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Latest posts by Italophile

Talkback: Planting out tomatoes

Posted: 24/05/2012 at 06:27

Bit late now, Mandy, but you didn't have to chuck 'em. Purple leaves aren't fatal. It's usually a sign of cold and a lack of nutrition. Some warmth and TLC would have resurrected them.

Some lovely writing on your blog, too. Congrats.


Posted: 23/05/2012 at 10:36

Good tip, Alina. I blanch the stems for about 30 seconds, then the leaves for about 10 seconds, drain and dry them them very well, toss them with some nice vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and P&S. Delicious.

Bettyslad - early Feb in your climate sounds optimistic in the extreme. I don't plant them here in central Italy until at least early April, and I suspect it's warmer here than where you are!

squash seed germination

Posted: 23/05/2012 at 10:23

Could be, unfortunately, unless you have a heated greenhouse. They need ambient and soil temps into the 20s to really prosper. Anything under about 15C and they will just sit there. 

squash seed germination

Posted: 23/05/2012 at 09:49

What sort of temperature have they been kept at? Both need real warmth.


Posted: 23/05/2012 at 07:23
Bettyslad wrote (see)
Hi It's been 92 days since my beetroot (Detroit variety) were sewn, therefore decided to pull one up to see if they were ready. However there was nothing, just some thin roots from the leaves. So disappointed as I thought they were coming along nicely. Can anyone tell me what may have happened?

I suspect lack of warmth and sunlight. They need both to thrive.

Shiny Blue Beetles eating rhubarb leaves

Posted: 23/05/2012 at 06:55

One way of controlling them is to nip them in the (as it were) bud. The females lay their eggs on the underside of the plant leaves. You'll see clumps of the tiny yellow/orange things. Destroy those to begin with.

tiny caterpillar

Posted: 22/05/2012 at 16:36

Goodoh. Don't forget they're contact sprays. You have to hit the critters with the stuff and hit them again if they return. Neither spray has any residual effect.

Help what's happened to my Tomatoes?

Posted: 22/05/2012 at 08:05

Priorities, Anna, priorities. Let nothing get in the way of producing great tomatoes. Have a shower under the garden hose.

squash seed germination

Posted: 21/05/2012 at 08:02

Yes, they need warmth to germinate, somewhere in the low 20s would be ideal. Too cold - and too damp - and the seeds will likely rot.

What should I feed?

Posted: 21/05/2012 at 07:50

Different veg have different requirements.

The key to understanding fertilisers - organic and chemical - is the NPK code that you'll see on the packaging. N = Nitrogen; P = Phosphorous; K = Potassium. Each of these three have different purposes in the fertilising process.

Nitrogen encourages leaf growth. In short, anything that is grown for its leaves - salad veg, silver beet, cabbage, etc - benefits from nitrogen. On the other hand, veg that produces fruit - toms, cukes, eggplant, etc - doesn't need more than a minimum amount of nitrogen. Too much nitrogen and they will produce foliage at the expense of fruit.

Phosphorous encourages root growth, flower development and general plant health. Leafy veg doesn't need a lot of it, but the fruit-bearing veg benefit from it.

Potassium (Potash) supports flower production and fruit development. No use to leafy veg, essential for fruit-bearing veg.

The actual NPK figures on the packaging tell you the percentage of each contained in the overall fertiliser. Eg, 7:7:7 means 7% each of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. It's called a balanced or all-purpose fertiliser, for obvious reasons.

So, in very simple terms, it's basically a matter of determining into which category your veg falls - leafy or fruit-producing - and using a fertiliser whose NPK ratio matches its needs.

Toms, for example, need a small N figure, a higher P figure, and an even higher K figure. Little nitrogen because you don't want to encourage too much leaf growth at the expense of fruit; more phosphorous to encourage root and flower development; more potassium to encourage fruit development. A ratio of something like 3:7:10 for toms would be ideal.

Then you get the idiosyncratic veg like peas and beans. They need next to no fertiliser - provided the soil is good to start with - because they manufacture their own nitrogen.

Beyond the NPK component, fertilisers also contain various minerals and micro-elements that some plants need more than others, but I'd need a book to detail them all.

The bottom line, though, is that if the garden soil - or whichever medium you use - is good and healthy to start with, veg shouldn't be over-fertilised. About the only exception might be salad veg - lettuces, etc - which do actually benefit from being pushed along. I use an ox blood-based fertiliser, almost pure N.

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