I had noticed that the shop bought tomato seedlings were starting to flower and had all but grown out of their pots and the cucumbers were starting to show signs of throwing out their branches, so I really had little choice but to get on with it. I already had the growbags, so after tracking down four of the smaller flexi buckets which Mud has drilled drainage holes in and which we usually use to grow beans in, 12 canes of approximately 5 foot in length and another slightly longer one, I was about ready to start.
First job was to evict the herbs that had been sheltering in the greenhouse for the last few weeks and to relocate some Sunflower, Sweetcorn, Snap Dragons and Livingstone Daisies seedlings all of which had been housed on some black plastic shelving, in the little greenhouse because the big one was full. Next an assortment of large tubs and other gardening equipment was decanted onto the gravel path and finally I had an empty space to work with.
This is the first time we’ve used the little greenhouse for the tomatoes and cucumbers but I felt that this year I’d see if they did okay in there because it would be a better use of the available space and, as with the crop rotation in the beds, it couldn’t hurt to swap over.
Those of you familiar with growbags will know that they generally come with the ‘planting’ spaces marked with a broken line on the flat top side of the bag. In my experience, there are usually 3 spaces marked. Of course me being me, I have to do things differently and I only ever put two plants in a growbag but the growbag itself isn’t flat, it has been cut into two halves, with each half upended into one of the tubs. Having used the growbags flat for my first growing season, I soon realised that there was a flaw with this approach, in so much as a large, tomato heavy mature plant is incredibly unstable and needs strong supports to keep it upright and prevent it from falling over and potentially breaking its’ stem under the sheer weight of fruit.
Then one day I watched a program presented by Carol Klein and she recommended using the upended method and one plant per half. So, much to traditionalist Muds’ consternation, the next growing season I tried this method and it worked! The height of the growbag, with the long canes, made a much steadier growing base for the plants and I have used this method ever since.
Getting the growbags to fold in half is easy enough, entailing no more than putting an arm under the flat surface of the bag and letting it bend over. Once the first bend has occurred, I pick the bag up at its’ fold and then shake it about to loosen the compost, helping it to fall either side of the bend. Finally, still holding the bag at the fold, I bounce the two ends onto the ground, to encourage the compost to loosen some more, forming more of a rounded end, with a flat base on each half. Once the bag at the bend feels empty and the compost has fallen to either side, I cut the plastic across the center and ‘voila’ I have two growbag tubs, to all intents and purposes – and I’ve had a pretty good work out 🙂
Drainage holes are then made in the bottom of each half (a screw driver or secateurs are good for this job) and then each half of the growbag is then placed into one of the flexi tubs. Three long canes are inserted into each half, fastened together at the top to form a wigwam point and then, once all the tubs have been set up, the longer cane is fastened across all the wigwam points to make the structure even more secure. In the small greenhouse a third tomato tub was placed at the side and a smaller cane was used to attach this wigwam to the others.
The last job was to plant the tomatoes and cucumbers into their new homes and where necessary, attach the plant to one of the canes in the wigwam.
Yesterday I planted only the 2 large shop bought tomato plants and two cucumbers but, following a visit to the garden center today, during which I bought three melon seedlings (1 for home and 2 for the polytunnel at school), I had to split another growbag and so I set up another tomato tub and planted the largest of my home grown seedlings into it – which isn’t very large at all when compared to its’ neighbours!
One of the melon seedlings is now in the other part of that growbag, in a tub, in the large greenhouse and I hope to train it to grow along the bottom half of the staging. The carrots which were occupying that spot in the larger greenhouse are now in the small one. It’s all change but I feel like a lot got done and I’m really excited about growing my own melons (I hope)!
May 29, 2013 at 7:37 am
Brilliant tip!i have my grow bag ready for the 2 tomato plants I’m getting. Will do this 🙂
May 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm
Okay …… who are you and what have you done with Claire? 😉
Claire, I don’t know if you’ve grown tomatoes before but ALWAYS wash your hands thoroughly after touching tomato plants, especially if you’ve been ‘nipping’ out, trimming back foliage etc. Tomato plants can leave an almost invisible stain on your hands which when it comes into contact with say, fabric, WOOL etc could leave a distinctly yellow mark, more so if your hands were slightly damp!!! One wash with soap and water is often not enough (if the yellow stains on towels used to dry my hands after handling tomato plants are anything to go by, although it does wash out) and you need to wash your hands until the water runs clear.
Just thinking of the potential affect on the gorgeous yarns you use and the beautiful things you make.
May 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm
Hahaha! No, I haven’t been kidnapped by aliens. My colleague offered to give me a tomato plant. I thought it would be nice to have a go… Of COURSE I haven’t grown tomatoes!! As if! However I will take your advice… I don’t like the sound of yellow stains. Might get D to be in charge of tomato duties! X
May 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm
That is a good idea to use the grow bags that way. I’ve used them conventionally and always felt they were a bit shallow for tomatoes so I usually grow them straight in the ground in the greenhouse. This year, my first batch of cucumbers failed and they were also straight in the bed in the greenhouse so I was thinking about grow bags. I might try this trick and if they survive I’ll post.
May 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm
I think this prolonged cold weather has put the brakes on the growth rate of quite a lot of things. My cucumbers have been reluctant to say the least but things have started to pick up now. Good luck with your next set of cucumbers and I’ll await with interest your post on how they do.