season to ensure an early and productive start next year. A cold frame is helpful to extend the growing season and in this issue Joyce Russell shows you how to make one. Soil is our most precious commodity in the garden and after a year of hard work it deserves a bit of TLC. So this month we have two features, starting on pages 42 and 73, dedicated to helping you keep your soil fighting fit. There is plenty of info on crops, too; expert grower Rob Smith has some great top tips on growing broccoli and calabrese, while this month our resident fruit expert David Patch turns his attention to figs. Finally don’t forget to enter our great fun Passionate Plotter and Wonky Veg competitions for the chance to win some super prizes!