The Great Tomato Experiment of 2018

When I first got into gardening I always liked the idea of growing edibles and, like many people, started with a few tomato plants in growbags in the back yard.  Although we now have an allotment I still prefer to grow a small amount of produce at home in our tiny back garden which is sheltered and south facing, and so ideal for outdoor grown tomatoes (and chillis).  There’s also nothing quite like being able to pop out of the kitchen and pick a few just ripe tomatoes to gobble up straight away.  I’ve always liked to try different cultivars, and frequently find myself beguiled by those which are quirky colours or otherwise a deviation from the standard red salad tomato you find in the supermarket.

Earlier this year I read James Wong’s ‘Grow for Flavour’ which is full of interesting approaches to getting the best from your home grown crops and made me realise that perhaps my usual criteria of ‘which cultivar is weirdest’ wasn’t necessarily serving me that well!  Amongst his advice on how to maximise the flavour of your home grown toms (apart from choosing the right cultivar) were:

  • grow tomatoes in soil rather than a container of compost because they will have access to a wider range of nutrients
  • feed them with Potassium-rich molasses rather than the usual proprietary tomato fertiliser which is higher in Nitrogen
  • spray them with aspirin (something to do with mimicking plant hormones)

I did none of these things due to a mixture of cost, convenience and time factors, but what did pique my interest was the advice on pruning tomato plants to maximise both yield and flavour.  Essentially, rather than the traditional approach of allowing a plant to form 4-5 trusses of fruit before pinching out the top, plants would be stopped at one truss of fruit.  In theory this should mean plants can be positioned closer together, would not need staking and would allow the plant to focus all of its attention on producing one truss of large, flavoursome fruit.  So this I thought I’d have a go at. Continue reading

Glorious Autumn Colour at Holehird Gardens

As my year away from work on maternity leave was drawing to a close – a time I will always look back on as one of those charmed periods you occasionally get in life – we decided to take ourselves off to the beautiful Lake District for a cheeky mid-weeker.  We stayed in Keswick which was the destination for many of my own childhood family holidays and, as my husband observed, a place I tend to drift back to when trying to cope with periods of transition.  With the inevitable anxiety about my forthcoming return to work, settling our little boy into nursery, and my husband juggling his own freelance work with increased childcare, a few days away in the breathtaking scenery surrounding Derwentwater was just the ticket.  Seeking to stretch the holiday out just a little longer on a glorious September morning we decided to stop off at Holehird Gardens, just outside Windermere, before making the journey home. Continue reading

Sweet Sensations: Garden Sounds

When developing a garden I imagine that for most of us the first consideration is the visual: colour schemes, shapes and forms, composition.  We might also think about choosing plants which provide fragrance that we can enjoy with our morning coffee or evening glass of wine, as I discussed in a previous blog.  But how many of us consider the role of sound in the way we experience gardens and green spaces, never mind deliberately incorporate elements which contribute to and enhance the soundscape? Continue reading

Cake and Community

Last Sunday, at the end of National Allotment Week, we had what has become our annual Summer Social at our allotment colony. Essentially this is an afternoon gathering at the allotment site for any plot holders who fancy getting together with their fellow Grow Your Own enthusiasts. Our site is only small and this, coupled with the usual August holiday absentees, meant attendance was as ever modest. Still I find this event a reliably cheering experience. Continue reading

Creating a focal point using containers

One of the things about having a postage stamp sized garden is that you can see pretty much all of it all of the time.  Design concepts such as having themed ‘rooms’ and creating ‘mystery’ by deliberately obscuring the view of a feature from certain angles are lovely ideas, but nigh on impossible to achieve if you are working with 30m² of space.  Indeed accommodating attractive planting alongside practical features such as bins, water butts and washing lines can be a key challenge when garden proportions are limited.  Thinking about where the eye is naturally drawn to in a garden, and where it is you would like it to rest, can be a big part of balancing the aesthetic and the pragmatic.

Continue reading