Carnage in the cabbage patch

tomatoespotting shedI blame Monsieur Bois. He retired. How could he? He was the one market gardener I could rely on to supply me with the most amazing tomatoes every summer.

He was a passionate grower, and also a breeder. So you could guarantee that every Thursday, on market day, he would come out with some stupendous toms.

But ill health (the man was only in his 80s) has forced his early retirement. So I have been forced to get back into tomato production again.

There is a note on my board in the potting shed that declares ‘do not sow tomato seeds before March’.  I always get a rush of blood and start them off too early.

tomatoes plantedAnd as a consequence I panic because I think they haven’t germinated.  So sow another batch. And then they suffer from erratic watering as I have to travel back to London and their growth is checked. So I sow more. And bless me, these March ones are perfectly fine and romp away.

[Sorry about the over-sized pictures. I have no idea why I can’t post medium sized snaps.  My brain is too addled from tomato leaf fumes to work out how to fix it.]

I now have a tomato seedling forest.  And today most of them had to leave the comfort of the potting shed and get shoved out into the real world.

I think there are now 30 tomato plants dotted about the potager. Which is ridiculous. Thank goodness I have the room. But really.

My technique is to either stake them if they are in open ground. Or tie them into the grid supports and hope they reach up and beyond the metre high chestnut fence.  We shall see. I really haven’t grown them for years so I’m out of practise.

The only tomatoes I had last year were surprise weeds from the compost heap. I obviously didn’t let the compost rot down properly before I added it to the soil.  It was a tasty accident: I munched on some rather good cherry tomatoes all season. But it was a bit of a jungle.

arturpath1Anyway, all this plodding from potting shed to the potager (about 100 metres along gravel paths and down quite a few sets of steps was not helped by Artur insisting on snoozing on the path where I was walking back and forth with crates of plants.

And just to complete the dutiful tomato planter, I decided that my last job around 7pm was to go up and get some of the nettle ‘tea’ so I could give my tomatoes a good start in life in the ground.

The nettles are rotting as far away as I can possibly manage, behind the water barrel at the top potager. I scooped up enough for the 20 new plants and made the mistake of just peeping into the well sealed cabbage, kale and calabrese bed on my way back down the mountain.


cabbage massacreI shouldn’t have looked. There’s carnage in there. It looks as though some moths, or cabbage moth caterpillars made it through my defences and started to munch.  I seem to have lost about a third of the crop. Arrrrggggghhh.

So instead of comincabbage munchedg in and congratulating myself on a good vegetable garden planting day, I was on hands and knees hunting small grubs and squishing for all I was worth.

There is actually a thickish mulch here around the plants. So with a quick weed (inevitable, alas) I could see brown earth and then each plant was given a swift knock so the little caterpillars would ping off and fall, with a small satisfying thud, onto the ground.

But it took ages. My back was killing me, I was heartbroken for losing such valuable plants and the cat kept prowling around the outside of the structure trying to work out how to get in.  No lap time for him however. I had death and destruction on my mind.

I’ll need to go up again tomorrow and do another pass. Something that wasn’t on my agenda. But I must be vigilant to make sure I don’t lose any more. The only good news? My hefty barriers have kept out the little red fire bugs. A small consolation. What a shame management forgot to let the moths and caterpillars know they weren’t invited either.