Tag Archives: tomatoes

Willow cottage gardeners are pleased to annouce the arrival of our first red tomato!

This rainy weather has been upsetting the greenhouse. We are finding that this year growth seems to be slow and spindly. Despite this we are pleased to announce the arrival of our first red tomato!

This is a plum variety called Roma. We are very proud parents and hope to have many more to follow this one.

The greenhouse looks very different to this time last year.

I feel that I am still waiting for it to grow. The tomato plants are covered in flowers but look very ‘thin’ despite a weekly feed. Any suggestions from fellow gardeners on why this is?

Maybe it is these ‘organic’ grow bags, or the cool temperatures or something else.

I am sad to say that my cucumbers died. They were looking so good and then they were attacked by black fly. I thought I would spray them with some soap mix. I must have mixed it up too strong as the next day they were past recovery. I have managed to source a couple more plants that I will put in and watch what happens. It is sad to see empty grow bag space…

Her x

It’s tomato time! Bring on the Nutscene twine and grow bags.

Our tomato plants have been growing so well in the conservatory, where they have been recovering from their sickness, that the time had come to plant them in the newly fixed greenhouse. The weather has been changeable, again, this week so the greenhouse is still full of all the plants I had wanted to plant out. There was nothing else for it – everything would just have to budge along and make room!  If I left the tomatoes to grow any taller they would topple over.

We have tried lots of different methods for growing tomatoes in the greenhouse and have settled on using twine to support the vines.

This year I used Nutscene twine that Hubby bought me for my birthday. He tells me he followed a link on My Tiny Plot blog site as an advert caught his eye when browsing and he thought I would like it. He was right, I did!

I tie the twine around the bottom of the grow bag and knot firmly.

Then I tie it again at the top of the greenhouse to a piece of garden wire running along the whole length of our greenhouse. You can also see all the little plants hardening off outside in this picture.

Next,  I cut little crosses in the supposedly organic  grow bags and plant in the tomato plants. Ta da….

The tomato plants grow happily up the twine. I just occasionally encourage them but wrapping them around the string.

Now, you may be wondering why the grow bags on the end have black pots on them – they are there to provide some extra growing space. I cut the bottom out of a medium plant pot and insert it into the grow bag.

I fill the pot with some extra compost and plant straight into them.

These particular tomatoes are a vigorous grafted strain that I picked up from our local garden centre. I thought I would give them a try and see how they do as they were reduced – I have mentioned before about my weakness for discounted plants!

I don’t think I would pay £3.99 per plant for these  but at 50p each I thought they were worth a punt.

I remember which plant is which by using a permanent marker to write on the grow bags.

So what did I end up planting?

3 x Cherry Conchita (grafted)

3 x Sun Cherry

3 x Gardeners Delight

2 x Harlequin

2 x Harbinger

2 x Pomodoro

1 x Beef steak (grafted)

1 x Sungold (yellow variety)

We still have room for a couple more tomato varieties, a few cucumbers and a a gherkin.

I hope our tomato plants like their new home and grow well for us this year. I am already optimistically looking forward to huge abundant crops of tomatoes. On holiday last year, we were so inspired by a wonderful 92-year-old Italian man who tended his field of tomato plants lovingly each day.  I was thinking of him today when I was planting up my grow bags. I know we cannot compare with his small holding but who knows, one day we may get close.

Her x

All this hardening off is very hard work!

The time has come when all my little seedlings are growing up and getting ready to leave the cosy comfort of the greenhouse. Well, actually, they are partly being evicted as I want the room for my tomato plants.  The weather is still cool but as we head into May it is gradually warming up. As my little seedlings have been used to the greenhouse environment I need to acclimatise them to the outdoor conditions.  In practise this means taking them outdoors in the daytime and back again at night for a few days. This is easier said then done as I have quite a few trays of seedlings. It seems to take the whole family about 15 mins of passing, tripping over seed trays and arranging to get them all out in the morning, and then we repeat this process again at night.

I know all the benefits of hardening off but part of me wants to just plant them out and see what happens. I feel like a neglectful parent even admitting that, but I am frustrated by the fetching and carrying every morning and night!

You may wonder why I have hostas in the greenhouse. Well, they are all growing in pots. Early spring I put them in to give them a good start. After hardening off I use the bushy little plants to fill any gaps in the flower borders, the pots just slip in and are unseen from a distance.  Then next year I bring them back to the greenhouse and start again. I have a rogue duck that escapes the orchard and enjoys spending time in the flower borders. I think she does a great job of de-slugging the garden so I can manage to grow beautiful silky hostas every year.

Well, I had better go and recruit the family for the moving plant palaver!

Her x

Tomato plant first aid – mother knows best.

A few weeks ago, I posted about my poorly tomato plants (thank you for all the helpful comments). They looked so miserable with their yellow droopy leaves and I had made various attempts to revive them to no avail.

Poorly plants…

Then…my mother visited.  After looking at my poorly plants she declared that she was not surprised as it was far too cold at night in my greenhouse and they would be happier living in the conservatory for a few more weeks.  I took note, as soon as she had left, naturally, and moved all 27 of the tomato plants up to the house.

A few weeks later they are looking much better. They have lovely, green new growth and they are getting very tall.

Tomatoes looking much healthier. Still a few yellow lower leaves but all top growth green and healthy.

In fact, they are now worrying me how well they are growing. I will need to put them out in a grow bag very soon. What do I do if it is still too cold in the greenhouse? I didn’t think it was too cold for them before but they have definitely improved with a warmer environment. I think maybe it was just too cold at night and too hot in the day, so the variation in temperature was huge.

The low temperature in our greenhouse has been partly due to a missing piece of glass. Last winter,  a gust of wind blew the window open, flipping it over the top, and smashed the window pane; we just hadn’t got round to fixing it.  I am pleased to report that I have been today to a glass supplier with the measurements and got a replacement piece for the window. I now just need Hubby to fix it. I hope this happens sooner rather than later as the thought of homing all 27 of my tomato vines in the house much longer is daunting.

Her x

SOS! What is wrong with our tomato plants?

We started our tomato plants off in the conservatory and about six weeks ago and then moved them to the greenhouse at the start of April. They were looking beautifully green and healthy last week. But at the weekend I noticed that they had started going yellow. The bottom leaves are getting worse but the top growth is still lovely and green. What is wrong with them?

I have consulted the books, looked it up online, read a few blogs and still I am not sure. I have been letting them dry out before watering so  I don’t think it is over or under watering.  I bought some Epsom Salts and used as a foliar spray and added a bit to the pots too, so I don’t think it is a magnesium deficiency.

Could it be a virus? It has been rather cold this week and we have a broken window in the greenhouse, would they do this if they got a bit chilly at night?

We feel sad that out little seedlings are sick and I just don’t know what to do to help them. It would be so dissappointing to start again. Can anyone offer some advice?

Her x

Growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the same greenhouse

In all the years we’ve been growing fruit and veg, about 10 now I reckon, we’ve never had much success growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the same greenhouse.  We tend to get either an amazing crop of cucumbers, or an amazing crop of tomatoes, but never both in the same year. Last year was all about the tomatoes whilst our cucumbers, which started off pretty well, gave up the ghost and wilted. By preference, we’d always prefer more toms – but a nice bit of cucumber for a summer salad would certainly go down a treat.

Most of the gardening books, of which there are a great many, say that the two should be grown in separate greenhouses. Great, if you have two greenhouses. The theory is that cucumbers love a climate that is moist, warm and damp. Tomatoes, however, like things a little cooler and less humid. These conditions also help fend off some of the nasties that each is prone to. Red Spider Mite (enemy of cucumber) is best controlled by a moist or humid atmosphere which stops it spinning its nasty little webs, whilst a cooler and airier atmosphere helps fend off blight and other fungal diseases that are out to get the toms.

So, given that most of us don’t have access to two greenhouses – much as we might like, what do you do if you want to grow the two together? In his book, The new complete book of self-sufficiency , smallholding guru, John Seymour, has the most sensible advice. He says:

“keep your house to suit tomatoes and let the cucumbers take pot luck and do the best they can.”

This seems pretty smart to me – but I’d still like to try and get the most from both crops this year if we can. Previously, our cucumbers have always lived in growbags next to the door. This year I’m going to try planting them out in a tin bath, which should heat ’em up a bit, and treat them to an extra bit of a spray with the hose when watering, and see how that goes. Any other tips much appreciated!

Him X

Greenhouse and garden update

Even though we’ve just had a busy birthday weekend we still found time for gardening. I am very pleased with my greenhouse progress. I really feel like I am making the most out of it this year. I am certainly starting lots of seeds!

You may notice I have had a bit of a rearrange. I have spread out my grow bags and put the seed trays on top. The grow bags should warm up in the day and help keep the seedlings warm at night.

Everything seeems to be successfully germinating but I think that has more to do with the recent warm spell than my green fingers.

It has been so warm that we have moved the tomato and chilli plants from the conservatory to the greenhouse. It feels like they family members that have moved out, hubby has been constantly worrying about them and feels the need to check on their well-being constantly. He started them off in January on the conservatory windowsill. That’s three months of nurturing, care and daily checking on progress; I suppose it’s no wonder he is so attached to them.

I am excitedly watching the first salad crop growing in the tin baths. I reckon another week and I should be able to pick my first leaves!

I can’t start any more seeds until we plant some of the current ones outside; we did make a start on this at the weekend with planting out some purple sprouting broccolli plants out under the protection of fleece. I hope they are happy growing in their new home.

You may also notice the straw in the background; I managed to find the time to mulch around the strawberries – hooray! I have managed to do this before the strawberries are hanging off this year. It’s the small things that cheer me up like the fact that,  I am really looking forward to having a bumper strawberry harvest.

I only started my strawberry patch last year. I had a small strip to fill in the fruit cage (the former chicken run) and decided to plant in grow bags as the soil was full of stones and bits of concrete. They are much bigger plants this year and I am hoping they will do the job and produce lots of juicy strawberries. I even gave them an extra little  mulch of garden compost under the straw to spoil them so they know I will be deserving of their effort.

I planted a huge range of varieties with a view to spreading the cropping season. I have already planted up a few runners ready to replace these plants should they fail to thrive or get old and tired. I bet my hubby would like a few runner wives to replace me when I am old and tired too!

Finally, I have tried a few little lettuce plants outside but was sad to see something had eaten them completely.  There were just a few remaining plants, somewhat depleted,  that I think I have saved with the use of my plastic squash bottle cloches. I cut a hole in the bottom, enlarged the hole at the top and they make great economical protection for plants. I wish I had thought to use them sooner and I wouldn’t have lost my little lettuces.

It doesn’t look pretty but it does the job nicely.

Plans for this week include; making a runner bean frame,  sourcing a cucumber plant, (I seem to of grown about six gherkins and I am hoping to find someone who would like to swap so I get a good range of varieties),  and occupying the little people in the Easter holidays. Wish me luck!

Her x