Wednesday 30 April 2008

The Great Tomato Project 2008 Update...

As you can see from the above picture things are going pretty well so far with TGTP 08. The first batch of seedlings have all been transplanted into their own pots now where they'll hopefully grow on ready to be gradually hardened off in a few weeks time. The observant amongst you will have noticed that picture also contains our first load of sweet corn which is doing well so far as well as some of Melanie's Basil in there somewhere too along with a few Tomatillo, and an Aubergine as well.

Two of the tomatoes didn't germinate unfortunately but I'd kept some seed back in the event of problems so I've now re-sown those varieties along with the second stage of the project, the cherry varieties, in the freshly empty propagator.

The rest of the seedlings seem to be doing well too, here's the peppers and chillies all growing merrily in the spare room. I've got a couple of the larger tomatoes hardening off outside simply due to lack of room but they seem happy enough so far and they're joined in the plastic greenhouse with some Borage, a load of courgettes and a single marrow (need to sow another one me thinks) as well as the huge number of flower seeds Melanie seems to have sown.

While I'm at it, we're on the look out for one of those small 4 tier mini plastic greenhouses to house our ever growing number of plants but they seem a bit on the expensive side at £30 in our local garden centre. Does anyone know of a cheaper place to buy them from?

Friday 25 April 2008

Scary direct sowing

Being still quite new at this vegetable growing lark I'm quite cautious when it comes to sowing directly into the ground. Last year in the back garden I started almost everything inside before potting them on, hardening them off and planting out. The only thing I didn't do like that was carrots, and guess which crop was least successful..?

I know in reality I simply can't start everything off inside, not only do we not have space it'd also cost a small fortune in compost. So I'm aiming to force myself to sow some things directly into the soil this year. My only question is what?

I planted some more sugar snap and mange tout peas directly into the ground a week or so ago on the other side of the little pea wall I built and obviously things like carrots, beetroot etc need to be sown direct, but what else is safe to do like that and expect decent results?

Wednesday 23 April 2008


The one thing (other than extra hours in the day) we've needed ever since we got our plot was some timber. Free timber to be exact since that's the allotmenting way and money, unfortunately, doesn't grow on trees. So, imagine the excitement at Growing Our Own towers this week when a friend of ours who sells Spa Pools emailed to say he had some pallets for us if we could find a use for them.

A couple of days later and this was awaiting us when we came home from work...

A few hours and a lot of effort with hammer and crowbar later we have a much more manageable pile of wood all ready for make everything from compost bins to raised beds. While digging and preparing the remaining beds not to mention sowing seeds will take priority over the far less urgent carpentry but once that’s all done in the next couple of weeks expect to see some first attempts at construction.

So thanks Ed, and if anyone wants a Spa Pool then Monarch Spas is the place to go...

Monday 21 April 2008

Anyone seen the sun?

Aside from the progress with the spuds I mentioned on Saturday it was a pretty slow weekend thanks to some thoroughly cold and gloomy weather in the Gloucestershire area. That didn't seem to stop the seeds we sowed last weekend from making an appearance though.

At least one of most things has come through now, we're only waiting on the vegetable spaghetti and the tomatillo to pop up which I guess isn't surprising given their preference for warmer climates. The courgettes have fairly shot on though and most will be able to be potted on in the next couple of days all being well, the corn is doing well too, 10 out of 15 germinated so far.
No sign of any tomatoes from The Great Tomato Project 2008 (from now on to be called TGTP 08 I think...) but they only got sown 5 days ago so I'm perhaps getting a tad impatient with them. The second batch, the cherry varieties, should be going in later this week when we have some propagator space and with any luck the weather will have warmed up a bit by then as I'm sure it's still pretty cold even in a propagator at the moment.

I was pleasantly surprised last night to discover this blog had been given it's first award. dND from the lovely From Here To Eternity has awarded Growing Our Own an 'E for Excellent' which was very nice of her. I think the rules are I now have to award it to any blogs I feel deserve the accolade, an almost impossible task when you consider the quality out there. I'd love to award it to everyone linked on my blogroll as they're all ones I read avidly but if I had to pick just one I'd award it to Fork it... A Gloucester Allotment. Not only is it a great read it's also the first allotment blog I ever read and the one that inspired me to try my hand at blogging.

Saturday 19 April 2008

A good job jobbed

This empty array of cardboard mountains means all the potatoes are now in! They seem to have been sat around the house chitting since the dawn of time taking up space that I really wanted to be using for seeds so it was something of a relief this morning to finally get the last three rows planted in-between the rain showers.

Still no sign of the earlies we put in the ground a couple of weeks ago but fingers crossed they’re burrowing their way towards daylight in their own time.

Thursday 17 April 2008


I know it's a little off topic but I was tagged by Lucy at the fantastic Smallest Smallholding and it's kinda fun to do these things so here goes...

What Was I Doing 10 Years Ago?
Hmmm 10 whole years ago I'd have been 20 and nearing the end of the final year of my HND Computing course. If I remember rightly that was a pretty frustrating year as I'd just spent a year on work placement getting paid to do the kind of work I was now not getting paid to do at Uni. This coupled with the fact that I'd kind of lost interest in the whole 'learning' side of the Uni thing led to a scarily large amount of skipped lectures and rushed work which resulted in me scraping through my final exams relying on luck as much as intellect.

My To Do List for Today/Diary of What I Actually Did
Since it's only lunchtime it's perhaps a bit early to judge how successful I'll be with my to do list today but I'd like to get to the allotment after work (weather permitting) and plant the final row of second early spuds as well as dig as much of the main crop bed as possible ready for planting tomorrow. After that my sole objective is to have dinner and relax. Surely that can be achieved.
As for what I've done so far, I've got up, fed the kittens, eaten breakfast, removed the kittens from various places they're not supposed to be, watched the end of a C4 documentary about the Arc of the Covenant, driven the 20 minute journey to work and then worked till lunch, which is now.

Snacks I Enjoy
I like most snacky things, sweet and savoury I'm not fussy. I guess if we're getting specific I'd have to say dark chocolate digestives, salted peanuts, salt and vinegar crisps and lovely fresh crusty bread and jam.

Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire
The obvious for a start, buy a lovely house with plenty of land out in the country somewhere.
Secure the financial future of family and friends.
Quit my job and spend my time working towards a more self sufficient lifestyle.
Buy Melanie and I a fantastic car each (running on homemade BioFuel of course).
Buy Cheltenham Town FC and fund their rise to the Premiership.
Travel extensively (not very self sufficient I admit but I'd love to see more of the world)

That'll do for the first few months... ;)

Three of My Bad Habits
I'm sure Melanie should be writing this bit... If she were I know she'd put the fact that I can sometimes take a lot of nagging to get things done as my number one bad habit. Personally I think I'm a lot better than I was, but that may just prove how bad I used to be...
Other than that its hard to say, I guess I'm a bit of a procrastinator at times and I'm terrible at keeping up exercise routines for longer than a few days. I'm sure I have a million other bad habits too but I'd hate to bring them up if people haven't noticed them for themselves. Never remove the mystery and all that... lol.

Five Places I Have Lived
I lived the first 23 years of my life in Cheltenham after which I moved a few miles up the road to Gloucester where I've been for the last 7. As you can see, I'm very much a local lad and to be honest I wouldn't have it any other way. There's very few places I've been that have made me want to move away from the beauty of the Cotswolds.
It'd be nice to live outside of suburbia somewhere more rural but I've no desire at the moment to move miles away, unless anyone out there is selling a nicely sized cottage with plenty of land in a nice location for less than 100k.... ;)

Five Jobs I Have Had
Office Clerk at Sainsburys - My first ever job (outside of a paper round) and I loved it, only did Saturdays and one evening a week but it was great fun.
Usher at Cheltenham's Odeon Cinema - The best job I've ever had and probably ever will. Getting paid to watch films with a little bit of showing people to their seats beforehand and cleaning up the spilt popcorn afterwards to fill in the gaps between films. What could be better? Fantastic place to work with some great people, loved it.
Supporting Artist/Extra - More of a paid hobby than a job but defiantly one of the more interesting things I've ever done. While most of the work I did was appearances in the background of BBC's Casualty (including a line in one episode.. fame eh!) I also got my face on screen in a Jenifer Love Hewitt film amongst others.
Director of my own company - Not a huge financial success by any means but the business I set up with a friend after leaving Uni certainly taught me lots and it was well worth having a go at.
Computer Programmer at various places - My 'real' job, the one that keeps me off the allotment every day. I've found I'm not really a computer person, a conclusion that comes perhaps 15 years too late, but as jobs go its ok and I enjoy the problem solving nature of it.

There we go, probably far more than you ever wanted to know about me and if you've read this far then congrats!

As for who to tag, I'm going to go for...

VP over at Veg Plotting
Veg Monkey from Vegmonkey and the Mrs
Gloucester Womble from Fork It... A Gloucester Allotment
Rebsie at Daughter Of The Soil
and Nome at NomeGrown

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Playing catch up...

While the weather held out to be far better than expected over the weekend We didn't get to spend as much time at the allotment as we'd have liked. In fact it was only the ten minutes it took to plant out the sugar snap and mange tout peas we had growing at home that we spent up there over the two days.

This didn't mean a lack of any progress at all however; Sunday afternoon saw a much needed sowing and re-potting session in the back garden. While Melanie filled up almost the whole greenhouse with trays full of flower seeds I spent a good couple of hours potting on the various tomato, pepper and chilli seedlings I had into pots big enough for them to live in till they're planted out into their final homes and then catching up with the all seed sowing that needed to be done.

In the propagator we have some Aubergine (Black Beauty), Sweet corn (Early extra Sweet F1), Marrow (Long Green Bush 2) and three kinds of Courgette (Parador, Defender and Covili). There's also a couple of more weird and wonderful veg in the form of some Vegetable Spaghetti and Tomatillo.

The other job we got done was to get the potatoes we're growing at home started off. With four tubs and a different variety in each (King Edward, Accent, Pink Fir Apple and Kerrs Pink) we're doing a bit of a taste test really to see if we fancy growing any of these in bigger quantities on the allotment next year.

Weather permitting we've got lots of work to do at the allotment this week, biggest job that needs jobbing is to dig the second potato bed and get the main crop spuds in the ground, they seem to have been chitting for months so we'll be glad to finally be rid of them cluttering up the house.

Monday 7 April 2008

The Great Tomato Project 2008

It was a pretty rotten weekend weather wise so absolutely nothing got done on the plot. However, a little vegetable growing side project of mine meant that there is something to blog about after the weekend.

As if taking on a new allotment and filling it with veg wasn't enough work I've decided to have a bit of an experiment since we've got so much space. I've always known there was more to tomatoes than the bog standard red ones you get in the super markets but I'd never experienced any so I've come up with a tomato master plan...

I'm going to use one side of the plot (the back probably) and grow a load of different tomato plants along it using the handy chicken wire fence for support. I'm going to grow a few more normal varieties (the Sungella, Sub Arctic and Suncherry I’ve already started off) but the rest are going to be of the more weird and wonderful variety. Then, with any luck, come the summer I'll be able to collect the seeds of the ones that perform the best and use them again next year.

Thanks to the wonders of eBay I found a friendly supplier (O.V. Gillies) who supplies a wide selection of weird and wonderful tomato seeds in small quantities (three or four seeds per variety) perfect for what I want to do so I ordered a set each of her Heirloom and Cherry Surprise mix. Less than 48 hours later a lovely collection of seed packets fell through my letter box (see pic at top of post) all packaged and labelled with love and care along with an info sheet about tomato growing and even a few extra freebies in the shape of some Purple Mist sweet peppers, Diamond aubergines, a herb called Borage that I'd not heard of before and some flower seeds (Dianthus Chinensis/China Pinks).

With interesting sounding varieties like Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Prince, De-Barro black, Rouge d'Iraq, Banana Legs, Green Zebra and Red Zebra it's suddenly become the most exciting part of the growing year for me. I just hope I can manage to grow them...

Thursday 3 April 2008

Just what we needed, wood chips!

Remember last week I was moaning about how the weeds on the paths were causing more trouble than the weeds in the beds? Well it seems the allotment Gods were listening, as I arrive at the plot on Monday night I was greeted by the sight of a huge pile of wood chippings had been delivered to the site during the day. Talk about good timing…

So, the last two evenings have been spent doing a huge weed of the paths, one section at a time, and then covering them in wood chips to create a much neater looking plot. See, about half done so far and I think it’s looking pretty good…

In the foreground there you can see my little pea wall made out of some chicken wire and posts I ‘liberated’ from my parents garage. I think we’re going to need about twice as much as that but it’s a start. I was going to put some of the peas we’ve got at home in as well but since we’re forecast snow for the weekend I figured best wait a few days and see what happens…