Welcome to my blog

I was born in Guernsey (but now live in Brittany) and our main industry was growing tomatoes although that industry has now virtually disappeared. Growing tomatoes to a Guernseyman is like wine to a Frenchman, it's in our blood! I do not profess to be an expert, but I have picked up a few tips and techniques which work for me.
PLEASE NOTE due to ill health I have not kept up with this blog, however there is still a lot of information to look at from over the past few years. I will add the odd new post but some videos are missing from old post, I will re-create these one day.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Creating a cheap raised bed in the Poly-Tunnel

A few weeks ago I decided to create a cheap raised bed in the poly-tunnel, the benefits being that you need to water less often than for peat bags or pots, ideal if you are going away for a few days in the middle of summer. The other benefit is that you can give the growing medium new life every year with new compost, which you can not do so easily in the soil, plus you can totally change it every 3 or 4 years if it get infected with with diseases, or to totally regenerate the growing medium.

I used the same breathable membrane as for lining the floor. Then knocked in wooden posts on either side for support. I ran a wire across the top of the post to lay the membrane over, having it wide enough to fold over and lay on the base.

 I then secured the membrane to the wire using a staple  gun and bits of thin plastic folder over, I did this before filling the beds. So the water would not drain fully or to quickly I added a plastic strip down the bed, making sure it went a few inches up the sides, but added some small slits for drainage. 
A base of small stones were added, then some well rotted compost and leaf compost and horse manure, as we have lots!. I then added cheap bag fulls of supermarket compost, but to this mixed in some slow release fertiliser. The total cost was about 20€ max.


I planted a few chili plants to start with, which are doing very well. I will feed once a week at least with a high nitrogen fertiliser, as this washes out of the soil easier than other chemicals. Later I will use a standard  tomato feed. I have used growing bags for the rest of the poly-tunnel, but will eventually have raised beds for all my plants.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

First feed for tomatoes

Just re-posting this as a reminder.

I had planted my first tomatoes in the greenhouse a few weeks ago and noticed  that the lower leaves were going off colour, so a few days ago I gave them their first feed and already I have seen a difference.

You can see the yellowing of the lower leaf and the patching on the other leaves on the first picture. The second picture shows a far healthier plant under a week later, far bushier and greener. Obviously, the plant did need time to settle in after being planted, but the feed did make a difference as well.
It has been very warm during the past week in the greenhouse, so I lightly spray the toms with water a few times a day to keep them cooler while they are making a better root system. As you can see there is no sign of scorch, which a lot of people worry about. However, I would rather risk a little scorch to keep my plants under less strain.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

First you need a greenhouse

Here is a great link to give you some ideas to build your own     DIY POLYTUNNEL or copy mine.
Or if you just fancy ordering one in the UK First Tunnels have a great range.

There are hundreds of different garden greenhouses and polytunnels on the market, and which ever one you choose it will never be big enough, so make sure you build or buy the biggest one that you can afford, in the space available from the start. 
Mine is roughly 5m x 5m.  2.3m high in the middle, and 1.7m high on the sides. These dimensions were slightly governed by the wood that I could purchase from a large DIY store.The wood that the roof sits on were poles puchased cut in half, so there are no sharp edges.I secured the roof support poles to the centre uprights with noggins, so there again would be a smooth run over the ridge for the plastic. For the sides you can use 50 x 50cm treated wooden lengths.

The reason I chose to build my own was that it is far stronger than most polytunnels, and to have one the same size would have cost nearly double. Mine cost me approximatly £500 in total.
The other reason to have a wooden greenhouse, is that it is far eaiser to run wires down it for crop supports.  

The special plastic I used should last three to five years and is availible on line, just make sure you order enough to cover the whole structure side to side in one length. The ends you can fill in after.

As you can see the structure is fairly stong. I added so extra support trusses inside, to the roofing struts. I will have to change the plastic in a few years, so there should be no problem getting on the roof to do this.

It has now been up for a year, and we have had a bad winter with three lots of heavy snow, and very strong winds, so I feel it is a pretty strong structure.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

September 2016

We have had a fantastic hot weather spell here in Brittany, but it got to 40 degrees and over in the polytunnel on many an afternoon. My plants have suffered a little but are still cropping well and no sign of blight or other pest and diseases. it just goes to show how much heat tomato plants can take.

I have had a good de-leafing session today as the weather is changing, so I want to give my plants as much air circulation as posible to help prevent blight.  It is very important to keep your polytunnel well ventilated at this time of the year with early morning dew about.

My irrigation system has been great, I just put the watering on a time-clock a few times a day and only water with a can when I am feeding the plants.  

If the weather cools down and I keep feeding my plants I can keep training them over the wires for another month, then I will nip out the heads of the plants to encourage the last fruits to swell and ripen. 

The peppers and chilies are loving the heat and have been cropping amazingly

Mrs Tomato King will be very busy making her fantastic sweet Chili sauce

It has also been a great year for melons, they really like the heat

Holly had to get in on the act of course and help harvest the peppers!


Saturday, 27 August 2016

2016 Growing Season

After a 12 months break from the polytunnel I feel well enough to rejuvenate it. I  have decided to make it a little easier to manage, so. I have laid a membrane on the floor, to surpress weeds and added a trickle irrigation system, which cost me just 10€ in a shop clearance sale.
This takes me back to my commercial days in the tomato growing industy when we changed from growing in the soil to peat bags and covered the soil with white plastic.. I am growing most of my plants still in the soil, as it has rested a year and I have dug in plenty of compost. I could not find growbags for sale in France, so as the large bags of comost were just over 2€ I am trying some cucmbers in the uptured compost bags.

Here are a few photos, taken recently of my crop.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Mr Tomato King has been featured in the Top 40 Edible Gardening Blogs,

I had an email today telling me that  Mr Tomato King has been featured in the Top 40 Edible Gardening Blogs, 

This is a list of blogs which could well be of interest to many of you, but God only knows how they found Mr Tomato King, you will find me on page two of the blog lists. .

Mr Tomato King is in semi retirement!

 Mr Tomato King is in semi-retirement! 

Due to personal health reasons and other commitments  I will not be making many new post on this blog. However, there is a lot of information on here that has been posted over the years, so I do hope you find that useful.

I have given the poly tunnel a break this year as I have been trying to finish off some other projects, while I still have the energy! I was planing to give the soil a break anyway and grow in peat troughs, which I could well do all being well next season.
Many thanks for viewing my blog over the years and for joining in with your comments. 

Another new career!

This month I have started working as an Agent Commercial, or a self employed estate agent in Brittany under the the umbrella of Leggett Immobilier, one of the top estate agencies in France. My partner has worked for them for a number of years, so I have learnt the ropes from the sidelines and I hope my many years in sales in the past will also help me sell a few French properties.

I have a Facebook and Twitter pages,  for  my  properties and in the future will have my own page on the Leggett site once I have enough properties in my portfolio. I am based near Loudeac in Brittany and I am looking to add properties for sale within a 50 min drive form there, so please email me if you have a property for sale.

If you are looking to buy a property anywhere in France and would like me to add you to the Leggett data base then also please email me.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

How to prune tomatoes video

Although ths was an old post I am sure many people with find this video very useful as it explains the basics of pruning out your tomato shoots.

As my video skills are nothing to write home about, I think that this video from Fine Gardening featuring Lee Reich, make an excellent job of explaining how to prune your indeterminate tomato plants.
The only difference is that I grow mine in the poly-tunnel, supported on crop wires, as opposed to on canes outside. However, the rules are still the same. I think Lee has left some shoots get quite long just to give a better view of the shoots, but it is best to nip them out as early as possible.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Early De-Shooting of Tomato Plants

Just bumped up this post from last year, to remind you about removing shoots on your tomato plants.

Now that my tomato plants are well established  planted out in the soil and are having regular weekly feeds, they are putting on a nice growth spurt and need de-shooting. The only tomato plants that do not need de-shooting are mainly the bush varieties, so they can be left to their own devices. I tend to grow cordon style of tomatoes indoors to get the maximum crop from the space, they also crop all season where as bush varieties mainly crop over a short period.
More info about tying up plants, with a short video 

Side shoots are easy to spot, as they normally grow out between a leaf and the stem. However, as shown in this photo, this side shoot is growing straight out of the stem. It is easy to identify as it is thinner than the main stem, so just pinch it out with your finger tips or a small sharp knife as close to the stem as possible.
More info about removing shoots

Twin Headed Plants - You will find that some tomato plants will split into a double head, in this case just cut out the weakest one, or if in doubt leave it  a week or so to see which one is the stronger head.

No Head On Tomato Plant - You will also occasionally find that a plant suddenly has no head, so you are left with just a truss. In this case you will need to let a lower side shoot take over as the main stem for the plant. We call this Growing Blind and I do find it happens more on  beefsteak tomato plants. Here is an example below, which luckily shows a nice shoot which I can use as the main plant.

I have also tied up most of my tomato plants this week, box cord is best as it rots in the compost heap and is slightly wider than polypropylene string, so will not cut into the plant with a heavy load later in the season. Some people use poles to support their plants, but with such a heavy crop on them they will slide down the poles.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Welcome to the 2015 tomato growing season

Like most people I have been hibernating over the winter and apart from mucking out the horse stables, I have hardly set foot in the garden. The good thing about this cold weather is that it will kill a lot of bug, even in the poly tunnel, which I also plan to sterilised the structure later in the month. I have some Jeyes fluid which I will spray into all the nooks and crannies, then rise off a few days later. 

I also plant to grow only in grow bags in the poly tunnel and give the soil a rest, as it has had five seasons and diseases do build up in the soil unless it can be thoroughly sterilised.I have managed to buy some cheap drip irrigation, which is necessary when growing in grow bags, you have to water them very gently, a little and often or the nutrients will leach out. The peat must also never be left to dry out, or this will cause black spot or blossom end rot and severe dame to the root system. Over wetting for too long will also cause damage to the root system with lack of air to them. 

For those of you who will be sowing early seeds and raising your tomato plants in the house or warm conservatory, just remember that they obviously must avoid any exposure to frost but also have enough light, light is the biggest limiting factor for healthy tomato plants. It is no use raise plants too early with lack of light or they will get very leggy and will really not be worth growing on, as later sown more  balanced plants with soon over take them.

These plants look quite healthy but they are far to leggy because they were not spaced out early enough, or previous had very low light levels.

You can even make your own light boxes with fluorescent tubes, here is a link to how this one was made. You also add a heating element and make the light box as large as you want, as it is no use putting then in the greenhouse until you are safely free from frost, so you might have your plants indoors for quite a while. The best place would be a heated conservatory, or a greenhouse with a frost protection like a paraffin heater.

This could be going a bit far, but you can never give your plants enough love in the winter!