Monthly Archives: May 2014

Determinate, Indeterminate … and the Inbetweenies

I’m about to plant out the tomatoes in the tunnel.

First I’ve been checking whether each variety is ‘determinate’ or ‘indeterminate’, i.e. bush or cordon.  I’ll plant all the bush varieties in the LH bed and all the cordon on the RH side.  Reason being is that the bush ones stop growing once the flowers set at the tips and so top out at around 3′-4′.  All the fruits ripen at the same time and it’s game over for the plant.  The bush varieties tend to fruit earlier than cordon so I can harvest and then clear the block to free up space and as the plants are shorter they won’t shade out the tomatoes in the RH bed.   Plus, bush tomatoes don’t need pinching out  – which is good for me because I always forget to pinch out regularly and then have to hack out whopping big side shoots.

The indeterminate tomatoes are the sort that keep on growing, (until killed by DSC_0083frost – or, let’s be honest, blight) .  Cordon varieties need staking and the OH has knocked up a handy cane and string staking assembly which I shall set out once I have finished the tomato shuffle.  The main stem is tied in as the plant grows.  It’s recommended that you pinch out the main growing tip after 6 or so trusses.  This ensures the trusses ripen rather than leaving a mass of green tomatoes at the end of the season – which is fine if you are into making green tomato chutney.  Which I have done, though normally the green tomatoes hang around in paper bags alongside a fast blackening and decomposing banana in a last ditch attempt to get them to turn a vaguely orange colour.   Pinching out the side shoots is also recommended  – a side shoot is one that forms in the ‘V’ created at the point where a leaf stem joins the main stem.  This shoot removal is meant to concentrate the plant’s energy into fruit formation rather than leaf, though some varieties respond better than others.   In my case I normally get fed up and let the plant get on with it.  Some growers feel that you have a better growing relationship with tomatoes that you have to pinch out …. I think that’s someone who needs to get out more but perhaps I should work harder at my tomato one on one.

The bush varieties for this year are Outdoor Girl, San Marzano, Golden Nugget, Principe Borghese and Legend, and the cordon are Brandywine, Harbinger, Sungold, Gardener’s Delight and Marmande.

Outdoor Girl (Bush)

Outdoor Girl (Bush)

Gardener's Delight (Cordon)

Gardener’s Delight (Cordon)

Oh and the Inbetweenies, (semi-determinate) – they are the short cordon varieties.



Pestilence – the return……

A humongous rabbit has just lolloped out of the hedge line and there is a mole in the veg patch – I’ve been admiring the parabola of mole hills he/she has left in the bed.  Wood pigeons have been cropping the emerging peas.  I really should be stitching up runs of netting for the strawberries…..

Instead…I’ve been butterfly researching.

Last year I was bemoaning the lack of butterflies.   I’m hoping for good things this year.   Whilst turfing out a kit, aka baby rabbit, from the veg patch, (okay, the OH did the actual turfing out  – I supervised),  I came across this on a patch of nettles.

DSC_0075They are the caterpillars of the Peacock butterfly  (Aglais io).  There were loads of them emerging from webs.  Googling a butterfly/nettle combo to assist the I.D. I discovered that nettles are also an important plant for the Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) as well as a food source for the caterpillars of  the Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui) and Comma (Polygonia c-album).  Good thing we’ve got loads of nettles round the homestead then.   I have recently seen Orange tips, (Anthocharis cardamines), Small White, (Pieris rapae) having a flutter round the radish, and Large White, (Pieris brassicae).  So here’s hoping we have clouds of butterflies this summer.

(PS   I didn’t stitch the netting but I did stuff a slab of concrete in the sliver of a gap left by a gate in the veg. plot fencing as an anti kit measure.)


DSC_0053Two of the gooseberry bushes have gone down with mildew, American Gooseberry mildew, (caused by the fungus Podosphaera mors-uvae).  Drat, drat.  Not all the bushes are affected – just the Careless, (ha! – well named), and the Leveller specimens.  I did think that Leveller was meant to be more resistant to the mildew – obviously not!   I suspect the intermittent showers and sun have built up the humidity and these 2 specimens are quite densely leaved.  The fruits of the affected bush can be washed and eaten but I suspect I will strip them off and thin out the bush to improve air circulation.  The Hinnomaki Red, Hinnomaki Yellow, Captivator and Invicta specimens look fine, (they are all meant to have some degree of resistance to the mildew), so hopefully we will still be able to harvest gooseberries.  Matthew Biggs mentions, (but cannot recommend!), that a sprayed solution of bicarb (5g per litre) can be used to control the mildew.

DSC_0054I have also been washing the leaves of the citrus – Calamondin, Citrus x microcarpa, with a mild soapy solution.  The orange has taken a hit of scale.   Scale insects suck sap and secrete honeydew which in turn encourages sooty mould. It’s easy to control – just fiddly to treat all the leaves.  I shall pot on my citrus; they are hungry plants, so a refresh of the compost, (JI no. 3 plus grit), is timely.  I will also keep feeding the plants every week  throughout the summer. 

Pestilence begone!

a few of my favourite things…..

I was mooching around, waiting for the OH finish the first, of what will be many, visits to the dentist.  The OH needs to have his aged front tooth implant replaced.  My, that is a complicated procedure – no wonder they just used to pull teeth and have done with.  But what did I find whilst loitering in the town’s high street? – a proper second-hand bookshop!   I do love second-hand bookshops.  In fact give me a big pot of tea, a round of toast and marmalade and a second-hand bookshop to rummage through – job done, I’m happy.

My first experience of the gem that is the second-hand bookshop was located at the un-posh end of the High Street in Poole.- I used to go and flog my school prize books there.  If I recall the owners paid 25% of the cover price – a nice earner.  Though it horrified a school friend’s mother who bought some of my cast offs and saw the book plates.  That particular shop closed – a fate of many a similar enterprise.

Though not in Hay.  Hay on Wye is a (the?) mecca for the second-hand bookshop devotee with its dozens of bookshops.  The first was opened by Richard Booth in the 70s, (about the same time I was flogging my books down the high street).  A literary festival followed 10 years later and today business is booming for Hay and the surrounding area. The OH and I went on a trip last year. We meant to go eons ago – a Valentine’s Day booking, that when left to me meant that we ended up in Ross on Wye – which is not the same thing at all.

bookshopPerhaps the pinnacle is Richard Booth’s Bookshop – (though no longer owned by enterprising Mr Booth).  It is incredible, lovely displays, gorgeous fittings, comfy armchairs, super organised – has a cafe AND a cinema.  undoubtably it has to have all of this to survive.  But for me I do have a soft spot for the disorganised, the shabby, with that distinct musty smell of foxed paper, that is a high street second-hand bookshop.  And yesterday I found myself in BooksISell, run by Syd, and I think – Syd’s brother.   I suspect organisation isn’t their forte – but then that means you have to have a good browse through the shelves.

DSC_0044I didn’t buy anything from Richard Booth but I bought a couple of books from Syd …and he kindly pointed me in the direction of the free books out the front……