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.

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.

Since the last post we have welcomed our daughter into the world. Needless to say this has taken most of our attention, but lucky for us, my wife’s parents have been working hard on the allotment to keep it weed free and producing lots of food. Marta’s mum has transformed my somewhat rustic allotment into a Kew Gardens show piece, thank you!! I’ll be putting up a post about our harvests, which are coming along nicely. In the meantime here are a few photos to show how things are coming along on the allotment.

 

After my trip a couple of weeks ago, when all looked promising with the tomatoes, I returned on the 20th to find the plants looking in a very bad state. Almost all had drooping leaves covered in black spots and dead foliage. I think it might be blight? I’ve cut off a lot of leaves and took some of the green fruit to try and ripen them in the polytunnel at home.

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I returned today (27th) to find a lot of the fruit turning bad, lots of black/brown patches on the skin of all the varieties of tomato. Really not looking good. We’ve had some cold/windy weather the last week. I’m not sure if the fruit is affected by the blight or the cold is damaging them? Any help appreciated.

A bit out of date but two weeks ago (13/08/11) we had a good harvest of a nice range of veg. Our second potatoes, Kestrel, have done really well. We also had a couple of big courgettes that made a nice Mediterranean roast.

 

Sack of freshly harvested organic allotmen potatoes.Collection of harvested vegetables.

The tomatoes looked pretty good. There were a lot of fruit on the plants, all green but showing lots of potential.

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Harvested our first plum tomatoes today. Only a couple but a lot of the plants have fruit. Hopefully a couple of weeks of summer and we could be enjoying as many tomatoes as we can eat, which is a lot!!

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Fortaleza Lettuce 500g!!

We’ve been harvesting a lot lately. Check out our harvest page to see what we’ve managed to pick.

I came into a bit of old double glazed glass a few days ago. I’ve made a little green house for a melon, and built an end to the tomato poly fence section. It’s now a bit more like a polytunnel, just no roof.

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After a week away; a cold, wet & windy week, we were surprised to find the allotment in full bloom on our return. The sunflowers are out, tomatoes forming well, and all the brassicas seemed to have doubled in size.

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In a 6hr allotment session today I managed to finally finish putting up the rest of the polyfence and plant out all the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. I counted 100 tomato plants, which were grown in three separate batches. For the new section of fence (MK 3) I’ve buried the polythene in trenches, to give a bit more support. I also made it wider to fit all the plants. Just need a bit of sun, maybe even a summer?

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I’ve been dreaming for years about growing enough tomatoes to eat at will, and to be able to make truly homemade sources. Doing a bit of maths yesterday my dream is taking shape. I want to limit each plant to 4 trusses (following advice), which would give upto 400 trusses in total. That is a lot of tomatoes! Obviously there is a long way to go to keep them alive and kicking right up until harvest time, but I think there is room for quiet optimism at a decent yield at least.

The batch I planted out in May behind the MK 1 fencing have been subject to some terribly windy conditions. One of the fence posts snapped a couple of weeks ago, and the fence now looks like a bit of a patch work. Nevertheless it still stands and the tomatoes are doing well despite. If they can live through that, maybe they’ve got what it takes to survive the Cornish summer!

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