Archive for the ‘Tomato’ Category

TIME OUT TO CELEBRATE WITH THE ORGANIC CENTRE, CO LEITRIM – THIRD WEEK IN JULY 2010

The garden at home is bursting with produce right now. The peas and beans, kale and cabbage, chard Swiss and Rainbow are all featuring in the kitchen. Courgettes and pumpkins are in flowers. The raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants often don’t make it as far as the kitchen. The tomatoes are ripening and the sunflowers are reaching for the sky. However, one sunflower succumbed to a slug attack. They chewed all around the base, ‘ring-barking’ the plant so it wilted. It is now unable to take up water and nutrients from the roots. The wasps then feasted on the sweet sap exposed , but ‘it wuz the slugs wot dunnit’. So copper anti-slug tape has been wrapped around the healthy tall sunflower nearby so fingers crossed I have thwarted another sneaky slug attack.

Slugs or no slugs, this weekend was a great time to gather at The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co. Leitrim for the annual Garden Party on Sunday 18th July,  for growers and eaters of home-grown garden produce. Neven Maguire, the legendary chef from Blacklion in nearby Co. Cavan kept a huge audience enthralled by mouth-watering ways of preparing chard, tomatoes and hake. He made pesto making look really easy. I could see tongues (almost) hanging out as he prepared a delicious tiramisu.

Then  famous vegetable gardening author, Joy Larkcom and her husband Don from West Cork did a fascinating presentation on growing salads of the cut and come again varieties, with good handouts and illustrations on PowerPoint.

The team at the Organic Centre, many of whom are volunteers, provided delicious soups and lunches, teas and coffees, cakes and all manner of refreshments for the 500 or so who came for a great day out in dry warm ‘Lovely Leitrim’.

Hans and Gaby Wieland and Andy Hallewell and all the Organic Centre team were thanked by me at the end of the day just before I pulled the raffle tickets for the Castlebaldwin Donkey Sanctuary. The Centre and the Sanctuary raised a few bob and need to raise much more, I have no doubt both people and donkeys went home happy.

The Organic Centre has some great courses coming up and other events. I learned a huge amount there about picking and preparing mushrooms. Check out their website at www.theorganiccentre.ie and go visit them, they need your support.

GROWING TOMATOES ON AN UPSTAIRS SOUTHFACING WINDOWSILL – SECOND WEEK IN JUNE 2010.

No more space for tomato plants in the phone box sized greenhouse. The 2 plants in there already are filling out and starting to flower. So with plants to spare, I needed another south facing growing space under glass. Time to experiment and try a windowsill. Not wanting to destroy the wooden window sill, I lined 3 window boxes with plastic and then filled each with a mix of soil and compost. 3 tomato plants to each window box and position them on an upstairs window sill to get maximum light.  This is not ideal as light from one side is not as good as light from different angles in a greenhouse. Nevertheless with nine plants I should get some tomatoes.

Once the plants grow tall and tomatoes form supports will be needed. So I tied twine from each window box close to where each plant was growing and fixed each length to a cane spanning the brackets holding the curtain rail. Just need to water and feed now to encourage healthy growth and fruiting.

The variety is Brandywine. I may have been a bit late in sowing in late April but time will tell. I’ll post up a couple of photographs when I get a chance.

STAKING AND TYING UP SUNFLOWERS AND TOMATOES IN THE NICK OF TIME – FIRST WEEK IN JUNE 2010.

With watering most mornings and calm warm weather, I have seen all young plants as well as hedge and lawn put on a spurt of growth. Unfortunately, injury to my right arm, (pulled ligament – 6 week recovery ahead – don’t ask, long story!), has curtailed me in the garden. So the lawn and hedges, front and back, are growing away to their hearts content, cheered on by a good crop of runaway weeds.

However, it is time to be ‘glic’ and engage more brain than brawn. The sunflowers and tomatoes are growing taller by the day. As long as winds are light – no problem! But just as the motorist and passengers have to wear safety belts, the gardener needs also to support plants which could be flattened if winds get up.

So, out come the stored bamboo canes from the shed for another year of use. Out come the twine and scissors, also. No heavy lifting needed (thank God!), just snipping and tying of twine after pushing stakes into soft soil (using left hand only)!

Just in the nick of time too. Last night heavy rain fell and the potato haulms were fairly bowed down as a result when I left to catch the train this morning. The potatoes are sturdy enough to recover. However, had I not staked and tied the sunflowers, I’ve no doubt I’d be counting losses today.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes are tied up under glass. I see small yellow flowers beginning to form. So when the tomatoes follow the flowers  and fill out, those trusses will be already supported enough to bear the weight of the mouth-watering aromatic fruits.

FROZEN GROUND MEANS ONLY CULTIVATION POSSIBLE IN GARDEN IS UNDER GLASS – THIRD WEEK IN FEBRUARY 2010

Only a garden with a greenhouse or at least south facing windows can make any decent headway in seed propogation right now. With strong daytime sunshine, the growing spaces under glass (or plastic) dry out surprisingly quickly. It seems strange to be out watering when the weather is so cold. My ‘telephone box’ sized greenhouse is doing a good job of producing cut and come again lettuce, while seedlings of spinach, lettuce and sweet pea are about 2cm high. The tomato seeds which were sown at the same time have failed to germinate. Tomatoes need Mediterranean spring temperatures of 12 – 16 degrees centigrade to get going. In Ireland this mean either (1) waiting until later in spring or (2) heating your seedtray or greenhouse or (3) a very quick blast of heat on the tomato seeds. This last option was explained by a professional grower to me. There was a practise of putting tomato seeds on a metal tray. The grill in the kitchen was turned on. The tray was quickly ‘shown’ the grill and withdrawn before any seeds were burned and thereby killed. The blast of heat however worked by cracking the seed husk and aiding germination. I take my hat off to professional growers and the ingenuity they bring to their craft. Meanwhile as a kitchen gardener, I will start my tomato seeds again now that daytime temperatures are barely on double figures. Second time lucky I hope.