Tag Archives: Tomatos

Tis the season! Growing your own Ebooks


The first week of Spring, and there is soil beneath my finger nails. Well, there was; I’ve cleaned up and sit here writing. I’ve enjoyed pottering around the plot today,  I remembered how much colour the plot brings to my life. I also remembered, just how much I’ve learned in the decade of growing my own.

Growing your own is not a new thing. It’s been happening since the middle ages, but the rise of allotments has really put it into a sharp focus. As has the spotlight on eating healthy, getting exercising and knowing where your food comes from. Three things that when you have an allotment really are part of the whole process of growing and eating.

You don’t even have to have an allotment. I started my gardening journey with plant pots in Dad’s garden. Container gardening was a really good foothold in learning and experimenting.

This blog has documented every inch of learning and experimenting. Much has been supplemented by talking to allotment neighbours, not to mention gardeners and allotmenteers across the universe. Documenting on the blog was certainly one aim. I also wanted to share my learning and experimenting. I’ve made a few mistakes, and I guess communicating these to others has some benefits.

As such, two ebooks have borne out of this blog and offer another avenue for encouragement and support. They are also available in paperback.

Plant pot tales.

UK: http://amzn.to/2bdMdBB

US: https://amzn.to/2U0DUSa

Canada: https://amzn.to/2Y9z982

Sow grow eat

UK: http://amzn.to/2bdLro6

US: https://amzn.to/2unaLSt

Canada: https://amzn.to/2Wg2tIj

Potting up baby tomatoes 2016

Only sown a week ago, tomato seeds have cracked, germinated and started to reach for the sky. There were a number of jiffy pellets used, and approximately eight different varieties sown and most of these have successfully come through. With the light levels still very low, and the temperatures low enough to produce snow; the seedlings were starting to get very leggy and demanded immediate potting up. In being gangly, the danger is that they get so tall, they stretch out and snap at the root to keel over. The stems become very spindly if they are left in the heated prop for too long, and most of the seedlings had in fact been fished out so that the lower heat levels might slow them down a little.

Having done the necessary school work for this week, I needed to pot them up. As ever, I have help in the shape of my mum.(Happy mothering Sunday, to all those Mum’s -and dads, grandma’s, uncles and aunties who might occupy that role-on Mama’s day). I was all set to pot up the plants, only for Mum to arrive and wave me out the way. I was having a small crisis in not having any newspaper to put across the floor, so we have had to improvise today.

This video doesn’t exist

You can see the youtube version here.

I have lost count of how many seedlings there are. Suffice to say, there a quite a few. Tomatoes do grow rather quickly when they have optimum growing conditions. For now, I have potted the seedlings into 7cm pots. I-well, Mum has-potted them very deeply and right up to the seed leaves. All being well, this fragile stem-they turn purple when they are cold-will send out root hairs that will in turn anchor the plant into it’s soil and allow it it feed better.

At the moment, they do look very tiny and very small. All being well, these will start to become a little more robust and the true leaves will start to develop.They have interesting lacy quality that makes them instantly recognisable as being baby tomatoes.

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!


With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.


As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!











Polytunnel Plug in Post @Maroon5 concert


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing Maroon5 again. Prior to this, I spent time in the poly tunnel by way of a warm up. Singing,rather loudly, I might add. This involved putting manure into the poly tunnel and refreshing the soil. I also plugged in the vast majority of tomato plants bar one. Bar one, as the plants are still only two inches high.

The concert was epic, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Have now seen Maroon5 four times in ten years, and I was twice the age of their current fans. Maroon5 on shuffle tends to be what I have playing on the plot, all the time. Many slugs, have been slain, to the sound of Maroon5. Something about the vocals and guitar.

Anyway. the poly tunnel. This morning, I went to water the contents. We have vast variety of plants in there as listed below.


  • moneymaker
  • marmande
  • yellow stuffer
  • cherokee purple
  • true black brandy wine
  • cream sausage


  • cayenne
  • orange habanero
  • orange and chocolate habanero
  • pumpkin
  • raindrop
  • bellaforma
  • aji limo
  • serrano
  • apricot
  • purple haze


Above is the purple haze. This along with the Dorset Naga was purchased from sea spring seeds when they had a stall at the edible garden show. I bought plug plants of these two as the time had passed to sow from seed. Otherwise, I have sown and grown all the plants from seed. As you can see, there are two tiny purple chillies on the plant. So far, this is the most productive chilli plant, those are chillies number two and three! making this year already more successful than last year. We have had a spot of drama though, in having an aphid attack. The poor plants are only just starting to recover and send out new leaves. Lessons have been learned from last year. The chillies are in pots, and not in open ground. The result being, that the plants look happier, are more productive and don’t send out lots of bushy foliage with no flowers. Even the small plants in the brown pots are sending out flower buds. The additional benefit is that the pots can be moved around as things-fingers crossed-grow. I have one absent chilli-pettie belle-that is still to move on, plus four aubergine plants that are still being nursed at home.

Tomato transfer time again

Window sill shuffle is happening once more. The tomato plants, the first batch, had been sat in the four tier blowaway for some time. They have largely been growing quite vigorously, were becoming quite large for the small green house. There is a second, more diminutive batch remaining. The larger ones have now been transferred to the wendy house, the larger green house on the plot. They are still fleeced, as I really don’t want to take any chances at all. They are eventually going to go into the poly tunnel, once the red duke of york potatoes have been dug up. That might not be too long, since the leafy red and green foliage is quite rampant at the moment.

Five of the remaining habanero plants that are at home, have now taken the place of the larger tomatoes. There are still about half a dozen smaller tomato plants, that have yet to get a wriggle on.

Tomato transfer 2015-this may not work :S

The lovely Not Just Jams was talking about how she had put her tomatoes into her insulated greenhouse, with fleece. And I thought I might risk it. Not Just Jams also that she had had hot water bottles. Think that was milk bottles with water in, that heat up naturally. And since she is lovely, and has given me a lot of valuable ‘lotment and preserving advice, thought I might try some of her ideas. I didn’t get as far as the hot bottles. If only I had nabbed some out of the recycling that went out yesterday.

So I scampered this morning to tidy up the four tier blowaway, that has housed nothing but trays and things since last summer. I also need the window sill space. In the coming month, different things are going to get sown.

I did fleece the top deck of the 4TB though, and line it black bin bag. From GCSE science, that absorbs heat and light, as does the black trays. So here’s hoping to trap the heat.

And now  I am a scared. That these pampered things are not going to make it til sunrise. They were starting to sulk whilst they were just sat on the flagstones whilst the sun was out.

They are fleeced. In that I have managed to create a box with it on the top shelf. Two sheets of cut down fleece are placed at right angles to one another to cover the four sides.

Closed the door, and I shall try and sleep tonight. The poor things.

Seedlings and soft fruit: cynical single day



Today is the feast of saint valentines and as ever, I don’t have any plans. Have finally received the yellow autumn raspberries that I was expecting. These are a variety called fall good and will go with the yellow autumn bliss canes planted last summer. I am hoping that these actually taste of something. Have been rather looking forwards to them. These canes have been plugged in alongside the autumn bliss and hinnonmaki green goosberries.

Have also made paper pots today and potted up some wiry tomato babies. I now have two dozen babies so I doubt very I shall be sowing any more. Unless of course they all keel over.

Hot Yellow Sun: The chutney that worked…sorta

This year I intentionally grew yellow tomatoes. There were large yellow stuffer tomatoes, as well as smaller cherry tomatoes. There was a third plant with a citrus-y name, and the fruit were lemon shaped, but still tomatoes. I had also sown and grow orange habeneros, to join the tomatoes. Alas the habaneros didn’t come off. So we were stuck with the tomatoes, and one home grown chilli.

Compared to the red, white and green courgette and green tomato chutneys, this was a vibrant yellow chutney. The tomatoes held their form and flavour. It wasn’t quite as spiced as I would have liked, but quite sweet. I would definitely make this again, this was a highlight of the chutney and jam making experiments. I think I have the one jar left!

The chutney could definitely do with a bit more spice and flavour to it. I have found that with all of the chutney’s really. That whilst they are quite tart to begin with, on storage they do mellow. I need to figure out how to retain a burst of flavour. Plus, how to keep that flavour and not make it taste as though it was an indian dish and just curried veg.

#NaBloPoMo: Why blog from a Veggie patch?

It has now been two year since the horticultural hobbit blog was born. You can see the introduction and about here https://horticulturalhobbit.com/about/ The blog is two years old, and I have been on the plot now for approximately three years. We are now going into the fourth year of plot growing. The blog has come a long long way since it first came on line.

I have been sowing seeds for just under five years, nearly as long as I have been a qualified teacher. I actually stared sowing during a May bank Holiday weekend in 2009. I actually remember sowing thirty cayenne chilli seeds and minibel tomatoes. They are somewhere in the recesses of the archives actually. Prior to that, I hadn’t really given gardening or growing your own much thought. At that time, I was feeling stressed and worried. I was coming to the end of the inital teaching training period and had not gainful employment for that Autumn. So sowing seeds seemed a good a distraction as any really.

At that point, I was container gardener. I hogged one side of Dad’s garden, and built up one by one, a line of pots from Poundland. We had three running bean plants, some lettuce in a green scrappy grow bag. I remember picking those running beans. And slightly wonky, question mark shaped dwarf french beans. Cheap compost too, as I wasn’t exactly flush. Then came a week tomato greenhouse, to cover a rather dismal aubergine. I had graduated to aubergine by then,by way of experiment. I had a lot to learn, onions and cabbages were sown and plugged in when they ought perhaos not be.

Being a geek, i needed a book to help me, and I found one. Dipped in and out of it, it is Alan Titchmarsh’s kitchen garden book. I still have it, and do refer to it from time to time. When summer ended, the autumn came and I felt rather sad that nothing would grow over the winter. I kept going, and the in the following spring, found out about the local allotments. Quite literally a stones throw away. I may have inadvertently ‘bribed’ the allotment secretary. I had too many onions and not enough space in Dad’s garden. Putting my name down, I paced up and down for five months.  November came, and I had a plot. Half of one at that stage. Two weeks were required to clear it all. Luckily, the half plot had been sprayed with weedkiller so once everything was dried and dead it just need pulling up and away.

This feels a very long long time ago. During the time that has passed, I have learned a great deal. What turned out to be a small scale experimental study, has grown dramatically. I had not realised just how much I would learn, and how the experiment would develop.

When it came to starting the blog, I didn’t intend to just keep a record. I wanted to share, and I was and am, proud of what I grow. Especially, if it is edible. In sharing, if I had something that wasn’t working, or didn’t happen. The chances are, someone else was likely to have a similar issue. Plus why struggle, there is no shame in asking for help. I have found fellow allotmenteers, readers across the world, incredibly helpful. Always willing to share.

You do get the odd one or two who might tut and be harbingers of doom, but for the most part, people are really supportive. Sharing, is always good. Whilst I am not exactly writing a Psychological study,and this isn’t exactly a ground breaking bit of research. Oh there is a pun in there some where. I do like to share things, be it successful or not, In the vain hope that someone somewhere might get something from it. No matter how inane it might. I still treat it all as an experiment. I’m not sure how this would all work as a research project. Would there have to be an ethics proposal? I do have to exterminate pests. There are pitfalls and positives. How boring would it be, if we had all the answers, and I didn’t learn anything. In science, we get proof of something, and other things fail miserably.

I also blog as I enjoy what I do on the veggie plot. There are some instances, where I don’t enjoy it. I mean, pulling up weeds, I hate that with a passion. Especially when it is raining, and the ground is sodden. I also believe in what i do. That might sound like a sales pitch, it really isn’t. Some folks probably would’t grow a single seed as it doesn’t interest them. As mentioned previously, I wouldn’t have. I just didn’t.

It never ceases to surprise me where the blog gets read. Perhaps I mis-underestimated the reach of the world wide web. That or there are lots of spam bots, I don’t know.

plotting for the poly


Evening all, the first day of the Christmas holidays has me in a reflective mood; trying to figure out what to do next on the plot. The weatherman has just forecast a very wet, windy and turbulent festive period. Leading me to think about making plans without venturing outside and getting soaked to the skin.

The whole plot does required tidying. Winds and rain has tossed around bits and pieces as though they were flotsam and jetsam. That can be easily remedied in just walking around and putting things back in their places. The nature of the wind, the buffeting on the windows always makes feel ill at unease. It would sad, if either the wendy house or poly took flight as though some farmhouse in kansas. The allotment site is windy, and things have been known to take flight before. So always unsettling to hear the wind whistle and then moan.

The inside of the poly does require tidying as well, Since it was raised, it has merely house pots of chillies. There wasn’t, sadly, a plan to start filling it over the winter. There was, a hope that it would actually survive the winter, and I could then focus in the growing season in terms of planting and growing. A notion, that set about when sorting out the seed stasher. Established that I have lots of cress and basil seeds, not likely to sow them. All freebies, actually. Perhaps suited to a loving home. As well as lots of black cherry tomato seeds. Enough to cultivate a small forest. Didn’t have a vast variety of them, as I had thought. This year, the tomato crop was prolific. Fruit didn’t go red on the vine, but it was bumper crop. Good use was made of them all. I didn’t label any, so that makes it difficult to consider what I should or shouldn’t think about sowing. Since I didn’t have a poly when these were being cultivated,all of the tomato plants were planted without cover and in raised beds. The question then being, what shall I plant in the poly. I am not likely to sow seed directly. There is a mistrust here, of slugs and such like. Critters knibbled on the potted chillies, which rather brassed me off to be entirely honest. I have no sympathy for the creature that gnarled through the jalapeños.  That, my friends, is called karma.

Mother has had word with me, about the number of plants I sow. Don’t sow so many, being the long and short of it. The only concession that I make, is that I tend to get carried away, and not all seeds might germinate.

With the polytunnel, I am hamstrung by the size. It is not massive. A nice neat size of 3m x 2m. Inside, there is a wooden plank down the middle-the one pops constructed, remember-leaving a horseshoe shaped space to sow things into. I would like to cultivate plants so that they are at least 8-10 inches high, whatever they might be, before sinking them into the ground of the poly tunnel. There might have to be the blue pellets of doom, by way of preventative measure.

Must get the inside of the polytunnel weeded though. Being warm and light inside, there is a fair bit of grass that needs to be removed. A process that might involve the inside actually being dug over once more, and each offending blade being painstakingly removed. That plays on my mind, in making sure that I have an adequate canvas to play with. It’s also a bit grubby on the inside, watery tidemarks that need to be wiped down.

Other than tomatoes, I have a list of things that I would like to dabble with. As observed in a previous post, I would like to grow some superhot chillies. So chillies and peppers will feature, hopefully. Again, despite what Mama H has said. A re-match with Aubergines too, having failed to get a single fruit last year. We had lots pretty lilac flowers, but not a lot else. Cucumbers are a potential, though I only have the outdoor variety at the moment. May have to look into that. And melon. Something that may require a structural investigation, as they require a bit of support.


And all in the confines of 3m x 2m.  Defying the laws of physics, and turning the poly into the tardis. The inside, being bigger than the outside.


Yours in anticipation,

Horticultural Hobbit