Curiously Good – Wesley Burton takes on AutoPot

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Peeping at your neighbours veg is practically a gardeners prerogative. The time-honoured tradition of casting an admiring or curious glance at a fellow growers’ work and asking ‘how did you do that?’ or ‘why did you do that?’ is the jumping off point for infinitely unfolding discussions about plants, life, and all the rest.

Once the preserve of physical neighbours or fellow allotment tenants, vegetal voyeurism is now well established in online spaces too. It’s easier than ever for growers to take a look, take leaf, or run a mile, combine techniques with their own ideas and pique the curiosity of more people. Following this exact trajectory, one Wesley Burton of Nottingham has been hooked by his interest in the work of others and is now garnering ample attention for his own splendid efforts.

Above: Mr Fig Stuff – Wesley Burton first came to our attention
when we ourselves were seeking expert advice on fig cultivation

Last year we covered our formative experiences of fig growing, informed in no small part by Wesley. Long before we got our first Brown Turkey he had fallen head-over-heels down the spellbinding rabbit hole of fig growing. Wesley has over two hundred differently shaped fig leaf shaped notches to his figurative fig growing belt (he’s grown 200+ varieties of figs). Our interest in his exploits was matched by his in our watering systems.

Keen to reciprocate his help in the growing and grafting of the fascinating fig, we sent Wesley some systems to try. True to form he’d gone rollin’ and tumblin’ into another horticultural odyssey, this time with tomatoes. Inspired by the work of such fellow tomato luminaries as Niall Radford, by the sheer, diverse range of tomatoes available, and by the quick, sure footed, nature of tomato growing, Wesley set out to produce the ultimate expression of over sixty varieties. To do this would mean serving each variety’s exact needs, no mean feat when you’ve a busy life to lead. This is precisely where the XL modules that we’d sent Wesley came up trumps.

Above: Going potty, Wesley received and reconditioned some of our XL watering systems from a
decommissioned grow – if that’s not recycling then what is?!

The modules connect via pipework and fittings to create a complete watering system that can be run off a reservoir or water butt. Despite being joined in a system each module waters and feeds the plant within it independently, solving the problem of how to cater to each variety’s individual needs.

The plants themselves are in complete control of their irrigation regime thanks to the AQUAvalve in each XL module tray. The AQUAvalve meters out a supply of water and/or nutrient solution into the tray. Only once a plant has exhausted the supply will the AQUAvalve reopen to admit a fresh fill. There’s no power required for timers or computers as no timers or computers are required. Indeed, as the system is gravity-fed it negates the need for any electricity whatsoever, which is a huge bonus for allotment growers like Wesley. Likewise the fact that systems do not require running water.

Above: All set, like all AutoPot Watering Systems the XL modules allow
Wesley to grow on an allotment without the need for running water or electricity

Wesley reports that his system has caused a bit of a stir on the allotment. But the more his neighbours have visited the polytunnel the more they’ve grown to appreciate the development and the flexibility that the system facilitates. Visitors are getting to grips with the idea that, with a system, they do not need to be present to oversee what is ultimately quite a laborious, repetitive task. Essentially it can allow them plenty of opportunity for a well-earned holiday or the chance to tinker with other aspects of growing.

Both inexperienced growers and old hands looking to try new varieties have expressed interest in the fact that with these systems there’s no need to hazard a guess at watering regimes. Most exciting of all for those with limited space is the fact that the systems don’t require utilities, which opens up myriad opportunities for growing.

Above: Just two of over sixty varieties of tomato that Wesley is currently cultivating

Whilst Wesley has found that he doesn’t HAVE to be present at all times, he and his neighbours are nonetheless spending increasing amounts of time on the plot. They’ve been enchanted by the progress the plants are making and by observing them as they feed. The tomatoes are currently putting on about 5 cm / 2” per week in both height and girth. Soon enough they’ll be flowering and some serious hand pollination will be in order.

Notwithstanding their progress Wesley’s tomatoes are still little puritans, subsisting as they are on plain water for the time being. Wesley will soon be introducing nutrient solution into the reservoir at which point riotous development will likely ensue. Hence he’s arranged drop cords throughout the admirable polytunnel to keep things trained and enable easy crop management. The polytunnel also has an exciting dual purpose.

Above: A 400L / 105 gal FlexiTank collapsible reservoir feeds the crops,
nutrient solution is due to be introduced via the reservoir and pipework imminently

Yes indeed, Wesley’s poly’ is a media centre in the making! The plan is to host a most convivial tomato and tipples podcast-style video review come harvest time. It’s a genius idea. You spend all season growing a wild and varied range of fruits so why not sit down to taste with a bottle o plonk to combine the finest fruits of the vine. Expect welcome cameos from Wesley’s ever present fig crop, plus basil and marigolds to boost the sensory experience (aromas not available online) it’s surely one to watch!

Wesley’s tomato varieties for 2022:

  • Banana legs
  • Owens purple
  • Swangs song
  • Petit moineau blanc
  • Karma apricot
  • Negro de aritzkuren
  • Midnight sun
  • Kentucky cabin
  • Negrillo de almoguera
  • BKX
  • Taiga 
  • Dark queen
  • Jack white
  • Peking panda
  • Ananas zebra
  • Alice’s dream
  • Black beauty
  • Blue beauty 
  • Crushed heart
  • Summer of love
  • Lovely lush
  • Liberty bell
  • Sart roloise 
  • Black krim
  • Ukrainian purple
  • Pienollo 
  • Rebel starfighter prime
  • Orange blue tomato
  • Xanado green goddess 
  • Persuasion 
  • Queen of the night
  • Sun gold
  • Kaleidoscopic jewel 
  • Tigerella 
  • Anna Russian 
  • Micheal pollan 
  • Gardeners delight
  • Carie claxon
  • Champagne
  • Parc de La tête d’or
  • Abraham brown
  • Adelaide festival dwarf
  • Balerina 
  • Coeur de boeuf de Jerusalem 
  • Copper river
  • Girl girl’s weird thing
  • Granny yellow pink
  • Red target
  • Eros
  • Ozark sunrise
  • Wagner blue green
  • Berkely tie die pink
  • Great white blue 
  • Afternoon delight 
  • Giant tomato PG-strain
  • Southern sparkle 
  • Pineapple 
  • Amethyst jewel 
  • Garden peach
  • Ananas noir
  • Rosella purple
  • India stripe
  • Brads atomic grape
  • Brandywine sudduth strain 

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