A torrent of tomatoes

Walking to my plot this morning from the car park I was hailed by Paddy, the other Irish gardener with the perfectly toiled soil. He wondered if I wanted his leftover tomato plants. They were grown in a greenhouse with plenty of extra heat, and were even in flower despite the early date. Naturally there was no time to be coy; I was delighted. And trotted up to my garden with an instant ready-made crop. My own tomatoes grown from seed may have been sturdier, but they were only six inches high. These beauties were over a foot high and some even taller. No idea with the varieties are – most people around here don’t bother with named varieties; they just save the seed from favourite ones from year to year and forget what they are called.

First I wanted to see if my new hose would fit the tap. I dragged the hose over to the tap (28 metres away and past some rather verdant nettle beds), pulled out all the attachments in the box…and found that not a single one would fit. Rats and other hissing words ending in ‘it’. I had so much hope for the hose. Frustrated but undeterred I even found myself holding the damn hose over the tap and just getting mightily splashed. I did this for about twenty minutes, so it meant I was able to drench the bean bed as it is close to the wheelie bin and generally spray water over most parts of the garden where the hose would reach. Tomorrow (or the next visit) I’m determined to get another attachment that fits.

Meanwhile it was back to the watering cans and buckets and wheelbarrow and endless trips.

The brassica bed (under a new net) is suffering from some sort of pest. I can’t see what it is, but it is nibbling away at the leaves. It will be a race to see if the plant can put on growth before it is entirely devoured. Some have taken root well and romped away, so it’s not all bad news. My brocoletto have flowered. Garish yellow flowers all over the tall plants. I don’t understand how you can avoid it happening; I don’t think they suffered too much from heat stress in the few weeks they have been in the ground. They did the same last year too. Mick is the one who has tutted over this phenomenon. Part of me wonders if this is perfectly natural and not to worry about it. And the other part thinks, failure again. Luckily I’m just going to avoid the problem and get on with planting out other things; who knows? They may produce some lovely tops despite the flowering.

I tucked the netting back around the perimeter of the cabbage patch and spied a cabbage moth butterfly trapped inside. How on earth did that get there? This is precisely the net that is supposed to keep the butterflies out. They lay eggs on the brassicas and wreak all kinds of havoc. I hunted about and managed to remove it, but did smile at the irony of all this netting business. Nothing will deter the determined.

I dug the trenches for the tomato grow bags. This is Paddy’s method which I want to copy. He hides the grow bags (and they are frankly scary in their bright red plastic coverings) at soil level and then puts back plastic over the top. I’m going to do the same, but cover mine with bark chips. I already had two grow bags purchased earlier in the year, and started with these for the new tomato plants. They are designed to take three tomato plants each, and I cut out the holes, watered like mad, and planted the three plants at equal distances in the bag. Staking, and placing of a small empty pot ready for easy watering, and it was done. They look rather fun.

As I was working Rino arrived and looked hurt that I had taken tomatoes from somebody else rather than him. He explained that he was growing seedlings for me in his greenhouse, and wanted me to collect them. At once. I felt most castigated as I plodded behind him to his greenhouse, but really there is no conspiracy; just someone offering me extra plants. The good thing was that Rino knew the Irishman’s name; I never did. So that’s another piece of the social jigsaw of the allotment gossip map sorted.  I can’t say he is mollified by the explanation that is was a spontaneous gesture, but I now have more tomato plants than I intended. Three from Rino, my own six grown at home, and the seven from Paddy. Quite a crop.

The sun was beating down quite fiercely by now, and I was pleased to be able to wear my new large-brimmed straw hat. I miss the one that is in storage waiting for its new life in France. We just didn’t imagine the house purchase would take until June (The latest issue is a possible goat track between our two houses which may or may not be a public right of way). And with a warmer than usual spring, the hat is sorely missed.

Back at home I took a tour of the seedlings on the terrace and planted up some sunflowers and extra purple sprouting broccoli this afternoon. I do so love the sowing process.