Sunday, 30 August 2009

Tommorrow always comes

Starting this blog has coelesced a number of thoughts in my head -many of them about my focus for this blog and thereby my goals in life. I've realised today that one of my goals is to revel in the seasonality of life and the fact that, death aside, tommorrow always comes. I think we have a cultural distaste for the idea of manana and there is an inherent assumption that doing something tommorrow (or, god help you, next year) is somehow lazy and unproductive. I'm making a stand against this - doing something tommorrow, next season or next year is great - there's so much to look forward to! If you fuck up, forget to do something this year or suddenly realise that there's a better way of doing it, there really always is next year.

Tomatos are a case in point for me. As I said, I realise I've been growing them the Wrong Way. Some years, I've got lucky. There was the Year of the Compost Toilet. I was living on a boat on our mooring and we didn't have facilities for sewerage disposal. Inspired by several visits to CAT and various "How to shit in the woods" (this is a real title; check it out on Amazon) type tomes, we developed an extremely basic composting toilet. Most models involve a 12v fan, which, unless it's solar powered does rather seem to be missing the point. Our version consisted of pooing in a bucket-and-chuck-it; covering each deposit with sawdust (being a wooden boatyard, we had a lot of that) and then, when the container was full, emptying it into a stack of tyres, with a grid at the base to stop rats and provide drainage, again layering each deposit with sawdust. We left a year to compost and it was amazing. No smell at all. In theory you're not supposed to use it on edibles, but I couldn't resist. It went on my (very) raised beds and I planted squashes and tomatos. It was a hot summer and there were enormous quantities of tomatos and no blight. Sadly we were away at the peak tomato moment, so my friends had most of them:-(

I can't even remember what year that was - it must have been more than 5 years ago. Since then it's been hopeless. Last year I swore I wasn't going to grow tomatos outside again because blight was so inevitable, but I succumbed this year and planted out some HDRA seedlings that were supposed to be relatively blight resistant - I think one was called Peremoga and the other Salt Spring surprise. Sadly they seem to have now totally succumbed. I've been taking the leaves off, but it's on the stems now and if I leave the toms on any longer, they'll get it. If you haven't seen what blight can do to a plant, it's pretty awesome. The speed at which it can transmute a plant into a smelly mass makes you very grateful that it's not a human pathogen.

So tomorrow it's green tomato chutney and tonight it's an analysis of what went wrong and what I can do better next year. I'm still positive about my tomato growing progress to date. Things I now do include:

1) Planting out before the plants are too big
2) Labelling the plants clearly
3) Growing most of the crop indoors
4) Taking the side shoots off regularly
5) Staking properly (although I still need to work on this)
6) Spraying against blight (goes against the grain, but so does losing my entire crop)
7) Mercilessly taking off any blight affected leaves
8) Knowing when to give up and make green tomato chutney!

Things I'm going to do better next season:

1) Sorting out a watering butt automatic drip watering system - this should ensure that I don't have to use the hose (which I think is pretty criminal), and that the leaves don't get wet (blight just loves damp leaves), and that the plants are getting regular fertiliser because I'll put it in the butt - oh, and that they are getting watered regularly - no more blossom end rot for me!
2) Stripping the leaves off mercilessly before the blight strikes

So, although I can't control the sun and the rain, I can at least look forward to maximising my chances of a good crop next year...manana!

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