kitchen garden

Sowing and Potting on Tomatoes

I started sowing tomatoes in February (earlier than I usually do) and more again in March. I’m growing Alicia Craig and cherry variety Gardener’s Delight, thanks to the continuous beautiful weather my urge to sow tomatoes in February paid off  – the plants have their first flowers and a couple of small fruits. At the moment they are inside the greenhouse with the door open during the day to allow for pollinating insects to do their bit. The March plants are smaller but really coming along well, they need potting on again so I shall crack on with that over the weekend. I will probably grow a few plants outdoors too but they won’t go outside until the risk of frost is over.

I use deep modules to sow tomato seeds, a warm sunny windowsill normally works well for germination. I transplant each seedling into a small pot once the first set of true leaves appear, then I grow them on in a warm spot until they need potting on again into larger pots. When potting on tomato seedlings I plant deeper than they were previously, I find this encourages a better root system which helps with watering during the summer months and generally a stronger plant all round.

Due to a combination of unseasonably warm weather and sowing tomatoes early, I just might be eating  home-grown tomatoes earlier than usual this year. Fingers crossed!


February in the Garden Smallholding

The beginning of the month was a bit hairy with gale force winds battering most of the UK for almost a week, the chickens were not impressed and retreated to the safety of the coops, only leaving to eat. Despite this daily egg laying has increased this month to 4 out of 6 hens laying – plenty of eggs for our needs. Red mite in the chicken coop could be a potential problem anytime from now as the temperature begins to rise, I highly recommend dusting the inside of your coop with Diatom powder as a precaution, used regularly you shouldn’t have a problem.

I have been sowing seeds this month, tomatoes, broad beans and hardy outdoor cucumber along with an early sowing of radish outdoors undercover. Lupin and foxglove are doing well, some of the lupin seedlings already have their first set of true leaves. The last parsnips have been lifted this month and the rhubarb patch is looking great, in just a matter of weeks I will probably be harvesting the first sticks of  Timperley Early. Garlic is looking good too despite being under a blanket of snow for weeks, plenty of healthy green top growth. I planted garlic cloves in October and December and the December bulbs are almost catching up.  I planted Jerusalem artichokes outside yesterday near the patch of rhubarb, I’m hoping the height of the plants will cast some shade during the warmer months which I’m sure the rhubarb will appreciate as it tends to sulk during prolonged hot weather and requires a lot of watering.

Daffodils, ornamental allium and chives are pushing their blade-like leaves through the soil, fresh leaf growth is appearing on the blackcurrant bush and blackberry canes and the pear tree will be in blossom very soon. Ladybirds are starting to come out of hibernation now and wild birds are looking for suitable nesting sites….the eaves of our house seems to be popular again! What have you been doing this month?

Grow Your Own Guides · kitchen garden

Pinching Out Tomato Side Shoots

Tomatoes are one of those vegetables/fruits (whatever) that can be a real pain in the bum to grow. Blight can be a big problem or worry to many tomato grower who do not have the luxury of a glass greenhouse. But, putting all the hassle aside, the taste of home-grown tomatoes makes the stress of growing them so very worthwhile.

I have been quite successful with growing outdoor bush varieties, especially so last year when local gardeners were cursing the dreaded tomato blight and I was busy admiring my beautiful shiny red fruits. This season however, I have gone all mad in the head and decided to have a bash at growing two different types of cherry tomato, Sungold and Gardener’s Delight. Both of these varieties are uprights, also known as cordon or vine, they would probably do better under cover but they can go outside. Today I bought a plastic tomato grow house ‘thingy’, it looks quite good actually and will hopefully help to keep the rain off my tomato foliage as well as provide them with a little extra heat.

Because I have always grown bush varieties I have never bothered pinching out side shoots. Apparently, bush varieties naturally produce a limited amount of side stems so they kind of know when to stop producing shoots and start producing tomatoes, however, cordon varieties will produce far too much foliage and very few fruits if left unchecked. I have never bothered (until now) to learn why cordon varieties need their side shoots removed, it’s all about helping to divert the plant’s energy into producing the fruit on the main stem rather than putting all that energy into the side shoots. Pinching out side shoots is easy once you know what to look for – shoots forming in between the main stem and the leaf stems, in the arm pit of the plant. Hopefully the photo will help (although those shoots are a tad large and should have been pinched out earlier, whoops!) just make sure the first flower truss has set above and away you go with your pinchy fingers. Happy tomato growing!

Harvest · kitchen garden

A Good Year for Tomatoes

Tomatoes 2009

Well it is for me anyway! I started mine from seed and gave half my plants to my dad. He planted his in deep grow bags sited in full sun in the middle of his veg garden, while I chose to use pots against the house wall, early morning and late evening sun with some degree of shelter from rain. My dads tomatoes died a blighty old death a couple of weeks ago,  mine however are going great guns and producing good size tomatoes that ripen well on the vine.

Tomatoes 2009

I believe a combination of planting seedlings deep when potted on, shelter from rain, not too much sun, weekly feeding and not over watering has helped with the success of tomato growing this year. It’s now September, the weather has turned autumnal and my plants are still deep green, producing, thriving with good size tomatoes ripening on the plants. I will try this method again next year and compare. I think my dad will too!

Were your tomatoes a success or failure this year?

kitchen garden

Tomatoes – Grow Bags, Vegetable Beds or Pots?

Potting on Tomatoes

It’s that time again. Time to plunge my well nurtured tomato plants into their final growing position – or should that be resting place? I get nervous now because I don’t seem to have much luck with tomatoes once they leave the safety of my sunny window. My young  plants have been hardening off, dodging the rain and need to be planted out. I don’t have the luxury of a greenhouse so I chose outdoor varieties and cross my fingers tightly.

Last year our tomatoes did OK, I wasn’t over the moon with the taste and then blight got them. They were in pots and managed to do a little better than the plants grown in grow bags the year before that. I have never tried growing them amongst other vegetables in the ground. I’m wondering as I nervously tip my lovely specimens out of their pots – which method should I choose this year?

Where do you grow your outdoor tomatoes? Any tips?

kitchen garden

It’s All Growing Well

Sprouts and cauliflower seedlings

Just a quickie update on the vegetable garden, sowing, seedlings and digging. We are still sowing like the clappers, all the seeds are germinating well so far, still waiting on the courgettes to make an appearance but so far so good.

Tomatoes and chillies have been sown and the tomatoes have already started to sprout. Runner beans will be started off in small pots this weekend, I don’t want to get caught out with a late frost or risk having the seed beans munched in the soil like last year.

The sprouts and cauliflower seedlings are doing very well outside in the mini greenhouse, some of the seedlings have their first set of true leaves. I have started off a second sowing of broad beans, the other plants are outside and doing well, even in the frost. We did lose some of the taller plants, but, I think that was my fault for allowing them to go too stringy before planting them out. We had to start the broad beans indoors because none of the vegetable beds were ready for planting.

The sweet corn seedlings are really doing well on the sunny windowsill, they will be planted out as soon as the risk of frost is over. The onion sets are coming along great as well as the garlic. No major dramas so far.

Clearing the veg plot of nettles

The vegetable garden is coming along slowly but we are getting there. We are still having a hell of a battle with nettles on the second half of the plot. Our very friendly neighbour asked us why we don’t just spray the blighter’s and be done with it, I politely answered that we want to be as organic as we can, otherwise what is the point? We may as well not bother trying to grow our own if we are going to pump the soil full with nasty stuff. He probably thinks we are barmy of course and cannot see the point in us out there, every spare hour we can grab, digging like crazy people possessed.

Anyhoo, we now have 5 lovely vegetable beds all fed with lovely well-rotted manure and organic compost, ready to nurture our seedlings and sowings. Oh, that reminds me, must get the carrots, beets, peas and parsnips in soon!