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.

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.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mid May in the Poly-tunnel and Garden

The weather is still very unsettled but luckily no frost, however it has been hard on some early planted outdoor crops with all the wind and rain here in Brittany. I have used the frame from the mini greenhouse that I had in the poly-tunnel to shelter some plants from the rain while they harden off. The temperatures have been OK but too much rain early on will takes it's toll if plants are planted out too early.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Leaf burn or scorch on Tomatoes and Cucumbers

A common but not always a major problem with tomato and cucumber plants is leaf burn or scorch normally on the tips of the leaves. This problem can be cause by too much sun on a dry plant or too strong a concentration of fertilisers. 

Burned spots on tomato plant leaves can be a result of too much fertilizer or improper fertilizing practices and  appears as scorching that begins at the edges of the leaves. The leaf edges look dried out,and eventually  brown and brittle. To avoid root injuries that lead to leaf burn, do not allow fertilizers to come in direct contact with the plant’s stem or roots. 

 Scorch from Fertilisers
If you water using a branded liquid feed, please follow the dilution instructions carefully and use half strength on small plants. You can start watering once you see the first trussed forming. Double strength fertiliser will not make your plants grow twice as fast, it will kill them.

If you are using a home-made fertiliser with Comfrey or nettles, then please make sure it is well diluted or you could burn the roots and leaves.

If you are applying fertilizers in a granular form, gently fork it into the soil about  with 4 to 6 inches  from the plant’s stem and be very careful not to damage the plants roots as they are close to the surface.By doing this they plant will not receive all the nutrients in one go, thoroughly water the fertiliser in  following the application and repeat the process every 10 days or so.

Sometimes you can get leaf scorching from residue in the compost you maybe using, either the slow release fertiliser was not mixed in enough, or the manure you used to make compost was not rotted down enough.

Sun Scorch
Seedlings are very prone to scorch if allowed to dry out at any-time. As they are usually in small pots there is little reserve for the roots so they do dry out very quickly on hot days, so could need a light water a couple of times a day until,they are transplanted to a larger plot. Sometimes with a sudden change in the weather it can be worthwhile adding a little shade to young plants on very hot days in early spring. 

This cucumber plant is showing signs of leaf burn. As you can see it starts on the tip of the leaf and sometimes spreads to the rest of the leaf, especially with young leaves. You do not need to remove the leaf at this stage, but it much of the leaf is damaged than it is better to remove it. I would say that this particular leaf burn was caused by the plant being slightly too dry on a hot day, but it difficult to distinguish between sun burn and fertiliser scorch. 

This young tomato plant has quite severe scorch and you can see that the two lower seedling leaves have shrivelled up, so it is best to remove them. The upper part of the plant is nice and green so they problem has past and no real long term damage will occur. Scorch usually appears at the start of the season on young plants and is easy to spot as it starts on the tips of the leaves and is dry and crisp. 

This is a severe case of cucumber leaf scorch, the dried leaves around the base of the plant are Comfrey leaves and this could have causes a high concentration of potash around the roots if there are more Comfrey leaves below ground around the roots system, or again too little water on hot days with a small root system.

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