Friday, April 15, 2011

The great tomato giveaway

It was when I fell over the tomatoes for the 15th time that I got really annoyed. They were in a seed tray on the floor of the greenhouse - 6 plants each in a 5 inch pot - I should have realised they would impair my movements given that my greenhouse is about the size of your average corner bath (you know, one of those 80s avocado numbers - surely my parents weren't the only ones committing offences against interior design thirty years ago?). So I picked up the tray to move it somewhere more suitable. And that's when the scales fell from my eyes and I saw for the first time the reality of the situation I found myself in.
I think most of us sow more seeds than we need - to allow for germination failure - then the general advice is to select the strongest ones and thin out the weaklings and throw them away. I would estimate that I had an average germination rate of 80% across the 4 tomato varieties I sowed. And that's where problem started. I just can't throw plants away! First I'm waiting to see if the smaller ones are suddenly going to overtake those that looked strongest in the first place. So I prick them all out - just to give them all an equal chance. Weeks later, they're all growing on strongly and I keep potting them on - in newly bought compost and watering them all with precious rainwater from my water butts. I spend weeks in March carrying them all out to the greenhouse each morning and carrying them back indoors each night to tuck them up. Through April I see them flourishing in the sun and the bigger they get the more I can't bring myself to throw them on the compost heap.
So this emotional attachment has finally culminated in a veritable jungle of plants in a very compact greenhouse. And this is not just a case of a 'few' too many plants, oh no, this is proper obsessive. Each summer I have space in my greenhouse for a total of 5 tomato plants, 6 if I'm not growing melons as well (that's another post altogether). Guess how many tomato plants I have - that's right, 42. And it's not just tomatoes, I'm the same with peppers and chillies. Once the tomato plants are placed in grow bags on my greenhouse floor, I have space on the staging for 8-10 pots, depending on the pot size. So why on earth wouldn't I raise 59, yes, you read that right, 59 chilli plants. And still yesterday, I found myself potting some of them on again as they'd outgrown their pots.
This just can't carry on, it is, as they say untenable, unsustainable and just plain impossible. I'm going to ruthlessly pick out the strongest ones to keep and the rest are going on freecycle. And once they're gone, I'll see what else I can giveaway.

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