Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’


It was a pleasure to be asked once again to speak at The Organic Centre, Rossinver, in County Leitrim. My presentation ‘Building Food Resilience in Local Communities – from Ireland to Uganda’ will be shortly on the website Last Sunday was the Annual Garden Party and The Organic Centre looked stunning in the sunshine, as did the 2000 hectares of Lough Melvin nearby. The polytunnels were warmer than I can ever remember, but the tomatoes were loving every minute of that heat, as was Hans Wieland and the large group he was guiding from plots to orchards to polytunnels.

Over 30 varieties (of the 7,500 tomato varieties world wide) are being grown there at present. The idea is to carry out a tasting experiment to select the very best tasting tomato varieties, in the opinion of some very well trained palates. My good friend Neven Maguire is renowned for his palate, so I am sure his opinion on this taste test will be awaited with interest. The variety ‘Sungold’ is regarded by many as the top tasting tomato of those commonly grown in Ireland. The skin is an amber colour, not unlike one of

One of The Organic Centre displays describing some characteristics of different tomato varieties growing there.

One of The Organic Centre displays describing some characteristics of different tomato varieties growing there.

the Kilkenny colours in hurling. But like Kilkenny, ‘Sungold’ may not win every contest! In August, the tomato ‘All-Ireland’ will be decided at The Organic Centre.



The bad harvest reports in the news this year prove, once again, that farming is very different from organic kitchen gardening. Not everything did well in the garden, but in general, I have to admit it was my best year ever. The brassicas suffered but are recovering now. My fault entirely, I should have covered the cabbage patch with fleece to prevent the cabbage white caterpillars making flitters of the lovely healthy green leaves. Such is life, thankfully the rainbow chard leaves have kept me going as a fall back leafy vegetable. Meanwhile, everything else has come good, more or less, apples, blackcurrants, peas, beans, beetroot, basil, parsley, potatoes etc. Leeks coming along nicely for harvesting over the winter and early spring hungry gap.

The glut at present is the Black Plum Tomato crop (Lycopersicon lycopersicon). I bought seeds from and they are described as ‘productive heirloom from Russia. A cordon, ripening from mid-August. Rich red mahogany plum-shaped fruits, delicious in salads and sauces’. The south facing greenhouse, rich soil and a regular comfrey liquid feed gave these Russian plants a good chance to produce prolifically. Glad they are good for sauces, as they will all find their way into various dishes requiring bruschetta topping

Black Plum Tomatoes on one of four plants, two in the ‘phone box’ and two more in the ‘Fingal Greens Greenhouse’. South facing garden helps tomatoes ripen fully on the cordon.

, pasta sauces and for the remainder, good old chutney. Thank you people of Russia ( and the Irish Sed Savers Association in Scarriff) for the ‘black plum tomato’.


The tomato, beans, courgette and potato plants are flowering. Some of the peas and beans are already fruiting as are the blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and apples. As the flowers turn to fruit, a regular comfrey liquid feed will add potassium, an important element at the fruiting stage of a plant.

The comfrey patch in the front garden is cut back to the ground two or three times during spring and summer before is goes dormant for the winter. It has a fast growth rate. If you don’t let it flower, it will produce even more leaves. I am happy to allow comfrey flower as the bees love the small purple blossoms.

I have a couple of water butts at the base of drainpipes to collect rainwater, but the comfrey liquid feed making barrel is in a corner beside the comfrey patch. This is now packed with the last month’s harvest of comfrey leaves which are stewing away in water. In the next few days, I will siphon of the liquid feed into empty screw top plastic milk containers. Sealed containers are best as there is a slight ‘pong’ from the feed when it is agitated, but this disappears quickly in the soil.

A  large watering can of water topped up with a litre of feed is dilute enough to apply around the plants which are beginning to set flowers and fruit. A weekly liquid feed keeps the tomatoes, beans, peas etc fruiting well, although a bit more sunshine would be appreciated! If I have surplus comfrey leaves, they are used as a mulch to suppress weeds and deter slugs or simply added to the compost mix.

The analysis of comfrey is impressive. 1. Comfrey can produce 2kg to 3kg of leaves per plant per season. 2. The leaves and stems contain an NPK ratio of 1.8: 0.5: 5.3 – significantly better than seaweed or compost. 3. Comfrey contains a similare level of nitrogen to farmyard manure and twice as much potash. 4. Comfrey has a carbon to nitrigen ration of 9.1, which makes it a perfect balance for producing great compost.

If you know somebody (like me!) with a comfrey bed, it is easy to start your own comfrey bed with on offset of root and shoot cut from a parent plant. Otherwise try www.organiccatalogue.comto get a mailorder of small comfrey plants, variety Bocking 14. This is the best strain of comfrey for a garden. It is a sterile cultivar that will not seed. Prolific seeding can be a problem with wild varieties.

Comfrey (variety Bocking 14) growing adjacent to the liquid feed making barrel, complet with tap for siphoning off the ‘comfrey tea’.


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.