The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


The value of allotments

Posted in General care | 20 comments

The value of allotments

It’s been a good week. The BBC Gardeners’ Question Time team advised that we could safely use the soil from our blighted tomato grow bags. So John and I shifted ten of them from the pile in the driveway to the kitchen garden to spread on the bed that has a problem with heavy soil. Then we planted our broad bean seeds in the plumped up earth. Plant your BB seed in November and you will have an earlier, sturdier crop. It will also crop for longer than spring sown seeds as long as you harvest regularly. It’s also an enormous fillip to see...

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Tomato Blight returns with a vengeance

Posted in Fruit | 8 comments

Tomato Blight returns with a vengeance

Perhaps it was because I kept tomato blight in check last year, that I felt confident about coping with blight this summer. It did take some time – examining the plants morning and evening, removing the iffy leaves at he first sign of blight. We did have some sunny days too and these keep the condition at bay. I thought that I’d cracked dealing with blight without spraying. This year I was working away from home when it struck. I was regularly getting back after dark and so I did not see the signs. Rushing off early one the...

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Potato blight – Smith factor and tomatoes

Posted in Vegetables | 10 comments

Potato blight – Smith factor and tomatoes

John Coe and I were closeted in the kitchen, sipping coffee and gossiping. The conversation gradually veered towards our vegetable gardens. The weather is causing problems and neither really wants to mention our problems first. “How are your potatoes doing? Any sign of the blight?” He suddenly started to play with Inca who remembers the sandwiches that he used to bring for Elevenses. “I need you to advise. Mine are keeling over. Different from last year but they are not looking good. The condition is gradually moving up the...

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Growing your own tomatoes and coping with blight

Posted in Vegetables | 17 comments

Growing your own tomatoes and coping with blight

Each year we marvel when the first tomato seedlings appear. It’s hard to believe that they should grow into sturdy plants almost as tall as me and provide us with pounds and pounds of fruit. Out of 80 potential finalists, only forty will make it to the next round. Usually we end up with around thirty plants. These make up the cast of our grand tomato opera. A few divas and supporting roles and at least twenty less showy plants that make up the chorus. The main cast bask against the sunny side of the cottage and the rest are in the...

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Fretting about tomato blight

Posted in Vegetables | 9 comments

Fretting about tomato blight

I woke at four this morning fretting about our tomatoes. It has been the same for the last three nights. We sleep right under the eaves. When it rains, we can hear the gentle patter of rain drops on the roof and a whispery tinkling into the gutter. In the winter, snuggled up with Danny under the giant duvet, it’s a comforting sound. In the summer, with the prospect of blight, it’s a sound that instantly chills me to the bone. I am a bit of an ostrich when it comes to bad news. I have been known to avoid opening bank statements for...

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Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea)

Posted in General care | 12 comments

Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea)

When I arrived at the cottage 15 years ago as a novice gardener, I discovered Honey Fungus. It was a bit of a blow. The name Honey Fungus sounds so gentle. It is not. Even then I knew that Honey fungus can decimate the shrubs and trees in a garden. Its progress is relentless, young shrubs and trees or old ones that are weak and diseased are most susceptible. Honey fungus is the MRSA of the garden. I had bought a cottage with a field garden, with minimal planting. What was I to do? If you discover Honey Fungus in your garden there are ways to...

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Grow your own

Posted in Vegetables | 13 comments

Grow your own

John Coe helps me in the garden every other week. His main interest is the vegetable patch, although he likes to see me till the soil. He gives advice, orders and supplies some of his own good seedlings. He is Sole Carer of Lawn, Edging and Hedging. The main structure of the garden. When we need to replace/shore up fencing he is there. When we tackle house repairs together he is the king. With a background in the building industry he has a wealth of experience. My role is always ADC, and this is the one time that he calls me Dear, which is...

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Tomato Blight

Posted in Fruit | 150 comments

Tomato Blight

We have blight. When we were rushing out yesterday evening I spotted it on three tomato plants. Large blackish brownish splodges and a generally wilty look. It is unmistakeable. We had it five years ago and it devastated our tomato crop within days. At the time we were creating a website for an expert on plant diseases. The fee was to be paid in whisky. Danny must have negotiated this deal. The expert arrived with a rather good bottle of Isla whisky under his arm. He was immediately shepherded out to examine the tomatoes. “Its blight....

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