Tomatoes


September saw a few of our crops finishing up for the year. We dug up all the rest of the potatoes, and picked our last courgettes & tomatoes. The carrots were ready to get in but I’m going to finish digging them up and storing them this week. Beetroot and parsnips are about finished growing now as well, I’ll also be getting these in before the end of Oct.

Rather than the graph I did last month, I think it will be clearer to just highlight the main harvests as we get them in, I’ll then give a summary of everything towards the end of the year.

Crop

Sowed area m2

Harvested Total (kg)

Harvest (kg) per m2

Potatoes

60

121

2

Courgette

7.5

14.85

3.16

Tomatoes

20

23.7

1.18

Cucumbers

10

29.3

2.93

Sweetcorn 5 3.5 0.7
Pumpkin 10 47 4.7
I was pretty happy with our potatoes this year, although we learnt a good lesson about watering. I would say 75% of our harvest weight came from the bottom 1/3 of each row, which was as far as our hose went when watering. Next year I will plant a similar area but will work on a better irrigation system so that we can maximise the whole row. Cucumber were a great success, it seems all of the Cucurbitaceae (don’t ask how to pronounce it), which includes, courgettes, pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers, all did very well in our soil. Next year I will focus on this family, planting more of everything including the melons, which did surprisingly well considering I didn’t treat them very well. We had a good harvest of Tomatoes, certainly my best effort yet. I think in the end we had about 30 plants outside, which gave us 90% of our harvest, and another 20 odd in a poly tunnel, which didn’t do very well at all. From May-end Aug the weather was hot and sunny with very little rain, I think the polytunel became too hot and we weren’t here enough for watering and airing. Next year I am going to try for 200 plants, with most outside, I’ll use the polytunel for peppers and aubergines.
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If we ever want to live on our own food all year through we have to learn how to preserve what we have an abundance of in the summer. There are plenty of ways to do this, stick it in the freezer would be the obvious one, but we want to avoid a mains hook up on our house in the future, so we need something a little less energy hungry.

I started with two easy ways: Making Alcohol & Jarring.

I had quite a few tomatoes that were beginning to turn, and which were a a little blighted, so I cooked them all up and jarred them. It’s easy to do, a bit of outlay on jars the first time, unless you managed to collect your old jam jars (which I did but now don’t know what happened to them), but it pays in the end. So just make the sauce the way you like it and then completely fill jars that have been in the oven at 150c for 15mins or so. This is easier said than done, and it was a a good thing I didn’t video it, I may have had a few choice words for the jars as I burnt my fingers. But all worked out well in the end, although we’ll have to see what the contents is like in a few months.

Next is something I’m very interested in learning about. One of my little pleasures is a beer or drop of wine in the evenings after a hard days work. Ensuring I can make my own is very important for my survival. We have a few old elderberry trees about so I thought I would give some elderberry wine a try as my first attempt. This is my method so far:

  1. Pick 3lb of elderberries, make sure they are nice and black.
  2. Boil up 8 pints of water.
  3. Mix some wine yeast with a bit of warm water and leave for 25mins whilst doing the other bits.
  4. Meanwhile pick of the berries into a bucket and mash up with your hands.
  5. Pour half the boiling water into the mashed up berries. Allow to cool.
  6. Pour other half into another container with 3lb of sugar.
  7. Pour berry mixture into the sugar water container through cloth.
  8. Add teaspoon of citric acid and the yeast.
  9. Pour into demijohn and seal with bung & airlock.

My only real problem was that I didn’t have a big enough bung for the demijohn and didn’t have an airlock. Solved the 1st problem temporarily with some electric tape wrapped around the smaller bung (suggested to me by the guy down the hardware shop in the village). Next day got an airlock and bigger bung, it is now bubbling away nicely. I also wasn’t quite sure how much yeast to put in. My packet said enough for between 10-35 Litres. I had 5L, so put half the packet in, we’ll see.

I have to research the next steps but I know I have to wait for the fermentation to stop first, I also know I wont be able to taste it and find out what I did wrong for 8 months or so. My next project is cider, I don’t think you have to wait as long to drink this.

I had a few days at the land last week, just enough time to work through a few little jobs on the allotment. We had a good bit of rain Wednesday, which was much needed and saved me what would have been a considerable amount of time watering.

First a little experiment: When I planted the sweetcorn I decided to compare a method of preparing the beds that I’d read about in John Seymour. He’s quite enthusiastic about a method called ‘Bastard Trenching’ (honestly). It involves digging a series of deep beds (about 12inch deep). The procedure is as follows:

  • Dig a trench across your bed &  put the soil to one side.
  • Fork the bottom so that it is loose then add a load of manure into the bottom of the hole.
  • Dig the next trench to the right of the 1st one. You put the soil from this trench into the first hole; topsoil in the bottom, then the rest, thus filling the first with the soil from the second (I suppose this is where the bastard bit comes from).
  • Continue for however many rows you want.
  • Fill the last row with the soil from the first.

Also refereed to as the ‘Deep Bed Method’ it is apparently a good way to grow heavier yielding crops in a smaller space. The theory is that the roots more easily penetrate the loose, deep soil and thus go down rather than out. You then sow stuff closer together, which has the added advantage of creating dense foliage that connects when the plant is mature creating a canopy over the soil. This helps to keep the moisture on the ground in dry climates. I have definitely benefited from this with our broadbeans. They are very close, with no gaps between foliage. When the other beds are dry this bed is still moist.

I decided to run a little test with the sweetcorn. Half in the deep bed and half on a normally dug section. The results so far are below. The deep bed section definitely looks healthier.

Sweetcorn experiment. The left section was Bastard trenched (deep dug) with manure, the right just dug over.

Sweetcorn experiment: The left section was sown using the ‘deep bed method’ & the right section was sown in to a regular bed.

Below are the pictures from some of the other potterings I did over the few days:

Ctonka (Potato Beetles), something new to me, you have to pick them all of otherwise they lay eggs and destroy the plants. See next photo.

Stonka; Pronounced Stonka (Potato Beetles), something new to me, you have to pick them all off otherwise they lay eggs and destroy the plants. See next photo.

Ctonka hatched and eating my potatoes! Spent a good few hrs picking these.

Stonka hatched and eating my potatoes! Spent a good few hrs picking these.

Tied up outside Tomatoes.

Tied up outside Tomatoes. These are the ones that suffered early on. Looking OK now.

Tied up and picked suckers off tomatoes.

Tied up and picked suckers off tomatoes in Poly-tunnel.

Basil planted outside amongst the tomatoes. No slugs here something that made this impossible in Cornwall.

Basil planted outside amongst the tomatoes. No slugs here something that made this impossible in Cornwall.

First Tomato

First Tomato

Re-potted strawberries from shoots.

Re-potted strawberries from shoots. Using pots means once the shoot is established you can cut the cord and plant where you like.

Planted out asparagus.

Planted out asparagus. Dug 12 inch deep trench with manure in bottom.

Asparagus in. Just 2 yrs to wait now!

Asparagus in. Just 2 yrs to wait now!

Tied them up ready for training.

Took down broken Mk 1.0 Poly-tunnel & tied up grape vines  ready for training.

We have a few pumpkins like this on the go. They are giant varieties.

We have a few pumpkins like this on the go. They are giant varieties.

Not sure what this is, I can't remember sowing it.

Not sure what this is, I can’t remember sowing it.

Can't remember what this is either. Looks cool though.

Can’t remember what this is either. Looks cool though.

Spring planted broadbeans pronounced boob in Polish (insert your own joke).

Spring planted broadbeans pronounced boob in Polish (insert your own joke).
First small harvest of peas and broad beans.

First small harvest of peas and broad beans. Very tasty! Should have a load by the end of the week.

We have a good supply of radish and cucumber now.

We have a good supply of radish and cucumber now. Makes for a nice Polish breakfast.

I’ve been putting off building a bigger polytunnel for a while, as I didn’t really have a clue how to go about it. But after a few weeks the tomatoes have outgrown their 5Ltr waterbottle houses, and I found some old bits from our caravan awning that looked right for the job.

It’s in my rustic style, a little wonky, but it has survived some strong wind. We’ve missed the latest band of heavy storms but I think it will get a proper test very soon.