Top Tips for Tasty Tomatoes

It’s the time of year when many of us gardeners are eagerly watching our tomato plants and hoping to see them ripen and give us a bumper crop. I was recently asked for tips on growing tomatoes so I figured two brains were better than one (even if the second one is a boy’s!) so I decided to interview my BFF Euan. He has 98 (yes 98!) tomato plants at home and his Grandad is a proper expert on tomatoes. So read on for some top tips for tasty tomatoes (that’s a lot of alliteration you know!) in my interview with Euan Boutell, tomato extraordinaire, aged 20 months!

 I just need to give our home grown tomatoes a bit of a taste test first! Top Tip for Tasty Tomatoes

I just need to give our home grown tomatoes a bit of a taste test first!

Hiya Euan, I know that if you want to grow tomatoes for super cheap, it’s best to grow them from seed. Plus it’s great fun watching them sprout through the earth and grow big and strong like you and me! So, when would you say it’s best to start sowing seeds?

Well Lulu, if you are an expert in tomatoes like Grandad and me, it’s best to start the seeds in February in a heated propagator. He says doing without heat will end up with weaker seedlings and scrawnier plants overall. However, this option might not be the best if you are a beginner with no equipment. So you can buy super plants in garden centres that have been given a good start and you can then just pot them on.

Good advice Euan. And  what would be a good variety for a beginner? Or a good variety for a pot on the patio if you don’t have a greenhouse?

Moneymaker or Ailsa Craig are good red varieties and Golden Sunrise for a yellow. They are all pretty hardy and easily available. If you are growing in a pot outdoors a Tumbler is a great tomato plant. Add a few marigolds and nasturtiums in the same pot and you have a very pretty and tasty pot! . The “bush” varieties of tomato don’t need staking, pinching out or grow so tall either so can be a good option for beginners.

 Top Tip for Tasty Tomatoes Clockwise from top left: Ailsa Craig, 2 Golden Sunrises, Roma Plum,  Tigerella, Gardener's Delight cherry. Centre is Ailsa Craig.

Clockwise from top left: Ailsa Craig, 2 Golden Sunrises, Roma Plum, Tigerella, Gardener’s Delight cherry. Centre is Ailsa Craig.

And what is it best to sow seeds in – a tray? a biodegradable pot?

Just in a normal seed tray is absolutely fine. But you can use pretty much whatever you have lying about the kitchen – a yoghurt pot would work well and we always have a lot of them Lulu!

And what kind of soil would you grow the tomatoes in Euan? A certain compost? Add vermiculite?

Again, it’s really simple Lulu – just a standard seed compost.  No vermiculite required.

So, how do you know when to pot the little plants on?

Easy – when the first true leaves have emerged.

And I know it’s important to remove trusses as this helps you get a better crop of fruit. When do you do that?

The aim is to have a single stem with four or five trusses (the branches with yellow flowers on them.) Late summer remove the top
growing tip so all energy is focused on the rest of the plant. Keep “pinching out” side-shoots so the plant can focus on those few branches. There will be less fruit but what you get will have a chance to ripen and be better. As lower leaves wilt remove these to keep the plant nice and healthy.

Cuore di bue beefsteak tomatoes. Later ripening so not the best for northern gardens but good for bulking out green tomato chutney.

Cuore di bue beefsteak tomatoes. Later ripening so not
the best for
northern gardens but good for bulking out green tomato chutney.


Now Euan, you know better than anyone that feeding is important and not just for us toddlers! When should you start feeding tomato plants and how often?

Well Lulu if I was a tomato plant I would want to be fed lots of times a day! But really feeding should start when the first truss (remember that’s thebranch which will have the yellow flowers) has formed. Everyone has different opinions on the frequency of feeds – some say every couple of weeks, some say more often, some say less. Here’s a secret from Grandad though – he cheats by adding a sprinkle of multipurpose solid fertiliser once the truss has formed in order to reduce the work.

Does your clever Grandad have any other tips he can share with us?

Grandad says nip out any side shoots that grow between main stem and side branches on cordon varieties to ensure growth goes to fruits. Obviously don’t do that on bush varieties. If you are lazy and leave doing this until the side shoots are about 4-5 inches you can actually turn them into new plants. Place the removed shoots in plain water on your window sill for 1-2 weeks until good roots form then you can pot it into compost. But you can only do this early in season (or if you have a heated greenhouse) otherwise won’t have enough time for tomatoes to form and ripen.

Euan knows it's very important to keep your (98!) tomato plants  well watered!

Euan knows it’s very important to keep your (98!) tomato plants  well watered!


Any other top tips for tasty tomatoes Euan?

Well, most people store their tomatoes in the fridge which they shouldn’t. They taste much better if they are kept at room temperature. Or even better, keep them on the vine until you need them and eat them straight from the plant.

Also, my mummy knows a thing or two about tomatoes and cooking. Because we live in Scotland where it isn’t always as hot and sunny as
we would like, sometimes tomatoes don’t get as ripe as we would like. However, don’t despair! Nothing gets wasted in our house so Mummy just turns under-ripe tomatoes into some tasty green tomato chutney instead. Here is her very own recipe which she has kindly shared with you all!

Euan’s Mummy’s Gorgeous Green Tomato Chutney

Makes about 1.4kg

Ingredients:

Method:

  1. Peel, core and grate the apples.
  2. Place in a saucepan with all remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, especially in later stages as it can stick/burn easily, until excess moisture has gone and a spoon drawn through leaves a distinct channel.
  4. Spoon into sterile jars with vinegar-proof lids.
  5. Allow to mature in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months. (3)
  6. Once opened, store in fridge and eat within 1 month

 

 Top Tip for Tasty Tomatoes The end result - a jar of lovely green tomato chutney. Do we really have to wait 2-3 months Auntie Alison?!?

The end result – a jar of lovely green tomato chutney. Do we really have to wait 2-3 months Auntie Alison?!?

So there you go, Euan and I have hopefully answered all your tomato questions. If you need any more advice whether it’s on tomatoes o
gardening in general please get in touch and we will be happy to help! If you have enjoyed this chutney recipe, read about our yummy Rhubarb Chutney recipe.

Lulu (& Euan!)

1. I find having a few red ones in the mix adds depth to flavour.

2. Normally a mixture of sultanas and apricots.

3. 2-3 months – that’s like forever!

Lulu’s Garden Review – Logan Botanic Garden

Hello everyone. It’s been hard work writing these blogs – it takes lots of research and practical work you know! So, after a few of my winning smiles I persuaded M& D that I needed a holiday! We are lucky that my Grandma & Grandpa have a cottage on the West Coast of Scotland we can use so we packed our bags and headed off for a few days of “rest”! We did lots of fun things on holiday including going to the Heads of Ayr Farm Park (1) with my BFF Euan and we also went to Portpatrick (2). One of the things we like to do on holiday is visit nice gardens. In this part of the country we are spoilt for choice – from the grandeur of Culzean to the relaxing haven of Glenwhan there is something to suit everyone. My personal favourite is Logan Botanic Garden which is south of Stranraer. It is filled with lots of beautiful things to see. I know you are busy people so instead of boring you with lots of plant names and the history (I’ll leave that for M&D to do!) I have decided to tell you my story of Logan in some lovely photos…

Tree ferns are one of the main features of Logan Botanic Garden

Tree ferns are one of the main features of Logan Botanic Garden

 

 A lot of the plants at Logan are exotic. These aeoniums look almost alien!

A lot of the plants at Logan are exotic as it is located in the Gulf Stream. These aeoniums look almost alien!

 

More exotics - this time lots of Cannas in full flower. The mild temperatures at Logan make exotic planting possible.

More exotics – this time lots of Cannas in full flower. The mild temperatures at Logan make exotic planting possible.

 

Wow - what a lovely long path round the Walled Garden to explore. This part is packed with all sorts of pretty flowers.

Wow – what a lovely long path round the Walled Garden to explore. This part is packed with all sorts of pretty flowers.

 

 Tree ferns take a while to grow big (unlike me) - here lots have been planted out for the future.

Tree ferns take a while to grow big (unlike me) – here lots have been planted out for the future.

 

I love trees. And there are some wonderful types in Logan. Here I am looking at a big old Eucalyptus

I love trees. And there are some wonderful types in Logan. Here I am looking at a big old Eucalyptus

 

 Hmmm, I wonder why the common name for Kniphofia is Red Hot Pokers? 

Hmmm, I wonder why the common name for Kniphofia is Red Hot Pokers?

 

Taking a moment to admire the carp pond

Taking a moment to admire the carp pond

 

The gunnera jungle is a great place to explore

The gunnera jungle is a great place to explore

 

 "Bug"ingham Palace - haha!

“Bug”ingham Palace – haha!

 

 I love sniffing flowers and the mopheads on these Hydrangeas were spectacular

I love sniffing flowers and the mopheads on these Hydrangeas were spectacular

If you have been to visit a garden that was really nice I would love to hear about it and maybe one day I could go there too.

Read our blogs of other gardens to visit in the area:

Glenwhan Gardens

Castle Kennedy Gardens

Lulu

1. Head of Ayr Farm Park is a wonderful day out for the family. It has lots of animals to see as well as fun things to play on, both indoors and out. It’s also close to the Electric Brae which is weird!

2. Portpatrick is a pretty harbour village south of Stranraer. We love the putting green there. On this visit M&D got three holes in one between them but I can’t possibly say who got the most…

Funny Pets in the Garden – Part 1

Hi, Lulu here. You all know that I love gardening but did you know that I love animals too? And best of all I love animals in gardens! Especially when they are doing funny things. Here are a few of my favourite pictures taken when we have been out in clients’ and friends’ gardens of their funny pets making us laugh in the garden.

This is our friend Hazel’s auntie’s cat, Bouffy disguised as a pot, waiting on some birds to come!

Bouffy The Bird Slayer!

Bouffy The Bird Slayer!

This photograph is also from Hazel and is a photo of her lovely dogs Gabi and Zara. They are at the park and have found a “stick” to play fetch with!:

 Gabi & Zara show good team work bringing their "stick" home

Gabi & Zara show good team work bringing their “stick” home

This is one of Angi and Alex’s dogs – Alfie. Alfie is watching whilst they are packing the car ready to go on holiday. I think he is desperate to go on holiday too, don’t you? Remember your bucket and spade Alfie!:

Hurry up Mummy, Alfie says, I can't wait to go on holiday!

Hurry up Mummy, Alfie says, I
can’t wait to go on holiday!

Here we have our next door neighbour Auntie Muriel’s cat (1) Leo. He loves chilling in the garden in his makeshift hammock, aka the fruit cage netting! We took this photo while we were busy helping Auntie Muriel pick her plums.

 Leo finds a comfy "hammock" in the sun

Leo finds a comfy “hammock” in the sun

If you have funny photos of animals in your garden please get in touch, I would love to see them and share them on my blog.

To read Part 2 of “Funny Pets in the Garden” click here.

Lulu

1. I am very lucky and have 3 cats. They are:

Fudgey-doo-dee!

Fudgey-doo-dee!

 

Jingles - our latest cat who gives good cuddles!

Jingles – our latest cat who gives good cuddles!

 

Bungle - he is a scaredy cat (he hides behind the sofa a lot) and is a "Munchkin" but is very, very cute!

Bungle – he is a scaredy cat (he hides behind the sofa a lot) and is a “Munchkin” but is very, very cute!