Sian Napier

29 Nov 2023 09:39

The Last Tomato

It has been a wonderful and abundant summer in the greenhouse this season. Being able to pick fresh tomatoes daily has been a simple joy.

I know that we gardeners have a habit of banging on that nothing tastes as good as home-grown crops, but often it is true. When we visit our greenhouses, we choose tomatoes and cucumbers when they are at their best and peak ripeness, they are full of natural sugars and wonderful flavour.

The tomatoes from the shops have often been picked before they are ripe so that they can be transported from abroad or where they have been farmed, which is often many miles away. Environmentally there are no air miles between me and my tomatoes, just a dozen or so footsteps.

Commercial growers may use ethanol gas to ripen the fruit as opposed to the natural sunlight available in the greenhouse. 

I add a weekly feed to my watering can, to add nutrients to aid my vines growth and vigour, but I have not used any pesticides or herbicides, therefore avoiding consuming any potentially harmful chemicals.

This Year’s Growing Season is Over.

So, I’m quite sad that this year’s growing season is over. Despite my best effort to maintain order, my vines are leggy and sprawling and even though they keep growing new sets of flowers I know that the reducing temperature and daylight hours will mean that there is no chance that they will ripen. It is time to pick the last fruit and clear the tomato plants away.

My Compost

After stripping the finished tomato plants from their supports, I have a huge pile of spent leaves and stems on the greenhouse floor. These will all go straight into my compost bins to hopefully make lovely compost for me to use next year. Back in February I used last year’s compost to fill my raised beds and the plants were incredibly productive this year. I am a massive fan of composting, not only because it’s an excellent way of getting rid of organic waste including vegetable peelings, lawn clippings and the old straw from the hen house but it produces highly fertile, fine growing medium.


My greenhouse

The greenhouse seems empty. I still have some chilli plants that are producing the most boring chillis, no heat at all compared to last years, which blew your head off. I also have some aubergines that just need to ripen a bit more. There is one last tomato that’s hanging alone on a trimmed vine, and I’m hoping that the early autumn sun will ripen it for me, so I can enjoy it before I must buy all my tomatoes from the shops until next year.

Even though the growing season is over I still enjoy spending time in the greenhouse. It is a lovely relaxing place to sit, especially nice when being warmed by the autumn sun, and even when the wind is howling outside and the rain is belting down, the inside of the greenhouse remains calm.

We also enjoyed some lovely suppers out here surrounded by tomatoes and cucumbers. I would love to make more use of the greenhouse over the winter months and am wondering if I can turn it into a mini tropical haven by adding some extra house plants.

The Victorians used to grow huge displays of tropical plants in their glass houses all year round and I’m wondering if I can do the same. I know I will have to research methods of maintaining the temperature of the greenhouse and I will need to invest in some cushions for my metal chairs. (My backside is freezing). I think it’s worth a go, and as luck would have it, one of my favourite supermarkets is selling amazing house plants at very reasonable prices. Every time I come in to do my shopping, I can add one or two to my collection.

My Raised Beds

Now the raised beds are empty I will use them to sow overwintering salad leaves, these seem to grow quickly and last year they provided me with fresh salads until it was time to plant out my tomatoes in spring.

Om Sian Napier

Sian Napier is a freelance garden designer and gardener with over 15 years professional horticultural experience to build beautiful garden spaces for her clients using plants to create movement, texture and all year season colour and interest.

Follow her journey of living with a Gabriel Ash Greenhouse and learn about different aspects of growing through the seasons.

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