what’s come out of the garden this season?

Recipes for vegetables from the garden will appear very soon, but first a gallop through the results of all the effort put into the garden this year. You may have seen my what a show post, here I’ll concentrate on the eating part, the best bit of growing.
We’ve had an odd year on the vegetable front, as have most people I’ve talked to wherever they are in Britain.
Sorry I haven’t got any pictures…

The peas I started off early were fabulous and lasted through til the end of July, I tried a second batch, sown 3 weeks later then planted outside, they almost caught up with the first lot. I didn’t weigh them, but masses of peas and mangetout for weeks and weeks made me very happy. I did plant loads this year, I have found by trial and error that they like to be quite close together.

Germination of all my tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers and squashes was rubbish. They all sprouted and then stopped with that cold spot at the end on March/beg April and never started growing again, so for the first time since I started growing veg I bought some plants!

Luckily I had been given some fab tomato seedlings when I admired some at one of TOWPCOE’s customers houses (I had gone along to help out on a day I wasn’t teaching) I was genuinely impressed by the size of her plants in February, mind you over by the coast they get a bit more sun than we do. She gave me 8 plants, a small plum tomato, can’t remember if she told me the variety, they are delicious and not something I would have ordinarily gone for. The ones I can’t eat fresh I have cooked up for the freezer, about 1.5 kg in a large pan on a low heat stir when the first ones start to cook and just cook them until they are all covered in juice. Last year I let them cool and then picked out the skins by hand before freezing them but this year I couldn’t be bothered so they’ve got skins in, I’m sure they’re better for you that way! That gives 3 x 500g yoghurt pots full then freeze them. I have looked up bottling, but got worried when they started talking about botulism, I wish I’d asked my Grandma before she died, I’m sure she used to do it, I remember seeing jars on her pantry shelf, a real north facing pantry up in the peak district.
One plant turned out to be a marmande which is great cos they’re my favourite. There are still a load left on the plants some of which will still ripen, (the advantage of a polytunnel is even though we have had a little frost they are safe in there as long as it’s aired a bit and doesn’t go mouldy!) So far I have had over 9 kilos, the first only in late August so not the best for salads this year, the ones that don’t ripen by the end of October will be for chutney, recipe to follow later on.
See tomato post for growing ideas.

Beetroot have been prolific this year, I’ve never had success before, I did plant them too close together again! When will I learn?

Garlic were smaller than last year, who knows? Not enough water at the right time or not enough sun? Anyway got loads, pulled them at the end of August washed them and took off some of the outer layers of skin. We layed them out on two metal grids we have and put them in the sun when there was some. Otherwise they’ve been in one of our porches, kept the door open, brought them in to the house about 2 weeks ago and I got round to plaiting some of them last night.

Courgettes from 2 plants I bought, a nice variety, loads as usual but they’ve slowed down a bit now, the polytunnel i great as it keeps the frost off for longer.

We had a few Calabrese this year, they got seriously caterpillars, not grown them before and didn’t spot the signs of the buggers hiding in the heads. I’ll try them again next year, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled, we have got so many off the purple sprouting and kale. Killing caterpillars better not figure highly in the karma stakes or we are well and truly stuffed! They can always stay on the nasturtiums, there’s always loads of them in the polytunnel.
Nasturtiums make great cut flowers if you like a random shape, cut 2 foot long “branches” stick them in a tall vase and a day or so later cut off the leaves that haven’t taken to being in water the flowers will grow to face the light in a day or two and look fab for a week or two.

Beans haven’t been as good as normal but still plenty, the purple variety we’ve grown for years is very prolific. This year all were from collected seed from last year and have been as good as usual, it’s a shame that they go green when cooked, but it’s a good indicator that they’re done. There are still some on the plants outside, the indoor ones finished at least a week ago. The Borlotti beans were ok, after visiting my sister who got 30 g off 3 plants I decided to weigh ours, 1.1 kg from 30 plants, one row about 3 metres long, tied on strings (see tomatoes post for how to do it).

We’re on the second raspberries, I planted them last year and thought I’d killed them in March when I cut them down to the ground, but luckily they recovered. Next year I’ll cut them a lot earlier Jan or Feb and hopefully the fruit will come a bit earlier. There are still loads of green berries and I can’t see them all ripening. We’ve been getting about 250g for the last few days, before that a trickle, enough for breakfast every day for the last month.

Brassicas for this winter went in far too late again, a couple are ok, but we’re not going to be living off cabbage! Perhaps that’s a good thing…

I ran out of steam a while ago, and I’m sure you have too… If you got this far well done. May continue this later, or not?

TOWPCOE just brought in some logs from an ash tree we had chopped down in Feb, going to try them in the woodburner tonight, nice and cosy and finish plaiting the garlic.

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tomatoes

I love growing tomatoes, eating them straight off the plant and the smell of the leaves and stems on your hands is a treat when you’re out in the garden. In the kitchen fresh in salads, or cooked they’re much better than tinned. We had half a winters supply in the freezer last year, they’re a little runnier than a tin, but usually that doesn’t matter.
I will get around 12 kilos off 8 plants this year, maybe not quite as many as last year but good compared to what other people have said about theirs.

HERE’S MY GUIDE TO GROWING TOMATOES (IN A POLYTUNNEL?)
Planting…
Soil should be pretty good, they are hungry plants, we dig in some manure, approx equiv. to a 3 inch layer, digging seems to be better for us in the polytunnel. The soil is pretty poor generally, it dries out quickly and is crumbly and pale when it does. Sometimes I have added a bit more into each planting hole if I’ve got some spare. I have to make sure the soil is well wetted right through before I plant, because it dries out quickly (I will talk about mulching another time) if you leave dry pockets the water will never get through capillary action etc. see watering bit later for details.
About 2 foot apart when they have at least 2 sets of real leaves, not too big as they could be a bit stunted in the pot, I pull the roots out of the spiral they’ve usually grown into, end up breaking a lot, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
also see watering and supporting.
Supporting… In the polytunnel for the last 2 years I have used string to support them rather than canes, (I think that was a Bob Flowerdew tip) from the uprights of the polytunnel I have stretched some string above where I want to plant them. Then I tie a length of string long enough to hang from the string above and leave about 8 inches /20cm to bury under the roots as you’re planting out, it has worked really well. As the plant grows you just gently wind it around the string. For extra side branches I have tied them to added string just dangling, not as good, next year I’ll try burying a few strings with each plant…
Watering… Every other day, unless not at all sunny.
I sink bottles in when I plant so that using the hose on full doesn’t damage the soil structure, wash away too much soil around the roots and also when the plants get big you can see where to aim for!
What to do- a 2 litre “pop” bottle lid off, bottom cut off, neck down, buried about 3-4 inches/8-10 cm or so deep, in well dampened soil, make sure there are no dry bits. (Our soil gets so dry and powdery, once in this state water cannot penetrate at all well and it could stop a plant getting enough water.) Dig a hole push the bottle neck in hard, (hand in and lean!) back fill and firm around the bottle. Put in 1 or 2 plants by each bottle, this year I put 4 bottles in a row of 8 plants. Fill the bottle with water, it shouldn’t drain away, if it does the soil is too loose around the bottom. (Or you’ve hit a mouse run!) On the other hand it shouldn’t still have water in the next day! (You may have a stone in the neck.)
If the surface of the soil around the plants is particularly dry I give them a bit direct with the hose to moisten the soil then fill the bottle to make sure the capillary action can work around the roots.
The age old question… to cut off side shoots or not?
To be perfectly honest I’ve always been a bit lazy about that, sometimes I rub off the small shoots as I’m watering, but I find it difficult to go and take them off when they are big and flowering. The last couple of years i have “gone in” when they have got to impenetrable jungle stage and thinned out a bit, well a lot actually, this year about the middle of August. That’s when I took off a lot of the large leaves and the ends of each branch down to the truss with set fruit on them. I had about 6 branches on each plant, and I suppose about 3 – 6 trusses of varying sizes on each branch, the fruit are small but I’m assuming they are meant to be. Would I have got bigger or more fruit had I cut back harder? I might try that next year on alternate plants…
Feeding… irregularly would have to be the answer, I started this year with good intentions and did weekly comfry feeds for a bit. Then the smell got too much when the weather was hot, (yes it was -don’t forget!) I got round to getting some tomato food eventually and did that for a bit.

Growing in pots… I also bought a couple of gardeners delight when none of my seedlings got beyond first real leaf stage in the cold snap in April. I put them in pots with the aim of putting them on my “terrace”, they never made it out of the polytunnel and didn’t do very well at all about 15 toms in total. I think it was probably being in pots, not as much water available to them they’d probably prefer watering every day and the feeding… I really should have done more of that.
However the others have done so well I’m not at all bothered.

Next year I will try to…
Feed regularly,
Try cutting side shoots off at least one plant to see if the yield is better (for the time taken to do it),
Get some tomatoes to eat before August! I’ve been thinking and I have never had enough ready for the show, that’s always 2nd weekend in August. Maybe cutting side shoots off would mean earlier fruit?
TAKE PHOTOS! just looked through all this years and none of the tomatoes.