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

Five handy books on growing your own

We have now had our allotment for almost six years, and even before that I had been growing edibles in containers in our small back garden for quite some time.  Whilst there is a plethora of information online about growing your own produce, you really can’t beat a good book for guiding you through the process.  The books highlighted in this blog are those I have found particularly interesting and useful (so far!). Continue reading

To Dig or not to Dig, that is the Question

Digging.  An activity which for many years has been considered an essential feature of gardening, particularly in the vegetable patch.  But is it all it’s cracked up to be?  This blog is about the pros and cons of digging a plot, and where I am currently at in my own practice. Continue reading

Allotment Harvest 2017: the winners and losers

During 2017 I took part in a research project being conducted by staff at University of Sheffield, under the banner of MY Harvest, into the impact of home grown produce on UK food production.  The project involved enlisting domestic gardeners who grow their own fruit and vegetables, either on an allotment or at home, to submit data about their crop yields throughout the year.  This blog post is about what the data for my own plot has revealed about this year’s harvest and has been written in conjunction with Datawoj (otherwise known as my husband!) who did some snazzy data visualisation for me. Continue reading

Allotments: what is their role in the 21st Century?

We have had an allotment for the past 5 years.  As well as enjoying the fruits of our labour in terms of the produce we have grown, I have also been an active member of the allotment colony’s association committee which has provided some insight into the issues associated with managing an allotment site.  This blog is a reflection on the role of allotments in modern life and why, in my view, they continue to be an important feature of our national culture in the UK.

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