TOMATOES

I can’t imagine not growing tomatoes, I grow them every year and I have done so even before I had the allotment. I’m lucky to have a super greenhouse in my back garden – I treated myself for my birthday one year and got the best I could afford. It is a lovely Rhino greenhouse, I had a guy to put it up. He had all the necessary tools and it was amazing to watch. He made it look so easy.

It was in this greenhouse that I harvested the huge tomatoes today. I try to grow different ones each year, these ones are new to me – Cherokee purple. They are lovely to look at and great to taste. To grow them I fill the pots or the grow beds with a special compost I have, I get it from Dalefoot, their compost is totally peat free and they have a special tomato compost. The tomatoes just love it and I’m delighted with the results.

The biggest one was 571 g, quite a monster. I chopped them all up and roasted in the oven with someĀ  olive oil and a few cloves of garlic. Afterwards I just blitzed it with a hand-held stick blender and seasoned the soup. Quite delicious, nothing but fresh home grown organic ingredients. There will be more soup as there are more tomatoes in the greenhouse on the allotment.

ONE MAN’S RUBBISH IS

another man’ treasure. This was the story of my morning today. This story started some months ago. On the street where I walk to the allotment a house was raided by the police. It was a canabis growing place. The police took the occupants away and boarded the doors and windows of the house. So far so good. As I was walking to the allotment in the morning I saw a van in front of this ordinary terraced house with a couple of men carrying pots and bags out and loading them in the van. When I asked what they are going to do with the pots etc I was told that they would donate them to me – and the bags with the compost if I wanted it.. Of course I agreed, got my wheelbarrow from the allotment, which is just down a short passage, and started taking it all there. In the end it proved a bit much for me so I phoned Frank to come and help and between the two of us we finished the job. The compost in the bags was used but only once after one lot of plants grew in it so it is still very good.

I had a piece of land where I harvested my garlic and had nothing growing there now so that is my latest storage area. I’ll be able to share the pots with my friends on the site and the compost will be excellent for topping up the level of soil in my raised beds. All this has saved me quite a bit of money and effort – I don’t have to drive to a garden centre to getĀ  the compost and the pots will be just right to grow my tomatoes or peppers.

Waste not want not and the guys from the clearing company had much less to take to the tip.

BOTTLING TIME…

…..is here again. I always remember my Grandma when it comes to cooking, baking and making jams or bottling. She was able to create something out of nothing or almost nothing. A few basic ingredients and she whipped up something delicious. My Granddad was a keen gardener and had a large plot of land outside our town. We didn’t call it an allotment – he got the land between the two world wars with the view to build on it – as they had two daughters who would one day get married and have children, the house would be big enough for all of them. It didn’t happen and I remember the big area as a lovely garden with a large shed that was big enough to sleep in. We had a well with delicious cold water all year round, he kept rabbits and grew a multitude of fruit and vegetables. And here is where my Grandma came into her favourite role. Whatever he grew she used it and made something out of it. Freezers weren’t around as yet – perhaps somewhere in the West they were but not behind the Iron curtain so she bottled or dried fruit and veg, made compote, jams, you name it she made it. I always recall her larder full of jars and since I have been gardening on my allotment I tried to follow her example. I am quite a way behind but I’m getting there.

This finally brings me to my activity today. In the morning I harvested a full box of my cherry tomatoes and decided to oven roast them with some elephant garlic, also harvested today, and bottle them. Much better to use in cooking than buying a tin of tomatoes. There is no sugar or salt added to my tomatoes and the result is delicious.

Courgettes are another vegetable that keeps on giving. My latest is to make pasta sauce using courgettes, mushrooms, sweetcorn, peas, tomatoes and anything else that I have to hand, chop all veg and cook. As it usually gives me a huge pot so I bottle it.

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Much tastier than any shop-bought and I know that I didn’t add any sugar or salt.

Next I have to do some research how to best use aubergines, one of the greenhouses on the allotment has about seven plants and they all started producing beautiful shiny fruits.

Watch this space.

TOMATOES

I knew I was going to have different tomatoes but I didn’t realise that they’ll be so different. I thought they were called Cherokee purple but these are even darker than purple. I’m sure they’ll taste great, looking forward to harvesting them

Talking of harvesting – the strawberry harvest is quite amazing this year. I’ve made two lots of jam, we have them on our porridge in the morning and the little smiler next door gets a box almost every day – his favourite birthday food.

PEAT-FREE GROWING

I’m well aware of the current trend of peat-free growing. I use Dalefoot compost

I have been using it for a few years and I’m very happy with it. They have improved it by adding comfrey to it, there is a range of different kinds, depending what you want to use it for – seed propagation, potting up and, best of all, tomato compost. My tomato plants are the proof of that.

The compost is a bit more expensive than the usual product you get in a garden centre but it is well worth the cost.

SPRING IS HERE

Finally it all came together. First of all I managed to harvest my very first spring rhubarb – I think it is the tastiest of all the pickings.20210318_111901

Last year in the autumn I have acquired another greenhouse, a very old one at that. It belonged to an elderly lady who lived in a house right next to our allotments. We were very friendly, she was used to come to see me quite often . She had a little gate in her fence as her husband was used to have a plot on our site quite a number of years ago. She died a few years ago and the people who bought her house didn’t want the greenhouse so I rescued it. The structure was sound but as we dismantled it quite a lot of the panes of glass broke – it was very old and brittle. Anyway, with help I moved it all to my plot and stored it very carefully. My friend Dave said he would help me to put it together. Soon after the New Year he surprised me by getting the structure up and in position. It formed a neat group of greenhouses. Next job was harder – sorting out the panes of glass. As so much of it broke I decided to do a bit of mix and match – I ordered eight polycarbonate sheets for the side panels and decided that the rest and the roof would be glass. Had to buy some more glass but it all started to take shape. I’m delighted to say that the only thing to do now is to fix new runner wheels on top of the door – on order – and all is done. Nevertheless I have constructed my raised beds inside, filled them with the contents of one composter bin and a number of sacks of Dalefoot compost. This way I can have one greenhouse for tomatoes, one for peppers and chillies and one for aubergines and the occasional cucumber will be placed where I will find space. I am very happy but all this was possible only with a huge lot of work by Dave. Thank you Dave. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

MORE TOMATOES

I had so many tomato seedlings I had to put them not only in the greenhouses but outside as well. To my surprise and pleasure the outside ones are doing ever so well. I’m bottling oven roasted ones, making them into sauce and bottling them as well, the possibilities are endless. At the same time I am also using them in making tasty lunches – in combination with courgettes.

These monsters are tomatoes beefsteak, very firm, fleshy and very tasty.

The plot keeps giving, I am amazed every time I start harvesting.

The carrots are the very first ones and we had them steamed today as part of our lunch. Same with the potatoes and with that a piece of fish each, done in the oven very simply in foil with a drop of olive oil.

Very tasty indeed.

TOMATOES

I am very happy with my tomatoes. Most of them are in the greenhouses but some had to be planted outside because I had so many plants. Every seed germinated. As ever, I sowed more – just in case – there was no need this year, but how was I to know?

Anyway, I harvested the first lot the other day and started as I mean to go on – bottling them. Very simply, chopped the tomatoes, put in a small Kashmiri chilli (not very hot, just a hint) and some mixed herbs. Forty minutes in a water bath and all is ready to be used in the winter.

TOMATOES

It looks like a great harvest is coming – all of a sudden the tomatoes are turning red . These are in the greenhouses so far but I have a number of plants outside, both on the allotment and in the back garden and all are looking very healthy too.

WE’RE FULL

This is the final look, for now at least. I have managed to move some seed trays to my overflow plastic greenhouse at the back of the large one, gained more shelf space and placed two more large pots there. Two more tomato plants have a new home.

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The main greenhouse is full to bursting

And to make sure all possible little space and container is used, I have got some first early potatoes in bags in the overflow greenhouse. They are the Swift variety and doing very well.

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