Tomatoes, potatoes and ‘TomTato’…!

We ate things from the garden this weekend, which kind of makes it all feel worthwhile.

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Last night I made pizza, using the first of the tomatoes.  It seems a shame to be roasting and pureeing home grown tomatoes, I feel as though they should be eaten raw, maybe in a salad, but the sad truth is I don’t do raw tomatoes, it’s the only thing I don’t eat and F is the same. DSC_0193Luckily, my youngest LOVES all vegetables so he has been snacking on the little cherry toms – Ildi – which I think deserves a place on my yearly list, as they are cropping beautifully with huge clusters of tiny fruit.  The Brandywine above were roasted as they were a little damaged underneath, where the weight (they are MASSIVE) had pushed into the edge of the bench where I’d propped them to mature, but C is looking forward to eating some sliced in his vegi-burger bap, at a later date.

DSC_0195There’s the first of the plums (San Marzano), these are also cropping well, in fact this year is looking good for tomatoes in general.

DSC_0198 Which brings me to a TomTato update.  As per this earlier post, the TomTato is a tomato plant grafted into a potato, so I should get a crop of both.  The plant was quite expensive so I’ve been looking after it with regular feeds and it’s been growing happily outside, in one of my large pots.

DSC_0201The potatoes are showing their first flowers

DSC_0204and I was excited to see the cherry tomatoes colouring beautifully, almost like the Thompson & Morgan promo photo below…..

8830534975518almost!

DSC_0205My other large potato pot, full of Lady Christl has given us its first meal, I grubbed about and managed to pull out a few tubers for our lunch and they were delicious, eaten with a little butter and salt.  It’s a new variety for me, I nearly always grow Charlottes but these are equally lovely.

The broad beans are nearly over, they are getting a little large now, today’s were blanched and then the skins removed and the beans added to a feta and pea salad.  C had a courgette (zephyr), also from the garden added to his frittata for lunch (the rest of us eat meat, so we had Jerk chicken), so all in all it was a good day for eating garden produce.  If I’d been better organised we’d have also pulled some carrots and the sweet corn is almost ready, but ideally needs a few more days.

Off the water and feed the greenhouse now, and enjoy the last few days of sun, before the rain arrives 🙂


Planting Up Day…

It’s a day I dread, mainly because I HATE lugging bags of soil around, but there was no way I could put off planting up the greenhouse into their (mostly) final pots.

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On the plus side, my lovely local gardening shop had some cucumber plants, £1.99 for a pot with two seedlings I couldn’t resist and due to my excessive juicing these days, I get through 2 cucumbers a day so it’ll be worth every penny.  I threw in some pretty pink English Daisies (Bellis Perennis Rose), they aren’t my normal thing but having seen some in a big pot outside my Aunt’s pub on a  recent trip to Yorkshire, I just fancied them.

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My main reason for going though, was to buy soil, bag after heavy bag, so I could get the tomatoes, aubergines, potatoes, peppers, chillies and melons planted up.  I grow all of these on containers as they do better in the greenhouse (expect the potatoes, they have been put into a massive 60 litre container outside), I’m undecided about what I might move outside at a later date, so for now the tomatoes are planted without supports.  After planting them deep, to compensate for the usual leggy stems when they went from jiffy pellets into small pots, they don’t need to planted deep again.  I did have to nip quite a lot of the side shoots off though, and some of the plants are about to flower, at which point I’ll start feeding them.  As always, the tomatoes are in the usual green buckets.  I’ve been recycling these for years now, they don’t look very attractive but they are sturdy and cheap,

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Excitingly my Tomtato has arrived!  It’s a tomato top grafted onto a potato bottom, more info here.  This is an expensive experiment so for now I’ve just re-potted it up in a slightly larger pot and we’ll see how it goes.

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After the recent rabbitgeddom, I have constructed some very temporally fencing along the line where our new decking area meets the veg patch.  I’m sad not to be able to wander between the two, as planned, but at least I know my seedlings are safe.  The main garden is getting a thorough munching though and I’m worried about many of my spring flowers returning next year after they have had their heads removed…I hope the few leaves left will allow them to keep going.

In the garden, I’ve planted out more peas and I’ve decided to throw all my remaining old flower seed into half a raised bed.  I don’t hold out much hope that they will germinate, but I may as well try.  From the ones planted in the greenhouse, only my zinnia sprite has taken, that might be more to do with intermittent watering whilst I’ve been away (I left the garden in the hands of my husband for the week).

It’s sounds like it’s going to be scorchio tomorrow, so perhaps we’ll be putting the BBQ into use!

Tomatoes, the results…

For the first time in a few years, I decided to grow all my tomatoes inside the greenhouse.  It was going well, even with my dodgy watering system used over our three week vacation.

From seeds sown back in March, I grew:

  • Sungold x 4 
  • Brandywine x 3
  • San Marzone x 4
  • Tigerella x 4
  • Ildi x 2

After a great start, and a good middle, sadly, it’s all going starting to go a bit downhill.

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Firstly, I appear to have a bit of Blossom end rot in some of my plum tomatoes (the ‘San Marzone’).  On reading, it was probably caused by excessive heat during blossom set (which we had) and not very consistent watering, which apparently can cause calcium deficiency, which damages the fruit during formation.  I could have fixed this with good feeding and regular watering.  I’ll admit, I did very little feeding this year and they didn’t get fed at all when we were away, so it serves me right.  Still, it was only one plant that suffered and even on that one, not all the fruit, so not a total disaster.

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Next, I went into the greenhouse the other day to find my frame system had collapsed.  The above is taken AFTER I’d attempted to quickly get it back into place, before the stems were damaged.  I should have done a better job in the first place.

Now, though, my main worry is that the bulk of the crop will not ripen, as our lovely summer has abruptly ended and autumn is here.  It is my favourite season, but for the garden it’s all suddenly gone dark and soggy.  With luck, I’ll get most of it red, otherwise there will be a lot of green tomato chutney being made around here.

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Oh, and to top it off, the white fly arrived, en masse.  Seriously, a little cloud of the hideous things fly up each time I open the door (it’s got so cold, I’ve taken to closing it) to water the plants.  I know I could probably do something about them, it just feels quite late now, I just need a few more days (weeks?) and then I’ll start clearing everything out anyway.

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On the plus side, I made my first batch of tomato sauce at the weekend. As always, we went with our favourite recipe, which is from the River Cottage.  Basically it tastes like a very posh and flavoursome version of the kids favourite variety, ‘Heinz’.  I’d love to suggest my boys are more adventurous in their tastes, I did used to buy them a tasty ‘Tiptree’ version, that I think is much more homemade tasting but they weren’t having any of it.

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With the final ripe batch, I plan to make my own HP (Brown) Sauce and any other fruit, not eaten fresh, will be roasted then pushed though a sieve to make nice sauce for pizza (which I keep in the freezer in little pots).

Not a bad year, but not perfect either.  Laziness was obviously the main problem.  Live and learn 😉

Also, thanks for all your comments and ‘likes’.  I’m afraid I’ve been rubbish at replaying and my general blog visiting, but with the boys back at school, I hope to catch up soon.

February Planting Lists…

My seed boxes organised by the month - one of my best buys!

We are heading to the end of half term and it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, starting with a lovely break in the Yorkshire Dales visiting family but turning to the usual scenario of ill children on our return.  I say usual as it appears half of blog world is in the same boat, I swear colds, small children and holidays are somehow linked….that or we’re just unlucky.  Still, as there has been quite a lot of sitting on sofas and mopping of brows it has provided a perfect opportunity to get my sowing lists organised for the next couple of months, as always I’m kicking off with tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and chillies.

Here’s what I’m planning to start germinating over the next week:

Tomatoes

Sungold x 2

Brandywine x 3

San Marzone x 3

Tigerella x 2

Ildi x 2

Aubergine

Turkish Orange x 3

Aubergine Slim Jim x 3

Sweet Pepper

Topepo Rosso x 3

Jumbo Sweet F1 Hybrid x 3   – This is a new variety for me

Worldbeater x 3

Chilli

Hot Stuff x 3

Long Red Slim Cayenne x 6 – Again another new variety, it is supposedly great for drying

All the above will be started in small pots in the kitchen (where we have 2 walls of glass, so it’s the lightest room in the house) mostly with only a couple of seeds per pot, then covered in a plastic bag until a few green shoots appear.  Following on from last year, I don’t plant anything in large quantities, we just don’t have the space and I really only want to grow what we can eat fresh with a bit for use in pickles etc.  Because of this, I try not to sow many extra seeds, only what I hope to grow to the final vegetable as I am really bad at throwing away seedlings and in the past have found myself with a glut of produce as a result, there is nothing worse than growing tired of something you have taken the time to grow and even worse allowing it to rot away, without being picked.

I’m itching to get outside and give the garden a good tidy, the recent snow has made a mess of the grass and as I never found time to cut back all the dead foliage in the borders they do look dreadful.  Sadly I have sewing commitments that are taking up a lot of my time (I’m stitching felt flowers as above at the moment) but I do hope to get my hands a little bit dirty next week, I know it sounds mean but roll on the boys being back to school.

Since writing this post (and waiting to get the photos up and publish it) I found myself back- reading February blog posts from 2011 and 2010, I found it really useful remembering what I was up to and I also realise that I pretty much repeat my growing pattern every year….it must be working 😉

Planting out the tomatoes…

Oh I’ve been a very busy bee in the garden, taking advantage of this beautiful weather and forgetting that it could all stop in an instant and plunge us back into chilly nights and a possible frost.  I do hope not as I’ve been lulled into moving out lots of the greenhouse plants, starting with the tomatoes.

I normally plant these in cheap green buckets with holes drilled in the bottom, as above,  but this year I’ve decided to use the apple crates that I normally plant salad leaves in.  I’m a bit miffed actually as after emptying and re-lining (with plastic) the vintage crates I can see clearly that the woodworm has pretty much eaten away all the lower wood.  I wrote about this ages ago as I was quite cross just how bad the woodworm was when the crates arrived, I really do feel it should have been mentioned in the description, they will be going on the fire at the end of this season.

The new plan-a-box crates have also proved a disappointment, they are tacked and not screwed together so fell apart the first year as they warped in the weather, I’ve screwed them back together for now but again, not ideal.

The plants have been popped in John Innes No 2 or 3 quite deep, up to the seed leaves (which I nipped off) so they will form roots along this newly buried stem, really they should have been potted on at least once into bigger pots first but I am simply too lazy and am happy to take the risk the plants might get a bit stressed trying to fill out their new space.  They also will need staking and their side shoots pinched out as they grow (the jaunty stem growing at an angle between the main stalk and the side stems).  Once they flower I will feed them once a week and keep tying them in to stop them falling over.  I will also pinch out the growing tips once there are about 6 trusses of flower.

For now I have planted out:

Tomatoes

Sungold x 2

San Marzone x 2

Tigerella x 4

Ildi x 4

I still have the Brandywine x 3 in the greenhouse and I think these will go in the usual buckets and mostly be grown inside.  The main reason for my moving everything else outdoors is simply so I can water it all with a single sprinkler when we go away, I intend to set a timer this year and keep my fingers crossed.  On which note, still no rain, it has been weeks and weeks since there was even a small dribble of the wet stuff here and the large trees on the border are looking a bit pathetic.  Much as I’m loving this sun, I really would like some rain soon.  Please.

We are due a cold night tonight so I will be sure to cloche everything and hope I haven’t been premature with my outside move! 

February sowing lists…

Usually at this time of year I have neat drawings of my plans for the vegetable patch and I’ve spent much of Winter (I know it is still technically Winter, but I gone into denial and have decided Spring has arrived) dreaming of what I’d like to grow and ordering seeds.  Not so this year, I’ve been quite busy with the shop and the kids and I slightly lost my gardening mojo so I’m making a few changes.  I plan to grow less of each thing and a winder variety, although it’ll mostly be firm favourites that I know we enjoy.  I’m quite careful not to overplant after the early days but even last year we had a glut of a few things and they didn’t get eaten in their prime, I felt sad watching them decline after all the hard work but had little time to deal with them.

Another decision is to plant all ground growing and root vegetables in pots.

Quite simply a cat (not even ours, she is too plump and lazy to bother jumping over the rabbit proof fence, see above) has been using the raised beds as it’s loo and despite having them all netted now, I’d prefer to grow roots etc in ‘clean’ soil.   I also see it as an opportunity to change the way I grow and make things more interesting.

So, I’ve started this years crops from seeds, a little later than last year but I hope to move everything straight into the freshly cleaned greenhouse once they germinate in order to try and avoid lanky plants.

As always I’m kicking off with the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.  These have been sown in small pots indoors with only 2 seeds per pot (using John Innes seed compost) then covered in plastic.  Tomatoes have always germinated well for me and also transplant quite easily and I find it difficult to throw seedlings so I end up with a massive crop, I’ve downgraded this year and so far have planted:

Tomatoes

Sungold x 2

Brandywine x 3

San Marzone x 2

Tigerella x 3

Ildi x 2

These are all firm favourites and the only addition is ‘Ildi‘ which simply looked fun.  It’s has ‘mini, sweet, yellow, pear-shaped fruits (that) hang like bunches of grapes, with an incredible 80 fruits per truss!’, I like this idea and it’s part of my continuing plan to get the boys eating raw tomatoes, they are so good a nibbling other things direct from the garden, I’d love to add tomatoes to the list.

Also now germinating are:

Aubergine

Violetta di Firenze x 2

Turkish Orange x 1

Aubergine Slim Jim x 1

Sweet Pepper

Mini Red Skin x 3

Worldbeater x 3

Last year we had a glut of peppers, we were away for 2 weeks of August and came back to find them all ripe and ready and it was hard to keep up with the eating, even though the boys love raw red pepper, so this year I’ve drastically reduced the amount.

Finally, went to B&Q yesterday where I was surprised by the amount of young plants ready to buy along with planting kits.  I let the boys choose one each (the packaging made it a more attractive  offer than something from my own seed collection), C chose a hanging basket with mint and strawberry seeds and F chose a parsley pot.  They are rather more interested in the dangerous looking double sided rake/trowel I allowed them to have, oh well, boys will be boys 🙂

Peppers and Aubergines…

I can’t believe I totally missed both peppers and aubergines off the list in my last post whilst mentioning things that are still cropping (I also can’t believe it’s taken me so long to actually finish writing this, sorry).  We came back to a mass of both

I see from my notebook that I planted:

Topepo Rossa

Sweet Mini

Worldbeater

Back in February and they have done very well and have most definitely earned a place on next years list.  They were started in the house, then planted up in pots in the greenhouse.  I pinched out the tips so as to get more peppers per plant and they have still turned out a good size (I read in one article that you shouldn’t pinch out the tips or you get very small peppers, other growers suggest you do).

The aubergines:

Turkish Orange

Violetta Firenze

have also done well, and were again started back in February and mostly grown in the greenhouse, although I potted them up outdoors for their final growing stint and they have still ripened well.

With so many ripe peppers, I added them to my last batch of tomato puree.  I simply roasted them on a high heat (after removing any seeds and white bitter parts) and then popped them in a bowl with cling film over for a few minutes, after which I removed the skins and sliced them to add to my puree directly before freezing.  The rest are being eaten in salads and by the boys who love to much on raw red pepper.

As for the poor garden, I have been so busy sewing that it’s been a bit neglected, but I am planning my next phase of planting and ordering a few bits and pieces (more on that in the next post) so hopefully I’ll be getting my hands mucky over the next few weeks 🙂