What can I do with my green tomatoes?

At a meeting this evening, our community worker, Dot, posed a question that has been asked more often than usual this year:

“What can I do with all those green tomatoes, other than make chutney or fry them?”

Even around just one table, there were many keen to offer suggestions, such as:

  • Leave them on the vine, with the plant unwatered, to ripen.
  • Put them in a biscuit tin with a banana.
  • Put them between your pajamas (presumably, not whilst you’re wearing them).

So we decided to ask how everyone else has tackled their green tomato glut this year. Do you have any tips for ripening tomatoes, or do you have any favourite green tomato recipes to share?

Please put your ideas in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box on this page (then select ‘Post Comment’) or send us an email. All suggestions welcome.

 

 

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May into June

Usually ‘March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers’ – because of the warmth that May provides. May 2010 is an exception. Night time temperatures have been the lowest for 40 years; down to -4oC. Cold daytime winds deepen the problem. Now in mid-May it remains cool but with the promise of warmth to come.

This may be a problem for those who started to sow seeds in March, then plant out in April. If you did, and things survived, OK. If frosts persist, protect plants overnight by covering with opened out newspaper, several sheets thick and water the paper thoroughly.

If frosts killed your newly sown seeds and plants – simply start again. And if we haven’t started yet, like me, start planting seeds now. We can start planting seeds now if we haven’t done so yet. So – for May – look at the hints for March (March into Spring) and keep going. (I notice that in March I advised looking at February’s tips!) The seasons are a-changing.

Planting late is not a problem. Last year I planted courgette and French bean seeds in July and was picking good crops in late November. So – take a chance, persevere, experiment!

We can expect temperatures to rise in the next week or so – the forecast looks good. Persist with seeds planted in the last month; re-sow if they have not germinated; sow seeds now if you have not done so this far in the season.

(Since everything is late – look at bargains in garden centres. Homebase in Huddersfield have half price seed potatoes, garlic and onion sets as they try to clear the shelves.)

Look at the RHS Veg Planner (pdf) – check out the blue lines for seeds to sow in this period:

Runner beans – these grow high and need a frame for support. A tall wigwam (as tall as you can reach) of poles, stakes or canes tied securely at the top – a metre diameter at the bottom. Put a seed either side of each pole and tie the growing plants to the pole when they are long enough.

French (dwarf) beans – see March into Spring notes for good types. These can now be sown outdoors immediately into the ground in rows 20cms apart and 8cms between seeds – 5cms deep.  With a draw hoe (a swan neck and blade to pull soil back) and a garden line, make a 2” deep channel in the soil; drop the seeds in, water the channel and push back the soil. Or use a dibber / trowel to make holes into which to drop the seeds – then cover after watering.

Broad beans – as above but 30cms between rows and 15cms between seeds.  Sutton is a dwarf variety. If taller varieties are chosen you need to erect a string frame on poles along each double row to support the plants up to 1m – 1m 30cms high. Double poles, either side of the double row, hammered in, and string taken around each pole continuously every 15cms as the plants grow. Leave 50-60cms between each double row for picking.

Peas – can be sown outdoors or planted outdoors if you’ve sown them in pots and they are around 15cms tall. Peas, like beans come in dwarf and taller varieties – some very tall up to 3m+! There are also peas that you pod to eat them – and peas that are mange tout – you can eat the pod too.

  • Little Marvel is a dwarf pea that grows only to about 45-60cms.  A few twigs provide adequate support. 
  • Tom Thumb is even smaller at around 30cms.  Both of these can be grown well in deep pots. 
  • Oregon Mange Tout grows to 1m tall so needs more support – netting on posts or string as in broad beans above.  Pick the pods early when they are flat and sweet. They can be eaten raw, steamed or stir-fried. 
  • Kelveden Wonder is a popular variety, crops heavily, is tall and needs good support. 

Planting peas is straightforward. With a draw hoe or the back of a rake, make a shallow trench 2” deep, pulling the soil to one or both sides, 30cms wide. Plant the seeds in three rows across the shallow trench – and only 4cms apart. Water them in – and draw the dry soil back over the wet trench. When the peas sprout and come through they are attractive to birds, especially pigeons. Wire netting pegged both sides in an arched shape is an effective defence. If you have the ground – sow in succession a week at a time – for a continuous supply after a couple of months or so.

Finally: 

  • Check back to February tips (Spring into Gardening) for hints on potatoes. They can still be planted – and seed potatoes are half price at Homebase just now.
  • These hints will appear throughout the late spring-summer and autumn periods, hopefully covering more ground and different crops for new growers.
  • If you need specific advice on an issue or a problem or other more general advice and tips – send them to David Browning at browning707@btinternet.com and we shall get back to you and publish those questions and answers for others as the season goes on.
  • There will be other advisers and specialists at the up-coming Growing Newsome event on Saturday 29th May in the Scout Hall from 10am-12noon.

 

David Browning

March into Spring

Ideas for March:


The long spell of cold weather and freezing nights has stopped many gardeners preparing their ground – which remains cold and often saturated – making it difficult to dig. Raised beds, if we have them, are draining more effectively, but the soil is still cold, preventing germination. Onions and shallots planted last month are not yet through; garlic planted in December is just getting going – a tiny sign of growth. What does this mean for March?

It means that February’s tips are still useful – the season is delayed. Onions and shallots can still be planted now. Potatoes of course have a long planting season depending on the type. If you haven’t started to chit your potatoes – getting the shoots going – start now.

The weather should turn milder as March proceeds – start digging – clear the ground of weeds – as the weather improves they will grow first! Add compost if it’s well rotted. Dig one row a spit deep (depth of the spade) then the second row and throw that up to make a trench. Put compost in the trench, and the next row goes over the compost. This lifts and breaks up the soil, helps it to dry and it will warm up more quickly.

If you have access to a greenhouse or have a very sunny porch or kitchen on the southern side of your home – you can start to sow beans – in particular broad beans. ‘The Sutton’ is a good dwarf variety. Start them in small pots of potting compost, one seed to a small pot; don’t overwater them (they will rot) don’t let them dry out (they will whither). A sunny window is best. If they get ‘stretched’ that is get ‘leggy’ and grow too tall, they are unlikely to recover. They do this searching for the light – so the need for a southern aspect – now the sun is rising in the sky!

Strong seedlings 2-3” high, can be planted out later in the month – 6-8” (150-200mm) apart and 9” apart in the rows – plant diagonally in the rows – as with the onion planting scheme in February’s tips. Do the same with dwarf French beans, of which there are many varieties. Look for different coloured varieties which look good on the plate – yellow – Golden Teepee or Concador; purple – Purple Teepee – or the exotic Borlotto bright red and flecked white!

There is a good calendar of times in the year to sow, plant and harvest vegetables available on the RHS website:

RHS veg planner (pdf)

February’s tips: Spring into Gardening

Spring into Gardening

Ideas for January to February:


Tough winter weather means there is more to do in our gardens; catching up with things like clearing old winter crops.  Brussels sprouts and leeks can still be harvested.  Purple sprouting broccoli may have taken a hit with the weight of snow but it will revive and start sprouting again if left in, if you’ve the space to do that.  Some crops like garlic need cold weather to get going and some varieties can still be planted at this time of year.

 

Time now for onions and shallots:  the ‘sets’ for these are still available for planting now and through to March.  (Sets are small dormant bulbs which grow on, cutting out the ‘growing from seed stage.) Try different varieties to see which do best in your ground – and red as well as white onions for variety in your cooking.  Shallots keep very well – and for each ‘set’ planted you will get between 5-8 shallots at summer harvest. 

Fork into the soil well-rotted compost and rake the top level.  Sets need careful planting.  Use a garden-line for the rows; string & two sticks will do.  Make a small hole in the soil the depth of the set; place the set in the hole without pressing it in, and cover it with the growing tip just below soil level. (take care to get the set the right way up, rooting end down) Pressing the set in will compact the soil beneath – so emerging roots will less easily get going.  Uncovered growing tips may be pulled out by birds; if they are, replace and cover again.

 Distances between sets and rows:  imagine they’ll grow the size of a medium apple or orange.  You’ll need to get a hoe between them for weeding in the summer.  Onions hate weed competition.  Say 20cms (8”) apart, same with the rows, and plant each row so that the sets are ‘staggered’ like this:

x                        x                        x                        x                        x                        x                       

 

            x                        x                        x                        x                        x                        x

 

Note:  In raised beds/large containers/tubs they can be closer together.  Containers need to be as large, and as deep as possible to share the limited soil resources.


 
Potatoes:  We’re also coming into the potato season.  Seed potatoes are now available. There are hundreds – see: http://varieties.potato.org.uk/varietyindex.php%20%20%20%20?page_no=1  

The Potato Council lists the top 10 varieties: Desiree, Maris Piper, Cara, Vivaldi, Charlotte, Record, Anya, Harmony, Accord and Agria. 

Note:  UK potato seed is highly regulated to prevent disease; the same goes for Garlic in France!  Of these my favourite is Anya, perfect for summer salads boiled with apple mint.  It’s a cross between Desiree & Pink Fir Apple an old, knobbly variety!


There are four general types of potatoes:

First Early

plant from end February to late May, harvest 10 weeks

Varieties: Accord, Rocket, British Queen

Second Early

plant from March to late May, harvest 13 weeks

Varieties: Anya, Bonnie, Arran Comrade

Early Maincrop:

as for Second Early, harvest 15 weeks

Varieties: Charlotte, Blue Danube, Belle de Fontenay

Maincrop:

plant March to mid May, harvest 20 weeks

Varieties: Desiree, Maris Piper, Cara, Vivaldi


Note: These timings are UK general – allow for our colder condition.                       

Buy at local garden centres; in town, Homebase has a small range. Seed merchants have lists, for example: http://www.thompson-morgan.com/potatoes1/ilist/potatoes.html   


Planting:  first chitting the seed potatoes:

  • Chitting means encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting.
  • Start chitting late January in warmer parts of the country or February in cooler areas (like Newsome) about 6 weeks before you plant them out.
  • Seed potatoes have a more rounded, blunt end that has several ‘eyes’.
  • Stand the tubers in natural light with the blunt end uppermost in trays or old egg boxes. They will begin to grow – making shoots.
  • The potatoes are ready to plant out when shoots are 1” (25mm) long.

 

Planting in the ground:

  • Plant chitted potatoes when the soil has warmed up, from mid-March or early April. Start by digging a trench 6”–9” deep (15-23 cm) although the exact depth should vary according to the variety of potato you’re planting.
  • Loosen the soil in the bottom of the trench and add a sprinkling of compost before planting.
  • Plant earlies about 12” (30cm) apart with 16”-20” (40-50cm) between rows; second earlies & maincrops about 15” (38cm) apart with 30” (75cm) between the rows. Note: These distances allow space for ‘earthing up’
  • Handle the chitted potatoes carefully (breaking the shoots sets them back) gently setting them into the trench with the shoots pointed upwards. Cover the seed potatoes lightly with soil from the dug trench.
  • As soon as shoots appear above ground (look carefully, they’re often purple and hard to see) earth up each plant with a draw hoe (one that you pull towards you) making a ridge of soil so that shoots are just buried.  Leave this too long and you may break the shoots.
  • Repeat this process regularly.  Your new potatoes will grow from these shoots and maximise your harvest – until the ridge is 6”-9” high.

Look out for more hints by the end of February!

David Browning

Growing Newsome Team

Tips for starting to grow in Newsome – June / July

 

turf stacked grass to grass

turf stacked grass to grass

June / July could be a good time to start –

There’s more light and it should be warmer – on average! But you need to start now – the sun starts falling in the sky from 21st June, so there’s 15 minutes less sun per week.

Starting to grow –

There are two ways to do this, with containers or in your own garden, if you have one.

 
Containers – This could be almost anything:

  • Growbags from garden centres.
  • Ordinary plant pots – the larger the better. At this time of year garden centres sometimes give them away free – or a large bagful for £1.
  • Tubs or large ornamental pots.
  • Half-barrels.
  • Old watering cans or pans, so long as you make drainage holes in the bottom – use a hammer and a 6”nail!
  • Then some good quality soil or growing compost from a garden centre.

 
Your own garden – If you have one you’re a step ahead:

  • If you have a lawn out the back, strip a square of turf.
  • Use a spade to cut through the turf around the size of your plot.
  • Divide the plot with more cuts into squares.
  • Slide the spade under each turf, lifting it whole.
  • Stack the lifted turf grass to grass, away from your plot (it will turn into soil in 6 months).
  • Dig the plot over. Turn the soil, loosening with the spade until it’s fine.
  • Add compost or soil from elsewhere to lift the level.

 
You’re now ready to plant – Some guidelines:

  •  Sow, plant and grow what you eat – or try something new you fancy.
  •  Sow or plant things that will grow at this time of the year. They could be plants sold at garden centres and some shops (costly), or seeds from shops and garden centres (cheaper).

 
What grows in June / July?

  •  French beans (dwarf) are easy; get green, blue & yellow ones. *
  • Peas – get dwarf mange tout – eat all including the pod! *
  •  Carrots – now the soil is warm the seeds will germinate better. *
  •  Swedes and turnips – good for autumn-winter cooking.
  •  Squashes – good for lanterns and eating. Keep stored in winter.
  •  Courgette and marrow – decorative when growing – good to eat!
  •  Radish, rocket and ‘cut and come again’ salad. *

* Sow at intervals (week by week) so that you have fresh veg for the table.

 

Problems? Contact us for advice:

  • David Browning: Tel. 01484 512551. Email: browning707@btinternet.com
  • John Covell: Tel. 01484 324111. Email: john_covell@hotmail.com
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