About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?

I've lost track track of when I last wrote about seed planting, if indeed I have at all. Suffice to say that some seeds have been planted.

Aubergine, gherkin and chilli seeds in a tray. Small quantities of each as they were freebies, but that's fine; I think one of each would probably be enough.

I've also planted some peas outside, though I'm really not sure that's a good idea. I think it may still be too cold - the RHS book says they can go outside as soon as the soil reaches 10°C. What does this mean? Does it have to be at least 10°C all the time, which would be well after the last frost? Or maybe it's deeper in the soil, in which case how deep? In any case, I don't have a soil thermometer. I do have a nice new max/min thermometer for the greenhouse though:

New greenhouse thermometer. As you can see, it's been pretty warm in there these last few days.

I tried to buy one at the (only) local garden centre, but they didn't have any. I was shocked, I tell you, shocked! Luckily, there is a wonderful shop tucked away in a side street of Aberystwyth called Charlie's, which sells all sorts of wonderful things, including max/min thermometers, waterbutts...

New waterbutt in the conservatory

... jamming kettles, kilner (-type) jars, knitting yarn, and shoes. I'm not so sure about the shoes, but I haven't actually ventured into that part of the shop yet. Charlie's is my favourite shop, ever. But I digress.

The other problem with planting peas directly outside is mice. Everyone tells me this and although I've taken my dad's advice and covered them liberally with holly leaves, I'm still worried the mice might 'ave 'em. So... I've planted a batch in the greenhouse, too, in funky little newspaper pots that seem to be all the rage on environmentally friendly gardening blogs.

The first 40 newspaper seedling pots. I need several hundred.

Mice might yet get into the greenhouse, but it has a sturdy base, with all the walls cemented to the ground, and I have a vigilant guard-cat to keep an eye on things:

Pebble guarding the peas in the greenhouse

We'll just have to see what survives.

I've finished sowing all the asparagus seeds, and the potatoes are now in the ground, having done their chitting:

Potatoes, all nicely chitted and ready for planting.

I got a bit confused about numbers of potatoes. Originally I guestimated that we'd need 100 plants (say one plant gives a meal's worth of spuds, that's two meals-worth per week for the year), but then I used JBA's potato calculator, which told me I only had space for 50... but I've just planted 100. I'm not sure how that happened. I may have planted them far too close together, but how did I end up ordering twice as much as I thought I had space for? It's a mystery.

The onion seeds I sowed back in January are coming along well.

Onion seedlings before pricking out

They really are the most extraordinary things. They come up in a hoop, then one end puts down a root while the other end, with seed still attached, slowly unfolds itself until the little plant is standing upright. Since taking this photo I have pricked them out into more seed trays so they have a bit more room. Here they are occupying all my seed trays, in the background of a picture of tomato seedlings:

Tomato and onion seedlings. Some of the tomatoes are in egg boxes because I ran out of plastic module trays and hadn't yet thought of the newspaper pots.

I had three types of tomato seeds, none of which I bought. Two were freebies with Grow It magazine, of which I was particularly pleased with Roma, that are good for sauces and bottling. The third were my saved seeds from cherry tomatoes I bought for eating. These are an unknown quantity, as they could well be hybrids and grow quite different fruit from the parent plant. Guess which ones are in the photo? Yes, the unknown, saved seeds were the ones that germinated quickly and prolifically.

I sowed two batches of each, a few weeks apart. I have pricked out 57 of the first batch of saved tomatoes and have another hundred seedlings in a tray. Of the free seeds, two or three of the Roma and one of the other (Tamina) have germinated from the first batch, with 30 Roma and about 10 Tamina germinating from the second batch. In total, then, I have about 200 tomato seedlings.

I really don't know how many tomato plants I'm going to need, and they take up quite a lot of space. Articles on the subject tend to say, "Five or six plants are usually enough for an average family." This isn't very helpful. A bit more research reveals that an average sort of a yield for a tomato plant might be 8-10 lb. This is much more useful information. For Roma, which will be mostly bottled (tinned, but in glass not tin), I can estimate how many bottles I'll need: If each one takes 1 lb fruit (similar to a tin) and I use two tins bottles per week, that's about 100 lb fruit, so twelve plants. I'll probably use more than that - make it twenty plants, which was my original estimate.

The others are more difficult to calculate, but for simplicity I could go for similar numbers of each, making 60 in total. That's a hell of a lot of tomato plants to find space for, but still leaves me with over 100 seedlings that I have no use for, and mostly very little idea of what kind of fruit they'll bear.

When I've figured out what to do with the tomatoes, maybe I'll have some idea of what to do with all this thyme:

Several thousand tiny thyme seedlings. The indentation is a paw print - punishment for putting seed trays all over the sunny windowsill.


  1. wow have you been busy!
    but I won't believe that cat telling you its keeping an eye on the seedlings....its an excuse for taking a nap!!!

    whats the RHS book? doesn't ring a bell...

    thats a lot of thyme you got there.
    grow them all in plants and sell the excess???

    love to youxx

  2. Yes, I'm thinking about growing them on and trying to sell them. I have to weigh up the time and space required, as well as cost of pots and compost against the rather small likely sale price. It may be worth it - I'm not sure.

    RHS - sorry, that was a rather local reference. That's the Royal Horticultural Society. They publish a series of encyclopedias, of which I have three: Gardening, Plants and Flowers, and Herbs. For many gardeners, these books are the gardening bible.


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