After a couple of disappointing years, I was determined to make a good go of growing tomatoes before giving up on them as needing more sunshine than we're ever likely to see in this part of Wales. As luck would have it, we had the best summer anyone can remember, so I had the best chance possible of getting a good crop.
I started my seeds off early on the home-made heated propagator. The seedlings came on nicely and I pricked them out into small pots of richer compost.
I may have been a little late getting them into their final pots/bags...
... but even so, I felt I was doing reasonably well at tending to their needs. After that I fed them weekly and carefully pinched out side shoots (OK I may have missed a few, but I got most of them) and my tomatoes grew well.
On the first weekend in August, we attended a local agricultural and horticultural show. There, I saw fresh, ripe tomatoes. But how? Though my plants were growing well, they'd only just started flowering. I couldn't see how I could possibly get fruit off them by the end of July.
I pondered this a while and concluded that the secret must be the variety. I hadn't given much thought to this beyond choosing varieties that I wanted to eat (and by the way, seeds saved from Roma tomatoes do NOT come true) or accepting generous gifts from those with spare seeds.
A quick perusal of the Real Seed Catalogue reinforced my theory, as they specialise in varieties with short growing seasons, for precisely that reason. I know where I'll be buying seeds from next year!
In the meantime, all is not lost. My plants grew large and set quite a lot of fruit, and would have given me more had the season been longer.
As the weather got cooler I kept the door closed for more of the time and inevitably mould took hold (my friend Gill tells me this is botrytis and can be cut out if caught early enough). Fearful of the whole crop getting infected, I decided to harvest it all at once.
Some of the fruit were red...
... though most were still green, but I'd read that there comes a point when the fruit is sealed off from the plant and will continue to ripen whether attached or not. What they need is warmth. I sorted my tomatoes into two baskets - at least a bit orange, which went to the kitchen for using soon, and definitely green, which went into the spare room out of the way.
They've since been brought into the sitting room where it's warmer, though Pebble did object that they were on her chair.
Sure enough, the green tomatoes have been ripening and taste better than the crop I grew in my first year. Gill ripened hers indoors last year very successfully and predicts that we'll be eating home-grown tomatoes at Christmas, though we both agree that we'd rather have them in the summer.