I like doing experiments, at least when I am gardening. I think it is an attempt on my part to counter my rule-following behaviour, something which I have been trying to loosen ever since I noticed it in myself. I suspect it is easier to do in gardening – and cooking – because after a while you quickly realise that (a) there are almost as many rules as gardeners/cooks, and (b) actually they are more guidelines than rules, and experience trumps all.
I have been meaning to post about my tomato experiments for weeks now. The main experiment was the obvious, simple one – which tomatoes do we most like to grow? I needed a mix of indoor and outdoor as my greenhouse is only small and I still need room to pot on and generally footle. So, I am trying ‘Gold Nugget’ (which for some reason seems to grow better for me than the ever-popular ‘Sungold’, so not so much an experimet as a return to known loveliness). Sorry, where was I… OK, so ‘Gold Nugget’, ‘Marmande’ (for large beefy toms), ‘Ferline’ (mid sized, allegedly blight resistant), ‘Olivade’ (mid size plum) and both red and yellow ‘Tumbler’. All prefer to grow outside, though I am hedging and trying one each of ‘Ferline’ and ‘Olivade’ inside too, and all, apart from ‘Marmande’ and ‘Gold Nugget’ new to me. For indoors I have gone for ‘Gardener’s Delight’, because everyone seems to rave about it and I had free seed.
I’ve already posted about trying growing some outdoor tomatoes in a growbag on its side held in place by bamboo stakes in a small plastic greenhouse. They seem to like it, as they are now “growing like Topsy“.
The stack of 10l pots in the left hand photo are now full of tomatoes, creating what I have christened “Tomato Alley”.
I figured that since the growbags contain 30l compost then the tomatoes grown in the growbag on its side with the extra pots, and therefore extra 2l compost, might do slightly better. Its hard to tell since they are growing at different heights, but so far there is no discernible difference between e.g. the Ferline growing in a 10l pot and the Ferline growing in the growbag cage. So much for that experiment. The other intentional experiment outdoors is that this year I am growing the ‘Gold Nugget’ tomatoes au naturel, i.e. I am not pinching out the sideshoots. I only discovere this Spring that according to some sources this can produce more fruit than if you pinch them out, and since I am not a huge fan of the relentless race to get rid of the sideshoots that seem to leap into growth as soon as your back is turned, I thought I would give it a go.
The greenhouse is now being taken over by tomatoes too. The three that I had planted in pots and put on my own self-watering platform are steaming away, all ‘Gardener’s Delight’. There are actually two experiments here, the first being the self watering platform, the second being all Esther’s fault. A while ago she blogged about pinching out tomatoes, saying that while her husband regarded this as essential she left them to their own devices and never saw a difference in yield. Since the tomato plant all the way in the corner is hard to get to anyway, I decided to make a virtue out of necessity and see what difference there was in cropping if I left well alone or pinched out. So that corner tomato has been left to do what it likes, whilst I attempt to keep on top of the pinching out on the remainder. Interestingly, the plant I have not pinched out at all is several inches taller than either of the others. I am also fascinated to see that the three tomatoes planted in the growbag on end, mirroring the outdoor experiment, are fast catching up with the three in pots, despite having been planted up three weeks later than the the potted ones and having been looking rather yellow and potbound because of it.
The final experiment is not really worthy of the name, since it should be with the same variety of tomatoes as the other growing methods (‘Gardener’s Delight’) but is actually being done with my “what if the blight hits and I never get to try these” ‘Ferline’ and ‘Olivade’ tomatoes instead. I don’t know why I bought a couple of grow rings, I bought them years ago, before I ever got into growing edibles, and found them when tidying up at the end of last year. I wanted to see what difference it made using plain plastic pots with the bottom cut out of them versus “proper” grow rings. I won’t actually learn much from this, as not only are the tomatoes a different variety (two, actually), but there are only two, as opposed to three, planted in the bag, so theoretically they should do better anyway as they have more room for their roots. But hey, nothing’s perfect, and I care more about getting lots of tasty fruit than I do about making my old Science teacher turn in his grave with my less-than-perfect methodology.
I love tomatoes, and the only thing better than seeing loads of flowers everywhere, which are beautiful in their own right, is seeing all the fruits start to develop.
So much for the experiments, such as they are, on to the surprises.
Rudbekia hirta ‘Rustic Dwarf Mix’ is even more beautiful than I had hoped, and is starting to flower prolifically.
I would have expected my Foxglove ‘Pam’s Split’ plants to have started flowering by the end of May, instead they have waited until the end of June, but are no less welcome. The bees are happy to see them too.
I thought I had lost my Geranium phaeum, which was sad as it is my favourite geranium, but here is is, better late than never. Definitely one I will be taking with me.
At some point while I was lounging around in bed ignoring the garden a daisy plant suddenly appeared in the middle of the Euphorbia, way too lovely to remove.
The advantage of not having been up to an allotment trip to plant out the cornflowers is that they have started flowering here in the back garden in their too-small pots, making both me and the hoverflies very happy. I think they may just get planted up here somewhere.
And having waited over five years for my Oakleaf Hydrangea to flower, I am enjoying the long slow unfurling of the huge flower spikes, and the contrast with the last remnants of the Sweet Rocket. Which brings me to the identity crisis.
I was so excited about my sprouting baycorn, so when Esther asked me if it had got a red stem yet I was a little disconceted. I went and took another look.
Not a Baby Bay Tree at all – turns out this is actually a sprouting coffee bean, another gift from Esther. Something I would have known if I had bothered to check my own label. Which I didn’t, because I knew that it was a baycorn, and anyway my labels sometimes lie to me. So I was extra thrilled to discover that one of the pots that I had been assidulously watering in the greenhouse despite no signs of life was, in fact, a baby bay tree.
Complete with red stem, and now sat safely alongside the coffee plant – not that I exactly expect to be grinding my own beans any time soon – safe from the snails that are destroying my other seedlings in the greenhouse.