Growing tomatoes in the cold climate of Scotland. Yup it is possible.

I think it’s fair to say that tomatoes have been one of my favourite things to grow over the past couple of years but I hear all the time that you can’t grow tomatoes in the Scottish climate.  Yet I grow lots, blue tomatoes, purple tomatoes, red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, even stripy tomatoes.

So what’s the trick?

Well simply, it’s about choosing the right variety for the space you have to grow them. Let me explain. You get two types of tomato plants determinate (bush type) or indeterminate (also called cordon). Determinate tomato plants grow as a bush, they are usually compact and all the fruits ripen at pretty much the same time. They don’t need a lot of staking or pruning. Indeterminate tomato plants grow to be tall, very tall, sometimes over 6 feet and continue to grow and produce fruit until they are killed off usually by cold weather. They also need a lot more care and maintenance, lots of pruning.

Within these plant types there are lots of different varieties which in turn will all have different positives and negatives for you as a grower. For example, the bigger beefsteak type tomatoes take a lot of sunlight to ripen, so if your garden doesn’t get a lot of direct sun or if your summer season is short, then these can be difficult to grow. The little cherry varieties, however, can be easier as they need a little less sunlight to ripen.

I am lucky because I have a greenhouse, which means I can have the tomato plants growing for an extended season, meaning when the weather changes in Scotland and we start to get cold and even frost (which is much earlier here than other parts of the UK, I can keep my plants safe in the greenhouse, unaffected. If I was growing my plants outdoors, I’d have to take this into consideration and chose a variety which would ripen quickly to get the best of the shorter season.

So here are some of my very quick tips for growing tomatoes.

Planting

You can plant your tomatoes directly into the soil or into pots. I prefer pots as this gives me the option to move things around in the greenhouse. If you use pots, make sure they are a decent size, your tomato plants get quite big. I usually go for around a ten-inch pot with good quality compost. You can also use grow bags, but try to keep it to one or two plants per grow bag.

Watering

This is one of the most important parts of growing tomatoes and I can’t stress enough how important it is to water your plants regularly and evenly.  The reason I say this is because if you neglect the plant, even just a little and then suddenly try to catch up on the watering, the skins can split, meaning you are likely to get mould growing in the fruit. Try to keep a strict watering regimen.

Feeding

Feeding your plants is essential, once they start to flower you need to feed them weekly with a good, balanced fertiliser. After all the plants are making lots of fruit for you so they need lots of nutrition.

Support

Your plants will need support, especially when they are full of heavy fruit. I use canes and wires to support mine. You can also buy cages especially for growing tomato plants but basically, you just need to find a way to keep them upright and support heavy branches.

Pruning

Determinate varieties (bush) should have their side shoots removed from below the first truss of fruit to allow air and light to penetrate and prevent disease. Try not to remove too many shoots after this as it will reduce your crop so keep them “bushy”.

Indeterminate varieties (cordon) should be encouraged to keep only one or two main stems. Remove any “suckers” by pinching out the growing tips from the leaf joints. These plants will be tall.

Remove “suckers” from your tomato plants

With both types, you may have to regularly remove excess leaves to allow sunlight and air to reach the fruit and help it to ripen.

Good luck with your tomato growing, I hope you guys will get as much fun and pleasure from growing tomatoes as I do, and remember, there are lots of types to grow, so be brave and try at least one that’s not a standard red salad tomato?

Once you have a gut of tomatoes and don’t know what do do with, take a look at some of our tomato recipes to help.

Tomato chutney

Tomato and red pepper soup

Summer pasta

Some of our other posts on growing tomatoes




Beetroot soup – what to do with a glut of beetroot

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We mentioned earlier in the blog that we were having to come up with ideas for using up courgettes. Well the problem now is beetroot. We have tons of the stuff.

So Kate and I have challenged ourselves to come up with 5 things to do with beetroot. Today it’s beetroot soup.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium (apple-sized) beetroot – grated
  • 500g ripe tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic – chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion – peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500ml of stock, we used chicken
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 125g feta cheese

What to do

  1. Firstly put the halved tomatoes in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the garlic and drizzle over half the olive oil.
  2. Roast them for 25-30 minutes in a fairly hot oven (190C or 170C fan) until soft and squishy. Then rub them through a sieve to remove the skin and pips.
  3. Then heat the remaining oil in a pan and sweat the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the beetroot and the stock and bring to the boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  4. Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the beetroot is tender.
  5. Stir in the tomato puree you’ve just made and then scoop out two ladle fulls and put aside.
  6. Using a stick blender, blitz until smooth and then add the two ladle fulls back to the pot.
  7. To serve, crumble over a little feta into each bowl and serve with crusty bread.Easy peezy.

 




Brassicas everywhere

It’s amazing what I little bit of sun does and not just to me.

brassicas everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

We planted a bed with broccoli and Brussels sprouts recently, all nice and spaced out. A bit of sunshine later and they have turned into day of the triffids.

We have a bed full, a large pot full and two troughs full.

The exciting bit is that we have our first baby broccoli….

our first broccoli

 

It’s all very exciting. The broccoli and sprouts were two of our new veggies for this year so we didn’t know what to expect. Success I think is the answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another new arrival in the garden this year are our yellow courgettes. Yup yellow. We have three babies on the plant already.

baby courgettes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So on the colour theme, we have:

  • yellow courgettes
  • Purple carrots
  • Orange carrots
  • Yellow carrots
  • Stripy beetroot
  • Red beetroot
  • Yellow beetroot
  • Red stripy tomatoes
  • Green stripy tomatoes
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Burgundy tomatoes
  • Purple Tatties and
  • White Tatties
  • Rainbow chard

:0)

 




Let the New Year begin

seeds on tableTime to get organised and start planting veggies – woot!

The weather isn’t great just now, but I’m trying to at least keep on top of the bits and pieces that I can do.

I’ve got tomato plants sprouting in the greenhouse, my garlic is all sprouting nicely so I’ve put some out in the beds and have some more in the greenhouse in case the poor weather ruins my crop and I’ve got some of the potatoes planted up and in the greenhouse until the weather turns for the better and they can go out.

I’ve also got broccoli and sprout seedlings in the greenhouse and I’ll put them out once they are a bit hardier. Thank god for the greenhouse.

I’m absolutely bursting to get the beetroot and carrots planted as that’s the real fun time when you get to eat fresh beetroot and carrots, but until things heat up a little there’s no point in planting out.

I need to start thinking about the herb containers soon too, not everything has survived the winter, so going to have to replant some thyme, tarragon, parsley and marjoram. We’re still racking our brains because we think we had another herb out there last year and can’t remember now what it could be.

Looking at the garden, it does look a little bare, not flower-wise as the flower beds are blooming away lovely and its adding loads of reds and yellows and purples, but I really can’t wait to get the green shoots coming up in the veg beds and even the huge potato plants again. There was just something about all that life out there in the garden.

greenfinchesSpeaking of life in the garden, the little greenfinch pair is back. I got so excited by them last year as I’d never seen greenfinches before, and I’m so glad they are back, especially now that Kate has put up a proper little bird table for them. Of course we still have the masses of starlings and sparrows that chase the greenfinches, robins and blue tits away, but every so often they’ll sneak back in. There’s nothing like the feeling of watching all the birds in the garden.

So as usual, all I can say is watch this space, hopefully the planting out will begin in the next two or three weeks and then we can watch excitedly for the new plants to sprout and then watch them grow.

 




Ar Bruidair Autumn update

Ladies & Gents, we have received our first ever complaint about the blog. Well when I say complaint it was more of a disappointed observation about how little activity there has been on here recently.

But let it not be said that we don’t listen… so here is the Ar Bruidair Autumn update.

The seasons are changing, we’ve gone from the – ha ha ha I was going to say summer, the couple of weeks of nice weather, to a bit of a nip in the air and the sobering fact that I’ve had to put the heating on while typing this update. Autumn and cold weather, wind and rain are always a bit sad so lets cheer ourselves up with the thought that Christmas in our new house is just around the corner and I have the joy of picking kittens out of the Christmas tree to look forward to!

So what has been happening since our last posts, well mostly eating.

One of the great pleasures to be had has been reaping the rewards of all of our hard work and eating lots of lovely veggies and salad as well obviously as looking at all the lovely flowers. So here are some little smiles we’d like to share.

1. Tomatoes.

wpid-IMAG1009-150x150wpid-IMAG1028-1We were giving them away we had so many.

We have three cherry tomato plants, two of which were giving us enough tomatoes on a daily basis for two lunches and two dinners.  We ate an awful lot of  a pasta dish called summer garden pasta which is basically spaghetti with lots of cherry tomatoes and lots and lots of garlic and some basil.

We also have two plum tomato plants which gave us enough for two big pots of pasta and meatball sauce and some Spanish chicken. Yum!

 

2. Pumpkins & Squash

wpid-IMAG0984-1-1-150x150The pumpkins and squashes were a bit of an experiment which we didn’t expect to work. And excitedly they did.

We didn’t get a lot, one or two from each plant, but given that we were told not to expect anything, I am really happy.

We did our lovely Baked Leeks and Pumpkin/Squash which you can get the recipe for on this blog.

It was so satisfying getting my little gardening knife out and cutting pumpkins from the plant. The only disappointment is that we didn’t get more. I’m about to brew some pumpkin beer and had to get pumpkin from a friend for it, I would have loved to make this using our own pumpkins.

3. Radishes

The radishes were the biggest event of the year I think.wpid-IMAG0911-1-150x150

Kate had never eaten radishes and was very dubious about it. They are now firmly one of her favourite veggies from the garden and we’ve just planted out third batch.

I just can’t keep up with the demand, she eats them in salads, in sandwiches, in curries in stir fries.

 

4. Carrots and Beetroot

wpid-IMAG0965-150x150The carrots and beetroot were two of my favourites this year. I love beetroot and the biggest issue for me was leaving them long enough to get bigger, I just wanted to be picking and eating them RIGHT NOW! I liked them roasted and we even blogged a recipe.wpid-IMAG0885

We have discovered though, that later on in the year the carrots were ravaged by what I think might have been carrot fly and we ended up throwing the last 15 or so in the bin.

To make up for this, I have another couple of batched going in the greenhouse just now (both carrot fly resistant).

What we did do which went down an absolute storm with friends and family, was we had a barbeque as a birthday celebration at the end of July and as part of the feast, we made a salad with all our own produce and a potato salad with out own potatoes.

Wow, what a fabulous night. The food was great and so was the beer, well obviously as it was our home brewed beer.

So that leads us onto potatoes I suppose.

5. Potatoes

Would you believe we only ate the last of them last night?

Like the tomatoes, the beetroots and the carrots, our own potatoes tasted so amazing, better than anything we’ve bought from the shops. So good in fact that I’ve planted some more and we will be pulling them up on Christmas morning for our Christmas dinner.

Now I have obviously missed out some of the fabulous foods, like the herbs and the salad and the spring onions, but I can’t finish up on veggies without mentioning our little blog celebrity, Colin.

IMAG0819The absolute star of our garden this year has to be the courgettes which we ate with almost every meal for months and then started leaving courgettes on other people’s desks at work to try to use them up.

We only had two plants but the amount of courgettes we got from them was amazing.

So going forward, our plans and ideas… well just now we’re starting to think about what we want to be growing for next year as well as learning about what the different season mean for the garden.

We also have some ideas for making things even more pretty, so watch this space.

 

 




The tattie harvest

wpid-IMAG0931-1An other exciting day here at Ar Bruidair as we turn out the tattie bags and enjoy our harvest. (For our friends in other parts like The Soulsby Farm. Tattie is what we call potato in Scotland. It comes from the gaelic buntata.)

We hadn’t originally intended to plant tatties as we don’t use them all that much, but our friend Luke gave us some of his chittings so we thought why not give it a go.

We planted up the Arran Victories which are a native Scottish variety and some Maris Pipers and wondered what would happen.

I should probably tell you about the fun of planting them… As I said, we hadn’t intended to plant any tatties so we hadn’t done any research. I stood in the garden for a good ten mins trying to work out which way up they went. Thank the Great Geek for smart phones, Google and a Wi-Fi signal that reaches my greenhouse.

Anyway once that was worked out, we planted them in the Tatties bags and waited.

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You will have seen the growth of the plants through other blog posts and seen just how big the tattie plants got so the next photo of trying to turn them out should raise a small smile.

 

I decided that the best thing was to cut off the foliage and then turn the bags upside down. (Mostly cause these wasn’t a hope in hell that I’d be able to pick them up).

So what kind of harvest did we get?

Not a bad one… Two piles of tatties from two plants.

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Remember that pumpkin?

IMAG0919Well here is a little update for you on the pumpkins… it’s getting bigger everyday and the plants have completely taken over both the greenhouse and our spare time. We have also got one little squash on the plant we have indoors and the squash plant in the greenhouse is starting to flower.

Yay! Pumpkin pie with our own pumpkins – I can’t wait.




The hard work is really paying off

A little walk around the garden this morning really showed how all the hard work we have put in has started to pay off.

It helps of course that it’s a sunny day and of course things always look great in the sunshine.

When we first planted our seeds back in March, I really and truly didn’t believe we would actually get any veggies out of it. I’d only ever tried tomatoes before and I got lots of flowers and only a handful of tomatoes which never ripened, so why should this be any different?

Well I can’t explain why but it just is. Looking around the garden today I am genuinely amazed.

We have potato plants which are almost as tall as I am. Which ok is not very tall but still. We have already got to the point of too many courgettes to eat and have started giving them away. We have radishes taking over the third bed, all different colours. There are carrots and beetroot which will be ready in a few weeks and most impressively… there are about nine pumpkins.

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I am excited about the pumpkins as I have been told either I wouldn’t be able to grow any or I would only get a couple.

They are obviously small yet, but how pretty. We have just the recipe for these once they are ready.

 

IMAG0824-150x150The three raised beds we built are looking lush and green and I can wait till the carrots and beetroot are ready to eat. They are small just now, but the couple I taste tested were gorgeous.

 

 

The big thing today though was the potatoes. I never knew how pretty the flowers on potato plants were. They are little bursts of purple and really are a treat.

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We’ll definitely update the blog once the beetroot and carrots are bigger but tonight I’m going to put the radishes to use.

Wish me luck.




Monster courgettes

IMAG0800We are struggling to keep up. Even after taking a couple of courgettes for mum and dad when we went to visit, we still had seven on the plant and look at the size of them!

It’s hard to use more than one per meal.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain. When we planted the seeds at the beginning of the year, we really weren’t very hopeful… Now look at us.




Teaser…..

The pumpkins have started to flower, and so have the chillies… watch this space.

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