Welcome to my blog

I was born in Guernsey (but now live in Brittany) and our main industry was growing tomatoes although that industry has now virtually disappeared. Growing tomatoes to a Guernseyman is like wine to a Frenchman, it's in our blood! I do not profess to be an expert, but I have picked up a few tips and techniques which work for me.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

How to prune tomatoes video

Although ths was an old post I am sure many people with find this video very useful as it explains the basics of pruning out your tomato shoots.
 

As my video skills are nothing to write home about, I think that this video from Fine Gardening featuring Lee Reich, make an excellent job of explaining how to prune your indeterminate tomato plants.
The only difference is that I grow mine in the poly-tunnel, supported on crop wires, as opposed to on canes outside. However, the rules are still the same. I think Lee has left some shoots get quite long just to give a better view of the shoots, but it is best to nip them out as early as possible.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Early De-Shooting of Tomato Plants

Just bumped up this post from last year, to remind you about removing shoots on your tomato plants.

Now that my tomato plants are well established  planted out in the soil and are having regular weekly feeds, they are putting on a nice growth spurt and need de-shooting. The only tomato plants that do not need de-shooting are mainly the bush varieties, so they can be left to their own devices. I tend to grow cordon style of tomatoes indoors to get the maximum crop from the space, they also crop all season where as bush varieties mainly crop over a short period.
More info about tying up plants, with a short video 

Side shoots are easy to spot, as they normally grow out between a leaf and the stem. However, as shown in this photo, this side shoot is growing straight out of the stem. It is easy to identify as it is thinner than the main stem, so just pinch it out with your finger tips or a small sharp knife as close to the stem as possible.
More info about removing shoots





Twin Headed Plants - You will find that some tomato plants will split into a double head, in this case just cut out the weakest one, or if in doubt leave it  a week or so to see which one is the stronger head.

No Head On Tomato Plant - You will also occasionally find that a plant suddenly has no head, so you are left with just a truss. In this case you will need to let a lower side shoot take over as the main stem for the plant. We call this Growing Blind and I do find it happens more on  beefsteak tomato plants. Here is an example below, which luckily shows a nice shoot which I can use as the main plant.





I have also tied up most of my tomato plants this week, box cord is best as it rots in the compost heap and is slightly wider than polypropylene string, so will not cut into the plant with a heavy load later in the season. Some people use poles to support their plants, but with such a heavy crop on them they will slide down the poles.





Sunday, 18 January 2015

Welcome to the 2015 tomato growing season

Like most people I have been hibernating over the winter and apart from mucking out the horse stables, I have hardly set foot in the garden. The good thing about this cold weather is that it will kill a lot of bug, even in the poly tunnel, which I also plan to sterilised the structure later in the month. I have some Jeyes fluid which I will spray into all the nooks and crannies, then rise off a few days later. 

I also plant to grow only in grow bags in the poly tunnel and give the soil a rest, as it has had five seasons and diseases do build up in the soil unless it can be thoroughly sterilised.I have managed to buy some cheap drip irrigation, which is necessary when growing in grow bags, you have to water them very gently, a little and often or the nutrients will leach out. The peat must also never be left to dry out, or this will cause black spot or blossom end rot and severe dame to the root system. Over wetting for too long will also cause damage to the root system with lack of air to them. 




For those of you who will be sowing early seeds and raising your tomato plants in the house or warm conservatory, just remember that they obviously must avoid any exposure to frost but also have enough light, light is the biggest limiting factor for healthy tomato plants. It is no use raise plants too early with lack of light or they will get very leggy and will really not be worth growing on, as later sown more  balanced plants with soon over take them.

These plants look quite healthy but they are far to leggy because they were not spaced out early enough, or previous had very low light levels.




You can even make your own light boxes with fluorescent tubes, here is a link to how this one was made. You also add a heating element and make the light box as large as you want, as it is no use putting then in the greenhouse until you are safely free from frost, so you might have your plants indoors for quite a while. The best place would be a heated conservatory, or a greenhouse with a frost protection like a paraffin heater.



This could be going a bit far, but you can never give your plants enough love in the winter!


 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

End of season tomato ripening

As we are now getting a slight change in the weather and a drop in temperatures at the end of the summer, you could see a slight decline in how fast your tomatoes will ripen. There are a number of ways to make sure you harvest all the fruit left on the plant by the end of the season, however any un-ripened can be turned into chutney.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Growing and Harvesting Sweet-corn

This seasons sweet-corns are best I have grown and it is probably due to two lots of rain at the right time, the first heavy downpour was just after they had been planted out so the plants got well established early on. We have not had a lot of rain for a while here in Brittany for a while, so I have been keeping them well watered with a can via the water butts.  it is hard work but I aim to get a good harvest of sweetcorn this year. I also raised my plants in the poly-tunnel giving them a better start that direct sown plants. 

You cant beat the taste of fresh sweet-corn on the BBQ, I tend to blanch mine first then smear will butter before finishing off on the BBQ. Another method I have used is to wrap then uncooked in wet kitchen roll, then  tinfoil crimping it all around. Add extra water and a knob of butter at the top, before sealing the corn in it's own little foil oven. This can then be put on the BBQ to cook for about 20 to 30 mins. You can check it every so often and top up the water as it must not dry out. Pre-blanch slightly if you want to save on the cooking time




Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Cheap Fruit and Veg Cage

Our local pigeons have been having a good pecking at our cauliflowers and broccoli over the past months, despite a token number of old CD's hung on some string to scare them off. So I decided it was time I obtained a walk-in fruit cage type of structure, as I could use this for bird and wind protection on quite a few crops. 

 

The internet came up with some reasonably priced structures, but they were from the UK and the postage was quite expensive, or they did not deliver to France. Some obtainable in France were far too expensive, so I decided to have a go and build my own.  



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Early June first tomatoes ready to harvest

In the second week of June we harvested our first indoor tomatoes, which I have to say tasted far better than what we had previously been buying from the supermarkets. These are Coeur De Boeuf which are a Beefsteak style of tomato, very flavoursome and wonderful sliced with Mozzarella cheese and a little sea salt and pepper..  


Friday, 23 May 2014

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Now is the the time to start enjoying all the hard work in the garden by harvesting your crops, so with a spell of hot weather last weekend the outdoor strawberries have gone mad, so as well as Mrs  TK having to start making some tasty strawberry jam, she has also been dipping them in melted chocolate as we have friends around for dinner tomorrow night.



We are also harvesting radish, lettuce, asparagus, cucumbers, courgettes  and of course a great supply of fresh herbs. The problem is that it is all or nothing when you grow your own food, so you have to be resourceful and come up with novel and tasty ways to use all this lovely fresh produce. I do leave all that to Mrs TK who is a bit of a Galloping Gourmet.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pruning the Vines

I pruned my vines  a while ago to leave one shoot every 6" to 8" as I had seen this on a pruning video and the idea is not to overload the plants so you end up with a better crop. My dilemma now is do I then just leave one bunch on each shoot and as many leaves as I can. If I do not do this I will be defeating the object of pruning as I will have many more bunches of grapes. I have Googled this and I cannot seem to find anything on the second pruning of the shoots, but it makes sense to do this . 

This photo shows the shoot on the right with two bunches so far, do I cut the second one off and also cut off the head of the shoot. I do know that later on I have to also thin out the bunches, less is more as they say!

Vines to prune

Unfortunately a fox killed our 3 chickens last month, so we have decided not to get any more. These are the first lot of chickens that we have lost to foxes in 5 years, but having to lock them up at night and let them out first thing in the morning was getting a bit of a pain. However, we will miss our own lovely fresh eggs with bright yellow yokes.

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