Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tomato woe

I know that I should have staked them the moment I planted them in the ground, but The Boy and his dad were grumpy and whining (yes, actually whining) to go home and get food. So we left the sturdy, perfectly formed tomato plants that I had carefully nurtured for so many months to put down roots unsupported. Unfortunately, I didn't personally get back to the allotment in the ensuing fortnight of hot moist weather to continue my nurturing - but boy did they put down roots in that time. Which meant that not only were the tomato plants not staked, they were also never pinched out, resulting in lots of foliage and few flower trusses. When I did get to them I removed as much of the excess foliage as I could, but quite frankly couldn't tell which branch belonged to which plant.

Unfortunately, because the plants are sprawling along the paths and over one another, the fruit that has set are dangling close to the ground and are being eaten by slugs, or are failing to ripen for lack of sun. We will be picking green tomatoes rather early this year and that our harvest from 10 plants (that could have kept us in tomato sauce almost all winter) will be measly. Sigh.

The tomato tale is painful, because home grown tomatoes are of course the very best flavour in the whole garden - and the few handfuls that we have brought home are delicious, a teaser of what could have been. I wish I could say that the woe stopped at the tomato bed - but it did not. The 2011 allotment tale is full of failures, of could haves and should haves and would haves.

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of empty ground, that could have produced something, anything, other than dust and weeds. Sigh.

There have been, and continue to be, a whole lot of weedy patches amongst the crops we did actually get into the ground. Sigh.

Thankfully, there have also been; and hopefully will continue to be; some small victories. We never come home empty handed, in fact we usually come home with a tote bag full of edible, organic veg (even if it is usually always some combination of beans, chard, beetroot and courgette). We have even eaten a few meals made entirely from our own allotment produce. We have a salad drawer full of new potatoes and two handsome and pungent braids of garlic hanging in the kitchen. The squash are fattening up nicely and the potatoes and oca are rampant. This week we finally sowed some late root crops. We have learnt a few lessons, such as quit your whining and stake the god damn tomatoes to never put off for tomorrow what needs to be and can be done today.

This year is OK and there is nothing we can do to improve that. Next year will be better and that is where our energy now needs to go. Sigh...of relief.


  1. Isn't gardening a continuous learning experience? You've done very well this year, Aurora!

  2. Don't forget that you gave birth this summer- a perfect excuse for a less than perfect garden. I had my second child only a few weeks after you, so I have the same guilt/regret when I go out into the garden and see my plants that didn't get pruned as I would have liked, some out of control weeds, cucumbers rotting on the vine, etc. But I take it all in stride. Next year I will be able to do so much more, since I will be able to physically bend at the waist and able to lift more than a few pounds. Enjoy what you can now, and the remaining good weather as much as possible this year. Next year you'll be able to do much more.

  3. It should be an interesting experiment. Clive Blazey of the Diggers club is dead set against pinching out the laterals on tomatoes and reckons he has done pound for pound fruit bearing tests to prove it. Plus Jackie French always lets hers sprawl like this because she thinks it's natural for the plants to flop and put down roots from the nodes along the stems - more roots - more fruit? Or could be as you say just more leaves, but at least may make an error interesting to watch. With our tiny garden I've never had the space to test it out. Loved your article on small space living at SGFC-op by the way :)

  4. Thank you Francesca - and yes, we are learning lots, especially through our failures...

    SuMac - congratulations! Hope you and your family are all well. It can be hard to put things in perspective - I found pregnancy so frustrating (but still wonderful) - there is always so much that you can't do!

    Our Old House - it might be a worthwile experiment in a larger plot, but I think you would need to plant them further apart? Ours were too triffid like to put down more roots, they just grew over and through each other, the stems not touching soil! I will plant fewer plants next year so might do a little comparison experiment...