Tomato Recovery!

You may remember that last time, I posted pictures of our horribly distorted tomato plants. I sent pictures of them to the RHS advice service, and they confirmed the cause was herbicide damage – even though I never use weed killer in the garden! There were some fruits on the plants, so I decided to cut off the most affected parts (the tops) and hope for the best. And things started to look a little better.

You can see that the fruits are ripening nicely. In fact, we’ve been enjoying them for more than a week now. I just hope we’re not poisoning ourselves! They taste OK. Hopefully those nasty chemicals won’t have made their way into the fruits. This is how the top of the plants looked…

I never thought I’d see them produce trusses like this…

This one is exceptional mind – they’re not all so full. The cuttings from the offshoots are outside, growing in the garden soil, and they look perfectly normal, which supports the idea that the compost was contaminated with weed killer. They are starting to set fruit, but it’s late in the season now, so there might not be time for the fruit to ripen. I guess I should start looking for a recipe for green tomato chutney!

Elsewhere, the runner beans plants that are growing on the new pergola this year (in the autumn I’ll get some more permanent climbers in) are finally starting to produce beans.

They’re quite late. I had a nightmare with the white flowering variety I tried first. I tried everything – numerous sowings in pots, in different composts, in the ground, but they just wouldn’t germinate. Finally, I resorted to sowing them on wet kitchen towel on the kitchen windowsill. Even that didn’t work too well. Most of the seeds rotted. From a rotting, fly-infested mess I salvaged three mouldy seeds, with pathetic, weedy shoots, and planted them in the garden. Two of the plants survived, and are producing some beans. But most of the plants are Scarlet Emperor, grown from seed later on, after I’d given up on the white ones. The red-flowered plants are more vigorous, and producing more beans.

There have been a few disasters this year. I’m going to use the rather pathetic excuse that I’m somewhat new to growing produce, being more of an ornamentals man (though by no means an ornamental man!)

The courgettes have been a learning experience. I intended to grow those up the pergola too, but they never really stretched out in the way you would expect; just stayed as small clumps at the base of the uprights. I think the problem might have been that they were sown (indoors) too early, and by the time it was safe to plant them out, they had been sitting around for too long. They are producing, but intermittently, with a lot of the fruits rotting while still small. The weather has been up and down – too hot and dry at first, then cold and dull. More excuses!

The new fruit trees that were planted in the lawn in late winter have rewarded us with…

…one apple! Actually, one of the pear trees had a fruit earlier on, though it’s not there now. I’m not complaining – by rights you should remove any fruits that form in the first season to make the trees concentrate their efforts on roots and foliage. But I’m sure this one apple won’t exhaust the tree!

The sunflowers – sown to fill in for the first year while we get the garden sorted (in the long term the beds will have mostly perennials) have been a glorious success, but I’ve given up dead-heading now. The seed heads can stay over winter for the birds. Storm Francis tore the sunflowers to shreds, along with the beans -the garden looked like it had been hit by a cyclone.

Being able to cut sunflowers for a vase over perhaps two months was a luxury I will try to keep in my memory all winter…

text & images © Graham Wright 2020

A New Greenhouse…

It’s been a while coming, but we’ve finally got our greenhouse. Here it comes…

The base under construction, with the topsoil put aside. It doesn’t look much, but days of work went into moving rubble and gravel from elsewhere in the garden.
Eight bags of cement, a large pile of ballast (sand and gravel) and numerous back-breaking mixes later, and the paving is finished. I re-used paving from elsewhere in the garden – the greenest materials you can source.
The greenhouse under construction. I’ve built a (smaller) greenhouse before, I can make short work of flat-pack furniture, and I’ve built two kitchens (one from scratch, the other from kitchen components) but I struggled with this. You really do wonder about some of the design decisions that went into it, and as for the instructions; well, had it been cold, they would have been more useful as kindling. But finally…
The finished product.

Despite the traumatic construction process, it’s actually a very good quality greenhouse, with none of the nasty sharp edges of the one we built in our last garden, and a doorway you can walk through without bending double (and risking lacerating the top of your head). It took us the better part of three days to build, and with amazing timing, we’d literally just tightened the last bolt and put the tools away when there was a cloudburst.

The greenhouse is a Hercules Hastings, in Old Cottage Green, from The Greenhouse People. We got it up and running not a moment too soon – just in time to get the tomato plants in (proudly grown from seed) before it was too late. We’ve also got a pepper plant, which is doing well. We picked it up on a fraught and hurried trip to a garden centre and food store earlier on during the lockdown. I must have picked up the wrong plant, and it was only recently that I discovered my mistake. It will be nice to have fresh peppers, but the one plant will only produce perhaps half-a-dozen, while a single chilli plant would have kept us in chillies all year.

Elsewhere in the garden, we’ve been dividing our time between watering, to keep all the newly planted trees and shrubs alive during the Mediterranean weather, and digging out bootlace fungus. Not my idea of gardening, but we have been able to concentrate on some of the nicer things. For instance, the sunflowers are coming into bloom…

Since the weather broke the annual weeds have suddenly burst into action, and the grass has turned from brown to green and started to actually grow. I’d forgotten it did that. So there’s been some mowing to do.

The chickens are continuing to keep us amused. The garden reached the stage where we couldn’t continue to let them out (too many delicate seedlings for them to destroy) so we bought a long roll of chicken wire and have sectioned off an area where they can’t do too much harm.

The chooks enjoying a dust bath huddle – chicken heaven!

So, the greenhouse is done, but there’s plenty of garden building still to be done…