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.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Bagging-on tomatoes

I've been putting off the job of potting-on tomatoes for a while now. This is because it's not just a matter of putting plants in pots and adding compost. I had neither pots nor compost and furthermore no space to put the tomatoes once potted. Here's where I planned to put them:

We've been using the conservatory as a junk room since we moved.
If you look closely, you can see a cat in this picture.

The first job then, and it was no trivial task, was to clear space in the conservatory.

The next problem was the pots. I was impressed by Louisa's planters made from scrap wood, and thought I might have a go at something similar.

I could get four or five tomato plants in one of those

The trouble was, I lacked a ready supply of scrap wood, or the skills to make planters out of it. As the tomatoes got increasingly insistent in their demands for a new home, I decided to bite the bullet and just buy some pots. I looked up prices and found that you can get suitable tomato-sized pots (and they're big plants) for a pound each. That didn't sound too bad until I counted the tomatoes in need of pots. There were 44 of them. That's the best part of fifty quid. Ouch. That's before I've even thought about compost to put in them or trays to stand them in. Maybe I wouldn't resort to buying pots just yet...

Over on the SelfSufficientish website, AngeB had recently won a competition with her money-saving tip for the garden:

Spuds for life - potatoes growing in sturdy carrier bags

Hmm, I did have a lot of empty compost bags in the greenhouse that I'd kept, just in case they came in useful. Now could be their chance!

The final component was the compost. I had two bags of bought compost, and stretched that by mixing it with garden soil (first weeded - another job along the way). When that ran out - and it went a surprisingly long way - I opened up the big compost heap. That is, I lifted some of the weeds that were growing on it and dug into the side of it. Hey presto, compost! It was pretty coarse, and not as dark and rich as some I've made, but still definitely compost. That also got mixed with soil before giving to the tomatoes.

So, with all the elements in place (and having tidied the conservatory), the procedure was:
  1. Collect compost bags, gravel bags, whatever I can find, and roll down tops of bags until they could pass for pots
  2. Fetch stones* and lay a layer in the bottom of each bag for drainage
  3. Cut comfrey** and add a layer of leaves on top of the stones, because I've heard that tomatoes like it
  4. Fill bag with compost/soil mix and one or two tomatoes, depending on size
  5. Carefully push down the compost around the plants until they're nicely snuggled in
  6. Repeat many, many times, digging and mixing more soil and compost as required
  7. Water
It took me two days, and now I've finally finished, the conservatory looks like this:

There are forty four tomato plants here, though not all of them are in this photo.

You won't see a cat in that photo, no matter how hard you look, because she was on the roof:

Pebble on the conservatory roof

Ignoring Pebble's dastardly deeds and returning to the tomatoes, I am very excited by the first tiny fruit:

Let this tiny tomato be the first of many, and let them all grow big and juicy.
Well, maybe not the cherry tomatoes.

I'm feeling very pleased with myself for doing all that, especially as I managed to avoid spending any more money at all.


* This was another incidental tidying up job. Our garden is full of stones and I keep digging them out of the soil and leaving heaps of them about the place. One heap on the patio got sorted, leaving the largest stones in a neater pile and taking the smaller ones.

** The comfrey has been making a nuisance of itself trying to spread its seeds all over the potato patch. I wasn't sorry to cut the horizontal stems and, by the time I'd finished, most of the vertical ones too. There are plenty of new leaves growing from the base.


  1. This is a job I put off for ages too - not just for the tomatoes but for everything -- for the same "which pot/container?"/"what compost?" issues.

    I spent quite a bit on pots last year - hence making all the scrap wood planters this year. I hope to keep adding to them each year so will eventually have enough!

    Because I have to grow so much stuff in containers, I could easily get through a LOT of expensive compost but I made myself a little vow - that each container has to be at least half filled from leaf-mulch and/or still-a-bit-coarse compost from our compost heap (we don't have enough garden soil to share). Again, hopefully the amount of soil/homemade compost will grow each year too.

    We've got out first little mini tomatoes appearing as well - having a bit of a potassium uptake issue with the outside toms but the greenhouse ones are doing well. Can't wait to harvest them :)

    Oh, and the camouflaged kitty cat - that's one relaxed kitty :)

  2. Genius tomato plants and how satisfying to have avoided spending money - you should get a bumper crop from forty four plants. The cat search nearly defeated me...I see a cat search book series on the Where's Wally lines...

  3. The cost of compost does add up fast, doesn't it? Using home-made helps a lot, but I'm not sure I'll be able to make enough to keep up. I need a compost strategy.

    Yes, not spending money was as satisfying as getting the job done in the first place.

    Haha - Where's Kitty! Maybe if I start collecting these pictures now, I'll have enough for a book by the time my new-born neice is old enough to appreciate it.

  4. You can make fertiliser from the comfrey you chopped down, you leave it steeping in a bucket of water until it really smells horrid. Water your tomatoes with it but dilute 1 part comfrey tea to 10 parts water.

  5. Cheers Beelady, and glad you found the blog ;-) Yes, my third batch of stinky comfrey fertiliser is brewing now. The tomatoes (and cucumbers, squash, etc.) get that too.


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