Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Labour of the month: May

My Labour of the Month for PPPs this May was truly Herculean – and I forgot to take the 'before' shots, so you'll just have to take my word for it ;-)

PPPs Labour for May is . . .

Planting out the tomatoes

The day started quite sensibly – I cleared out the staging from one side of the greenhouse and swept the floor in readiness for the potted up tomatoes. I don't use grow-bags any more, pots are much better for tomatoes as they like to be planted deep – in fact I nip off the bottom two or three leaves and plant the lower 5cm of the stem below soil level, the plant will make extra roots and take up more water/nutrients.

So far so good.

Then I thought about where to put the outdoor tomatoes, it's best to keep them away from the potatoes as blight can be a problem later in the summer (if it ever rains – and it still hasn't!). I also need to keep the hens away from the tomatoes! so that rules out a large part of the main garden. In recent years I've grown tomatoes in pots in our courtyard, but it's shady and cool for half the day, so we don't get ripe tomatoes until late September. Cliff had suggested putting tomatoes in our front yard which gets full sun for most of the day – the best place is against a south-facing wall out of sight from the road and next to the outside water tap.

A brilliant solution! Except that the area is where we keep the dustbins and we've allowed nettles and ivy to run riot for at least three years – have you tried to pull up thick nettle root matting?
It took me hours labouring in the hot sunshine, I completely filled the council compostable-waste wheelie bin with nettle roots, and the result is this . . .

I put the pots of tomatoes into some old resin faux-lead planters that are far to manky to look good anywhere else, and I've left a few self-seeded perennials to give the area a casual 'tidy-but-not-too-tidy' air. (In case you're wondering, that large thing is a stable yard mounting block made from an old cistern filled with concrete – it's not going anywhere! but is useful for resting the watering can on while filling it with water.)

There are still lots of tomato plants left –

plenty for the gate-side stall . . .

It's my contribution to the Village Fete's plant stall, people don't want to buy tomato plants in late June so I sell them now and give the stall the money.

This year I'm only growing four varieties:

RED CHERRY – it's a cherry tomato and it's red (duh!)
I bought the seeds on our holiday to Tenerife in March, I wanted a bog-standard, good flavoured, easy to grow, cherry tomato; to graze on and to use in salads.

TIGERELLA – it's stripy!
For something a bit different.

LIGURIA – an Italian paste tomato
I bought the seeds years ago while on holiday in Italy – the packet was huge but tomato seeds stay viable for a long time. This is one of those big tomatoes you see on Italian market stalls, like a full sack gathered at the top; it's perfect for the topping on bruschetta – skinned, chopped and warmed with a little garlic and olive oil.

IMUR PRIOR BETA – you what?! exactly!
This was my choice from this year's Heritage Seed Library list, here is the description:
Indeterminate. Cordon. Donated by John Yeoman, this variety was selected from high altitude areas in the Chilean mountains and developed in Norway for growing in cooler regions. Also thought to be blight resistant*. The juicy red fruit have soft, smooth flesh and are slightly acidic in flavour. Let us know what you think**.

* mmmm? I think I'll put some in the vegetable garden and give that a test.
** Must remember to send feedback to the HSL.



  1. a lot of work, indeed! you can have some of our rain...the downpour nearly wiped out half of my wee patch & the on/off showers of the past week hasn't let the soil dry out enough (or the sun shine long enough) to let me know how many plants are still rooted! tomatoes seem to be doing o.k., though...

  2. I, too, planted my tomatoes in the garden yesterday! But here, I did it under dreary grey skies. I tried sending the wet weather your way... Only 4 varieties here, too. A cherry, an early ripening (that is, if we get sun,) an Italian paste and Brandywine - a popular American heritage with exceptional flavor. I find that too much rain makes for bland tomatoes, so I'm hoping for some sun soon.
    BTW, those pots look very nice in the photo. If you hadn't said they were plastic, I'd never have known.

  3. after last year i've decided not to do tomatoes... such was the dreadful outcome... I had one red cherry tomato that came in November!... oh well... well done you for being so organised though x

  4. Well done on a hard job completed. I've stuck to two varieties this year and they'll be staying in deep pots so that if they don't ripen outside, I can bring them in for late autumn and winter.

  5. Well done on a huge job. I'm also growing Imur Prior Beta but they're nothing like as advanced as yours. They are meant to be suited to colder conditions so hopefully they will be happy in Cumbria. Have you noticed how different the leaves are?

  6. Oooh, yum. I am completely hopeless at tomatoes so I shall look forward to seeing pictures of yours!

  7. That's interesting when you come to the conclusion that tomatoes do better in pots in the greenhouse. I have done exactly the same thing. I've been through growbags and automatic watering systems, and have also come to the conclusion that tomatoes do best in pots, providing you can keep them regularly watered.

  8. Thanks for identifying my plant - I wish i'd had you here when i first moved in, identifying things was a massive task! I palnted my tomatoes up yesterday, but they're not as big as yours - yet!

  9. maybe next year i will grow a few bits of vegetables :-)

  10. I wish people round here offered such interesting tomato plants for sale like that. They few I see are always really dull varieties...

    My cherry ones in the greenhouse are fruiting already, just need some sun to ripen them up! :)

  11. Now that is a labour and a half. thank goodness tomatoes are one part of our garden which is mysteriously OH's job. I am hoping he will take over all veg leaving me with the rest, which is more than enough for a dozen people! I am impressed with your planters for tomatoes. v high class.

  12. Your tomatoe varieties sound delicious Celia, what a good idea to buy the seeds whilst on holiday abroad.

    I've been putting off planting my toms - a job for this weekend I think.



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