Category Archives: tomatoes

Planting out…finally! #Gdnbloggers

You can also find the video here.

It is the Whitsun Bank holiday, the end of May Bank holiday, and this means planting out. The tomatoes and squashes that have been hardening off the last week or so have now been moved to the plot and plugged in. There are two varieties of tomatoes, roma and marmande, and a quite a few different varieties squashes. I think I have most of the courgettes and marrows, with Mum having butternuts and trailing ones.  All of the plants are in raised beds as I have had more success this way.  There is also a raised bed that has incredible sweetcorn with squashes nestled amongst it.

Aside from the tomatoes and squashes, I had bought some chard and spinach. These were plugged into the open ground, and it was a case of “Punam, plant your chard in straight rows.” Well, the rows are a bit wonky, and there also some wiry leeks placed into the ground as well.

Beyond this, I have also broken with tradition and direct sown runner beans and climbing french beans. Ordinarily, I would try to sow them at home and in modules. However, this year the at home germination rate has been dire. This therefore is something of an experiment, with seeds being sunk into the soil which in some places is rather heavy clay.

I would have direct some further chard and spinach-I have some chard, that in true trekkie fashion, is Vulcan chard-and would look pretty and be rather useful.

 

This is the first time that I am planting and sowing chard and spinach on the plot. I realise that these are going to need a lot watering; without being watered, and if they get too hot, the plants wilt and will also bolt. I am concerned about this, especially as Mama F has been known to leave minutes after having had breakfast to go water her spinach and chard.  I had thought that these were simple, something tells me that this isn’t quite the case!

Tomorrow, is another day and the plan is to continue with the plot. There are beds to be cleared and weeds to be pulled up.  The vulcan chard remains to be sown, and this will be the next thing to be done.

It’s all kicking off #gdnbloggers

Hold the front page! We have blossom on the Apricot! (Yes, my nail varnish is also chipped)

moorparkapricot

For the first time since it was plugged in, the Moor Park Apricot is in blossom. I did check, and there were all of three delicate looking white blooms. Three!

Alas, I am not holding my breath. Last year, the peach tree also blossomed-it’s getting leafier as I type-only for the frost to nip at it. Therefore, I am not holding out too much hope that the Apricot will set fruit; I probably should drape it in fleece. Only I end up having a full scale heated debate with Mama F as to the why’s and wherefores. That, and it looks as though Casper and friends are floating through the plot. I will keep an eye on the Apricot and see whether additional blooms burst and then make a decision about draping the tree in fleece.

concordpear

The pear tree is also looking a bit frilly with blossom, the stella and morello cherry trees aren’t too far behind. In contrast, the apple-falstaff and braeburn-appear to be behind and are only just starting to get leafier. As with Apricot, there has been limited success with the pear. Last year, we had all of two pears; they met their end in a chutney. I am therefore, a little surprised by the arrival of blossom.  I might find myself fleecing things sooner rather than later.

In other news, Mama F has sunk this years spuds on her allotment plot; leaving me to fiddle with the raised beds and plot this year’s course of development. At the moment, I have seedlings on the window sills.

At the moment I have clara and money maker aubergines. (My thanks to Gifts You Grow for the money maker). As well as Roma and Marmande tomatoes and an assortment of Cayenne. These are precariously leggy in some cases; sown when light levels were at bit rubbish, this was always going to happen. I am hoping that moving them from one side of the house will help the plants fill out and become robust.

So what is going to happen next?

There a plans; the sort that change and with reflection.

In the long term, I would like to fix my poly tunnel and get some more raised beds. Having one half of the plot, that is open ground and not very productive doesn’t feel right. So before the end of the year, the second half the plot-the one where we have the roses and trees should have some raised beds on it. This will mean negotiating with the raspberries and strawberries that are are currently ‘up there’ someplace.

I am looking into a new cover; though I might have to borrow Mama F’s poly for this growing season. She likes aubergines, I do not; so she can play with them…and my chillies…I will  of course babysit them accordingly. I do get rather precious about my chillies.

On the seed sowing  front, I would like to sow some more tomatoes. There was an rather conservative sowing at first, so more Roma and Marmade are on the cards. I would also like to sow runner beans and climbing French beans; it is too early yet, I made that mistake last year. I might even try peas, though that is debatable.

Before long, it will be May and I will nervously eyeing the closing of the frost window.  I will be deciding on this years squashes; we have yet to sacrifice a pumpkin from last year, so there will be seed selection.

I have had a good look at the current raised beds. One third of them are cleared, with the others full of stubborn grass that will need an aggressive intervention for removal. It is simply not the sort to be pulled out by hand.  Over all, there does feel a more systematic and organised approach to doing things this year. It would be easy to be defeated, and I think for me personally I need to take a step back and take time to do things slowly but surely. It will all get done, just not at break neck speed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me; I have counselling key terms to generate-spiral notebook, ink pen-and maybe some Buffy season seven to put on in the background.

I might even re-paint my nails.

And yes, if anyone knows of allotment proof nail varnish, send it my way….seriously!

Torn by Tempests and tomatoes #gdnbloggers

Flaming storms Doris and Euan, they have a lot of answer for.

I received a note from an allotment neighbour late on Tuesday night, saying that  should pop down the plot. I couldn’t do anything at the time, it was wet, windy and my wellingtons didn’t particularly want to venture out. In the morning, Mama F took a walk whilst I had lie in. She then called me and I fell out of bed, feeling as though I was about to take penalties for England.

Not having had breakfast, I dressed in my plot clothes and sluggged a cuppa. I took a wlak down to the plot. The wendy house-the walk in green house-lay in a forlorn, crumpled heap. It was goner, and truly. There have been many dramas over the years with the wendy; it was anchored down, dug in; Physics had gone into it. Now, it was gone. Then there was the poly tunnel, with it’s ceiling sheared off. A conifer had tried to shake hands, and well, smacked it one. There were three trees down, and I got the rough end of the stick, as it were. Mama F and I tidied up the wrought up wendy, there are no plans to replace that at this sage. The Poly is the big thing, I will have to replace the cover. I didn’t expect it to go flying off to kansas-three of the sides of the cover, are beneath lots of dirt and weight down. Dirt which will now have to be dug away to free the cover. I am lucky, that the frame is steel; the plot neighbour who had sent me the note was not so lucky.

I will not lie, I am rather peeved off-high tension and raised anxiety, peeved off. Muscle tension may have gone through the roof a little. I would have hit something, had I the aim and energy. The storms have put a slight kick in the plans.

But we have seeds to sow!

tomsaubergine.jpg

You can find the video here

 

You know, I opened that fresh packet of aubergine seeds, and there was nothing in there. I’ve re-sown some black beauty but will get some more of those seeds that didn’t exist.

I am now  off to type up a book, the last week has been rather hectic and I need to meet a self imposed deadline..

And if you haven’t already, check out the Inspector Montalbano novels. I am feeling a big book obsession-fuelled by the young montalbano tv series-he’s cute, clever, broken; binge watching most of season two was epic. I want the first series too! Honestly, sat there reading and giggling as you read, that feeling has rather cheered me up this week.

To talk tomatoes #gdnbloggers

It’s okay, I am not thinking about sowing them; it is still too early, and I am inclined to wait at least another four weeks before I start sorting out runners and riders. Even then, I will be thinking about tomatoes and their sixth cousin, the aubergine. For now, I am thinking and reflecting on what might be whilst taking stock of what has already been experienced on the plot.

In 20 16, thirty two plants made it passed the initial seed and germination stage. Think these were sown in late february-most likely started off in the heated prop-as by March, the seedlings had already sent out their baby seed leaves and were about to send out their frilly first true leaves. These were then pampered and kept safe at home on a window sill so that the might establish and be sufficiently robust enough to be planted out. As you can see, we had a fair bit of fruit. Trouble is, very few turned red on the vine. In addition, there were fairly early blight warnings that led to plants being stripped of fruit and cast aside before it struck. Blight struck tomatoes are not particularly pleasant to look at; a putrid shade of puce and stomach turning. This has meant that much of the crop is ripened at home, somewhere warm and light. Ripening does happen eventually, it just takes some time to get going.

You’d think a red tomato was a red tomato. On the contrary, there are  many different varieties, each with their own unique qualities that determine productivity, attractiveness to the taste buds and what you might eventually do with the end product. Not all tomatoes are red, and I have sown and grown some rather nice yellow ones as well. Also, you get the odd ugly one that is really quite amusing. Doesn’t look particularly attractive, but that does nothing to hamper the taste. Food becomes that more interesting when it’s not perfect, but beautifully ugly. You can still eat it after all, there is no supermarket or political mandate as to how your fruit and veg might look. Wonky, uglu fruit and veg is something to shout about and not to be dismissed. (Trust me, I once wondered why I had curly beans; turns out they were never straight to begin with.)

The very first variety that ever tried was a cherry tomato called ‘Minibel’ and that was a fairly simple, straight forward introduction to growing tomatoes. Since then, I have decided to experiment and sown quite a few different varieties. Such as:

  • Latah
  • Money maker
  • Gardeners delight
  • Cream sausage
  • Tigerella
  • Marmade
  • Aisla Craig
  • black cherry
  • Yellow Stuffer
  • Brandywine
  • Shirley.

And those are the ones that I can remember, there is probably a list somewhere. These have been used in salads, Indian dishes; I even made a sage and tomato soup that was rather nice. I am still a little curious about beefsteak varieties though; I rather like marmande with it’s tendency to be sizeable with rather intriguing green shoulders. Brandywine tomatoes are something that I might look into a little further; these take time and with mega-bloom like flowers the development of fruit is somewhat delayed; that or I like something of a quick response when it comes to tomatoes. I have definitely noted the lower yield with these as well; it is much lower than other varieties and I suspect this is why I haven’t made many sowings in recent years.

It would be entirely odd to not have tomatoes on the allotment. I tend to transplant them into raised beds, occasionally they might get plugged into the open ground. I do find however, that productivity is somewhat hampered with the clay, so raised beds are a safer, more equitable bet. I did try transplanting into the poly tunnel; alas, that was a learning curve. We had triffids, yes, but not many tomato fruit. So back we went outside with all subsequent tomato growing.

As mentioned above, there are no plans to sow any tomatoes yet. The heated prop is currently full, and I am going to wait a short while. This allows me to have a look at the tomato seeds and see which ones are going to be sown. Marmade may well feature, but I also fancy trying Roma VF alongside.  I have not sown and grown this variety before, and a request was made by a sibling that we could try a plum variety.

We can talk tomatoes, but we’re not sowing them just yet.

Hello, Allotment and #Destinationstartrek #gdnbloggers

plotoctober.JPG

Hello, allotment, I have missed you.  I have missed the grapes getting ripe, and being plucked from the vine. I have missed cutting the last of the roses, all of the glads are now done. I have missed you and quite a bit.

Today, after what feels like an age, I have made it to the allotment to see what is happening and what I might do next. Ordinarily, as this time of year, I would be thinking about or will have planted garlic. I haven’t got that far yet.

Over the last few weeks, things have been a little unsettled. Time has been challenged, stretched, I have been battling against cramped head space with lots of things competing for my attention. I have had lots of reports from Mama F who has helped keep things in relative check on the plot. To be honest, not a lot has fruited this year, so she’s just been overseeing it all. I don’t think this years lack of productivity has made things easier.

Going today, was case of taking stock. Taking a moment, to breathe. And when your shoulder feels like it is going to fall off as does your arm as adrenaline and cortisol drag you through a stress response; that is quite difficult.

Why do I mention that?

Well, that’s my stress response. First thing first, I’m okay. If I wasn’t, I would say. It’s all a bit implicit, rather than explicit. There is some anxiety invoking issues that my brain and body don’t really like. Explicit, in that whilst I feel okay and am coming to terms with recent challenging events, there is something implicit that is not helping and would rather I had horrible pain from time to time. Not all the time, but occasionally and it’s rather irritating as you ordinarily take thing head on and do them to the best of your ability. But we have plan! The idea is to work through these concerns, get a balance; feel a little more congruent and use the allotment to do that. The allotment has always served an additional purpose beyond plot to plate food; it contributes greatly for me in terms of maintaining positive mental health. It is something that I have always promoted, that gardening, horticulture, pottering on the plot has a positive effect on mental health. I would be daft to not practice what I promote.

That is why I have a picture of a blank bed. I am aiming to sort the plot out over the autumn and winter months, change the second half of the plot; nothing was cultivated this year in that area and it has effectively become fallow.

We have had some produce to cheer me up. The above chillies and garlic have met their fate in the base for tonight’s dinner which is prawns in a masala. The  base is simple enough: garlic, onions, ginger with carom and cumin are sauteed. Tomatoes are added to this, as well as the contents of a masala box and both fresh and powdered coriander.

 

The video can also be viewed here

As well as liking the allotment, I am also a fan of star trek. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the original series and it’s impact upon modern contemporary culture has been huge! As teenager, I remember watching ST: TNG as a precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that was the height of my Thursday nights. Subsequently, voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise followed. I might even find myself watching the extension of the franchise with the new one pencilled in for next year.

There is the most tenuous of links between Star Trek and Horticulture. I remember watching Neelix growing tomatoes in a cargo bay, there was Keiko the botanist and at one point Janeway and Chakotay end up on a planet where they have to grown their own food. On a more contemporary level, we have had a certain British Astronaut growing seeds in space; so this whole thing is not entirely without foundation.

It’s funny, even though they were on the poster, I don’t remember seeing Picard, Janeway or Archer….

I did hear a certain George Takei; I heard  but did not see, as he was delivering one of the paid talks and I didn’t book any. He sounded lovely!

It was months ago, that I decided to put a star trek convention on my list of things to do. After all, I had already gone to an Angel/Buffy one, it made sense. Lo and behold, I saw this advertised! Naturally, I had to go along and see what it was all about.

The first part of my journey had mild fury as the trains from hobbitland to the centre of town were not running. In true persistent fashion, I hopped onto the rail replacement and made it to the NEC all ready to go. My first thought? “Wow, how many red shirts are there?” Some of which were in the queue for Costa, which rather amused me. If you are in Command, you may need a strong Americano.

As with the buffy/Angel con, there was loveliness in being with like minded people. For the record, I am a blue shirt. (Trainee counsellor, psych teacher, I think that qualifies….) The highlight for however, was this. Being sat in the Captain’s chair in a replica of the TNG enterprise.

Yes, it was as cool as it looked. (no, no one is trying to beam in to my right, it just looks like that…)

tngbridge

Seeing sights and souped up

The summer holidays are over, Petal and I have done our adventuring, real life will be resumed shortly. A week spent afar, relaxing, writing and going slightly crispy has come to an end. There was some adventuring across a windy island, with a blue lagoon, fire mountain volcanoes and camels! I’ve had a camel ride before, I just can’t remember if that one involved one hump or two; these had one hump and a mood to match!

lanzarotenationalpark.jpg

This is the lava fields of the National Park. I understand and appreciate how it can  be awed at; but the 14kms of space odyssey-esque scenery was a rather spine chilling. The whole area is a desolate wasteland, the sort that you might expect in space; the sort of scenes from star trek and probably star wars. With no life,  it was rather eerie.

It did however make think of something to write in the future! There was a fair bit of writing  done. Having gone a little  crispy and sun burned in the first few days, applications of after sun meant hiding in the terrace bar with the notebook, pen and dictionary.

And whilst I was away, there were plot updates. We have a lot of tomatoes! I wasn’t convinced that we are going to eat so many and quickly, so decided that whilst the holiday laundry was on, soup would be made. Two thirds of the harvested and red tomatoes were used, as well as some sage from Dad’s garden. Jalepenos have gone red on the sill, so a few of these  have been chopped and dropped in. I did actually use a tarka base, with carom and black mustard seeds sauteed with home grown onions and garlic. So it’s not a traditional tomato soup, but a spiced tomato soup.

Tomato time! #gdnbloggers

“Get them home before the blight comes.”

So said the Allotment Secretary as I trundled home with trug number of two of tomatoes. It started with trug number one and a couple of carrier bags.

We have had quite a few varieties on the plot. These are-if I remember correctly-tigerella, latah, moneymaker, yellow stuffer, cream sausage alisa craig and marmande. I may have missed out a few.

Anyway, I’ve been complaining acutely over the course of the growing season as to how little produce I have managed to sow and grow. I may have over looked the productivity of the thirty two-ish plants that were grown across the two family plots.

I remember having that many plants, and dividing them between my plot and mum’s. I had a feeling, that there would be quite a few if all things went well. Now, having seen a few of plants on neighbouring plots start to with and go all very baroque gothic with would be blight, I have harvested a fair amount.

For fair amount, read poundage and one big massive puddle. I have maybe one trug full left, which I might harvest next week if the airborne blight is still away in distance.

Some of the fruit are actually turning; there are splodges of red, yellow and orange floating around. I have to say, that it is the latah one’s that are by far the reddest of them all. Even moneymaker is somewhat orange hued and not red.

As you can see, there is an assortment of different shapes and sizes. Once you have sown and grown your own tomatoes, you cannot look at the generic shop bought ones in the same light. There is also the question of flavour-the distinct tomato-y-ness. The fibre of the fruit, is is squishy, solid or just a flesh that is held up up by sugars.  This lunchtime, as I sliced up a yellow stuffer for a side salad, I realised why it was a stuffer and not a salad tomato. It had been looking at me for days, pleading to be used. Although moneymaker is uniformly round, there are other varieties that are less pretty. And thank goodness that they are! There are quite a few knobbly marmande fruit, with their rather weird and wonderful shape. It is a shame, that in most instances, not many people will eat what is lovingly termed ‘ugly fruit’. It tastes the same, is of the same edible quality, and proves that nature loves wonkiness. There are far more wonky things, compared to the bland, uniform, tick all the boxes, don’t make a fuss variety.

That puddles is huge, and would probably make a lovely green tomato chutney. I’m not particularly feeling the chutney at the moment. I have some hope, that within the confines of a warm environment, these fruit will turn. In which case, they can be used in Mama F’s kitchen and I might even consider investigating pasta sauce  of some kind. There is also the option of ready made tarka mix as well, that could be interesting.

So the growing season hasn’t been an entire bust; the tomatoes are okay. I’m sure I have spuds to lift as well……

 

For now, it’s all okay, and smelling of tomatoes. (Trust me, that is not attractive….)

Trussing up tomatoes and furtling for carrots #gdnbloggers

Eau De tomato. There is nothing quite like it. The spiced warm scent that nearly all tomatoes provide if you so much as touch their foliage. Then there is that yellow pollen that lingers on your fingers tips; staining them as though you’d smoked one too many.

 

Was a bit warm today, weren’t it, and tomorrow things gets warmer still.

I hid for most of today, doing school work and then watching ‘Henry VI part one’-Didn’t particularly rock my world that play-as it was rather warm. Once it had cooled down a little at tea time, I took to the plot with pair of scissors and some wool. I wanted to sort out the triffid like tomatoes that over the last few weeks have become wonderfully luscious and sending out cascades of yellow flowers.

My thoughts were that as the weather had been so erratic, that like the squashes, the tomatoes would be a little stroppy. However, for some daft reason, Blighty finds itself in the middle of a temporary heat wave. I add the caveat temporary, as it may well be our entire summer compressed into a few weeks.

Anyway, off I pootled, having forgotten to take a drink-I eventually got thirsty, came home and then returned with a bottle of squash-and spend a good three hours trussing up tomatoes. Unlike a more seasoned grower, I don’t defoliate very often, and I don’t arm pit the stems that turn up in the nook between the stem and branch. Primarily, as I can’t keep up, forget or find it some form of torture for a plant that I really want to do well and be happy. Result being, I end up with plants that have three or form long gangly arms that sprawl across the bed. Tomatoes take on an almost alien like quality and become monsters. The long extended limbs then need tying to canes and being raised aloft. It also helps prevent the foliage getting all tangled and promotes air flow.

It dawned on me, as I was trussing up the tomatoes, that this was an exercise in mindfulness.  I actually smiled as I thought it. There is the undeniable scent of the tomato plant. The feel of the fluffy leaves, as you try and detangle them and stretch out the tomato vine. The sound, of nothing but birds and the occasional “All right, Punam?!” from a passing allotment neighbour. You know it’s mum, when you hear ‘HAYYYYY PUNERRRRRM!”

Slowly but surely, I went around each of the 15 plants-mum’s got the same number, I just didn’t get so far as trussing hers up-and carefully tied up leafy limbs. This is the same concentration, that I use when colouring and knitting. The sort of concentration where you pause your mind, and take stock of the moment. Take stock of all that you see, hear and feel; take stock of your experience. A really profound effect of gardening, this is why I will always stand by it as a therapeutic intervention when it comes to mental health.

So that occupied me for a while. And I liked it. It was only later, that I remembered that tomorrow it’s meant to be a bit hot again. I should then perhaps open the vents in the poly.

poly chillies

That is my polytunnel. It’s not a huge great big thing; it’s two by three metres. And rather filled with chillies; I would adopt more tomorrow if I was so tempted to do so. There is quite a diverse range in here. On the left, you have Sparkler, coffee bean, devils rib, apache, red scotch bonnet and orange habanero on the staging. On the right hand side, we have patio sizzle-one plant-patio sizzle, jalapeno, purple haze and hungarian hot wax in the corner. You can just about make out the white flowers that have started to appear. I have opened the vents to offer some breeze to the plants. Otherwise, they may well cook to death in there; it is not fun trying to revive a chilli that whilst it needs warmth, might well have been cooked alive. I am aim to water them tomorrow evening anyway as it does get wonderfully hot in there. When we have a temperature of late teens to twenty something, the mercury sky rockets anyway.

Now what might I do with all of those chillies? Well, if they all crop, I have a plan to make chilli powders as well as use them in Mum’s kitchen. There are many flowers, so for now, we live in hope.

I also furtled for carrots. These were an experimental sowing direct into the raised beds. They are small, but they are straight and have a wonderful carrot smell. One of the crops that I haven’t sown very often, so might have again. And yes, there is a stray snow ball turnip in there.

Weathering the strangeness

June has arrived, and it has been rather strange in it’s infancy. The weather hasn’t exactly been the best, confused and entirely erratic. We have had rather nice windows, punctuated by cold and chilly days reminiscent of early autumn.

With that, I have been looking at the tomatoes and squashes that were transplanted prior to the end of May bank holiday. (I was adventuring, and more on that later) Ordinarily, squashes grow like triffids; they are rapid, hungry and likely to take over the patch of ground into which they have been sunk. Looking at them though, they do rather look a little developmentally delayed. Perhaps it is early, perhaps I am overestimating them; but they should have started to get a wiggle on. I suspect that the inclement and inconsistent weather has some what confused them.

There are factions of the plot that are doing well, that are resisting the variance in the weather. Waking up from a slumber, the grapevines have started to send out leaves and bulk up on their frame. Small clusters of flowers and fruit have been spotted, and indicates that the vines are so far quite happy. Even the currant bushes are starting to flower and flourish, and look as though they have been strung with green pearls.

June, July and August generally involve garlic being harvested. In spite of the horrid weather, the Marshalls Heritage seed garlic appears to be romping away. It is a little wind burned, which given the windy nature of the site is not all that unusual. The foliage is still lush, green and is now nearly a metre high; it looks rather robust. It may be some time yet before the foliage starts to die back and become raffia like.

 

Plot produce picking up

 

Things are starting to pick up! Inside the poly tunnel, the first of the chilli plants is starting to flower. The Purple haze variety has sent out a couple of flower buds. These tend to be a purple rimmed flower that indicates that the fruit will be a matching purple and eventually turn red. I did have a quick scan around the other pots, and I think the jalapenos were also on the turn.

Across swathes of the allotment, there is a carpet of white flowers. These flowers, all being well, will turn into strawberries. I don’t think I have seen quite so many strawberry flowers; they seem to have run riot.This is not altogether unexpected, the idea was that they would run riot and send out lots of runners and form a carpet that would help reduce other weeds from springing up.

In terms of other soft fruit, there are the tiniest of gooseberries coming through. To be honest, I had not seen much by way of gooseberry flowers. The plants are still young, and will still need time to become more established. I am looking forward to see the different colours, there are red, yellow and green varieties that are all looking very leafy.

Then there are tomatoes. There are quite a few plants, seventeen, at the last count; and they have taken something of a beating with the inclement weather. At the moment they do look a bit weather beaten; however they can’t be that miserable as there are baby tomatoes. There are tiny fruit on both my plants and those planted on Mum’s half plot. They could be a little more leafy, but all being well, they well catch up.