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.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tomato report

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.


My tomato plants in mid July

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.


In early September

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.

2 comments:

  1. Hmmm... well, our climates are completely different, so my input might not translate well, but when has that ever stopped me!

    First of all, I've never had any luck growing tomatoes in pots - and the ones in your photos look kinda small to me. I wonder if that has any impact on the plants setting on fruit.

    How hot were the temps in your little greenhouse? In really hot years, I've had problems with tomatoes because above a certain temperature, they won't set on fruit. I think that once temps get consistently above 90F/32C or so, they start having problems.

    The other thing that can be problematic is giving them too much fertilizer. I don't completely understand this one, but for some reason if they get too much nitrogen the plants grow big and leafy, but they don't set on fruit.

    The other thing I've had problems with is getting them to ripen - especially if we get a lot of rain late in the season. If you have that problem, you can try cutting back on the water and letting the soil dry out for a day or two. I think this sends the plant into "I'm gonna die soon" mode so it figures it had better put all of its energy into ripening.

    And my last piece of tomato wisdom is that in my experience, if you pick them completely green, they don't get as sweet as they do when allowed to ripen at least a little bit on the vine. It might depend on the variety, but I generally use those ones for cooking rather than eating raw.

    OK... that's all I know! Hope something in that blathering is at least a little bit useful!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Cat, nice to hear from you :-)
      I didn't label my photos very well (at all), so the pots may not be quite as tiny as you think. Where you can see the pots clearly, that's the small pots that the plants were outgrowing. They're not in their final containers (actually compost bags - two plants to a bag) until the next picture, but you can't really see the bags there.

      My greenhouse can get that hot, but I open the door to keep it cooler, so I don't think that was the problem. You might be right about the fertilizer, though. I did give them quite a lot of nitrogen, and got lots of green leafy growth for it. I probably should have given them more potassium, and earlier (I did at the end, but it was probably too late to make much difference).

      I did cut back on water for the last few days, when I'd decided to harvest the lot (and yes, they were going to die soon!). I think that might have pushed them past the 'completely green' stage, so they're ripening OK indoors. I'm not entirely sure how to spot when they've past the critical point, but I think it's when they change to a lighter green.

      Anyway, thanks for all the advice. I'll remember it's here, but I'm still going to try different varieties next year!

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