Allotments, Food, Gardening, Grow your own, Growing plants, Health, Home Farmer, Homestead, Permaculture, plants, self sufficiency, The Good Life, vegetarian

Growing tomatoes

I am not an expert on growing tomatoes, I would like to make that VERY clear but I have been growing them for about 17 years off and on and I have been asked by a few people to write a blog about the basics.

If you have never grown anything I would definitely recommend starting with tomatoes – they are VERY hard to kill (Believe me I have unintentionally tested this out!) and almost always bare fruit!

If you have grown other things, then you may want to consider what you want the tomatoes for, basically salad or sauces? There are hundreds if not thousands of varieties (in fact that is the name of one of my favourite varieties!) And each one has it’s own attributes. But basically all you need to start is a pot or tray if you have one, compost and a sunny space.

Tomato seedlings when they first sprout.

If you have non of these, you can buy them all from the pound shop, B+M bargains, wilkos or any gardening centre. Just sprinkle the seeds on the compost in the pot and gently press down, cover with a sprinkling of compost, water and wait for the magic to happen…

Once the seedlings are quite strong (like the ones above) you can use a spoon to lift them one by one and place each in a smaller pot filled with compost. Unfortunately you have to say goodbye to the smaller feeble ones. This is called ‘pricking out’ and I hate throwing them away but this is survival of the fittest!

These then need to be kept in a sunny warm place and watered regularly. This is a fab phase, you will treat these little seedlings better than your children and they will cause you a lot less aggravation (hopefully).

Once they get to the height of the ones above you have to think about their forever home…

You CAN grow tomatoes outside in a sheltered warm spot. To do this you have to ‘harden them off’ which basically means toughen them up a bit. You do this by putting them outside (ideally in a plastic tub but not absolutely necessary) for an hour one day, a couple of hours the next and so on for about 5 days until you can leave them outdoors all the time.

It is less fussy to grow them inside but you do need quite a lot of space, I have grown them on the windowsill but they basically took over the whole space – day of the triffids style! So a greenhouse (no matter how small) is much better. You can pick plastic ones up quite cheaply at Wilkos or online.

The best thing to grow them are grow bags –

You make a small hole to place the plug (plant) in and water directly into the hole. You should be able to fit three in one average size grow bag. You can grow them in large pots too but make sure you have fresh compost or manure in them.

Once you get the first yellow flowers you need to start feeding them. Don’t worry this isn’t little shop of horrors – they are not carnivorous! You can buy tomato feed from anywhere that sells gardening stuff, my favourite is tomorite but any will do. It’s a liquid food that you dilute. Pour a cap full or two into your watering can every few days.

Most tomato plants are what we call Indeterminate or vine and these will need support as they can grow quite large. Bamboo canes are perfect.

Determinate or Bush tomatoes are smaller, can be grown in a pot or container and don’t generally need support but they don’t produce as much fruit.

The biggest pain in the arse with vines is that you have to ‘prick them out’ which means getting rid of some of the leaves to encourage more fruit to grow… you do this by when the first tiny fruits begin to appear, by stripping away some of the leaves underneath to allow light and air to reach them better. When there are about four or five groups of flowers, pinch out the plant’s growing tip. I tend to go a bit mad…


It looks harsh but the buggers grow back so quickly!

One of my favourite jobs is ‘tickling’ the plants. You do this to encourage pollination! When the flowers start appearing you just gently tickle them, then go onto the next and so on. I also find talking to them helps but they don’t like me singing, then again no one does!

That’s it really. Leave the tomatoes on until they redden, this can be as late as the end of September or as early as May. If it does get late you can harvest them when they are green and leave them to ripen on your windowsill.

I know this may seem like a lot of work but it really isn’t and it is so enjoyable and thereputic! Plus you get beautiful sweet tomatoes!

If you are a bit worried, or it’s getting late in the season you can buy tomato plants (or plugs) from garden centres. Just start with 2 or 3 and see how you get on.

Honestly if you are reading this you should give it a try, I refuse to believe that anything tastes better than eating something you have grown yourself!

Please let me know how you get on!

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New year, new blogs!

Hello again! Please excuse my silence on wordpress. It has been a tough year for many reasons (which I will be writing about at a later date) but for today I want to focus on 2019!

My new year’s resolution this year is to write more blogs. It’s just that. That simple! Looking back on the last few years and particularly the fight to save farm terrace allotments, the main thing that I miss (apart from the actual allotment site obviously) and the campaigning rushes, is the writing and the interaction with people. I have since written bits but life took over and I had to stop. Now it’s time to start again. However it is hard to start because I don’t know where to start! I obviously want people to like my posts but I dont want to write them just so people will like them and follow me. On the other hand I dont just want them to just be the ramblimgs of a mad woman! I want them to be funny, interesting and informative and most importantly truthfull outlooks on my life. But apparently I have to narrow down my ‘niche’ ! From what I can understand I basically have to concentrate on just one area of my life! Ouch! I have so many passions; allotment, interiors, pets, vegetarian food, wine, camping, walking and Italy just to name a few! So how do I do it? Seriously answers on a postcard please! Especailly from fellow bloggers, insta people and those friends who do follow me. What would you like to see more of in 2019? This is a big year for me as 19 is my favourite number (I was born on the 19th) so I want it to be a good one. After spending all summer doing up the kitchen and autumn doing up the other downstairs rooms, the garden got a beating and this year my design concentrations will be on that! And sorting out this wordpress layout which is now as dated as my garden! Anyway these are my very basic 2019 goals. Apart from losing 5 stone, eating healthier and creating more me time blah blah blah!

I hope whatever yours are you are succesful and I look forward to following you on your journey! Happy 2019!

Allotments, Blog, Campaign, campaigning, Community, council, Environment, Food, Gardening, Grow your own, Health, Judicial Review, Mayor, Permaculture, self sufficiency, The Good Life, Uncategorized

Farm Terrace Allotments now (and then)

(‘Now’ photos credit Marcus Dove)

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill and her Lib Dem council have finally bulldozed Farm Terrace allotments in Watford. All that remains are a couple of stubborn sheds (left to give the last few animals some refuge) and piles of rubble.
Of course we knew that this would happen and we know that in their embarrassment to wipe out any connection to an allotment site the area will change beyond recognition. That is why it is so important for us to record it now.


Farm Terrace allotments date back to 1896. They were at least three times the size they were at the end and reached out to behind the hospital and towards what is now Laurence Haines school. They can clearly be seen here behind Vicarage road stadium.

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Many people ask me what exactly Watford Borough council will do with the land and the truth is that we honestly don’t know. When the judge at the Royal courts of justice finally ruled in favour of them destroying the allotments she did so unconditionally.
Originally Watford borough council said it would all be used for a new hospital and then they said it would be for part hospital ‘buildings’ and partly for housing on the development known as the Health Campus. the irony was not lost on us and within a few years they could no longer claim any health benefit and the name has now been changed to the Riverwell development. Here is the latest photo that I could find of that and you can see the allotments listed as part of the Northern development zone, you can just about still make it out.

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In 2009 when we first got a plot on Farm terrace There were roughly 120 plots and around 90% occupancy. Typical of that of any allotment. We had neighbours all around and there was a waiting list for the vacant plots.


The first thing Watford Council did was to close the waiting list, they then asked for voluntary relocations. Some people who had already fought development took this. There then, as is well documented a huge public legal battle. We were fighting not just for our own site but for the protection off ALL allotments. In spite of our best efforts and after a bitter 6 year battle we lost. During this time, and make no mistake, in order to make the allotments look derelict, unused and unloved the council started picking off the remaining plot holders. We were offered, new plots, shiny new sheds and up to £1000,00 in compensation to vacate. In the end just 24 plot holders remained. I estimate that around 10 years ago there were probably about 90.


We won the first legal challenge and even after that, we continued to offer a compromise to the council. They could take most of the vacated site, but they were not interested. They wanted it all and I do believe the mayor Dorothy Thornhill wanted a win.
As per legal requirements we were offered replacement plots but there was nowhere near enough to take us all and the site offered was more than two miles away. In the end around 10 of us relocated to 4 or 5 different sites but the move was too difficult for most.


My own personal difficulty lies in the fact that for the local community of Farm Terrace (of which I am part) there are no local allotments now. Slowly over a period of time they have been cut back and cut back until now like Farm terrace there remains absolutely nothing!


We will still have our memories but soon all that will be left of Farm Terrace will be these blogs and the well documented press coverage of our case.