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

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.

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The Violet Palm

I have a confession to make.  Despite my love of all things green and leafy, historically I have been pretty hopeless with houseplants.  They are generally to be found looking slightly sad on windowsills around our home having been either over or under watered, under fed and left in their too small pots for too long (maybe ‘a sadness of houseplants should be the collective noun).  However, when one of my favourite local coffee shops announced they were taking over the unit next door to open a plant shop, naturally it piqued my interest.

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Sweet Sensations: Fragrance

A huge amount of emphasis in gardening is focussed on how plants and hard landscaping can be combined to make a space look good, using colour, form and texture.  However, incorporating features which engage other senses can be equally important in creating a garden which can be enjoyed year round.  Continue reading

Container Gardening: Autumn 2017

For many people gardening in small urban spaces, containers will almost certainly form a key part of their planting space, and may be the only option if there is no open ground available.  In my own garden I have two small beds either side of a paved area but I have always supplemented these with the use of containers to provide an opportunity for temporary planting including edibles and seasonal displays.  This blog post is focussed on some recent Autumn planting I have undertaken in my own garden. Continue reading