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Latest posts by Italophile

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.

Star Jasmine with red leaves???

Posted: 21/05/2012 at 06:54

Winter cold will do it. It happens to mine. Give it time and some warmth and things will right themselves.

tomatoes-growbags or not growbags?

Posted: 20/05/2012 at 15:45

Warmth is very important, particularly when it comes to ripening toms. It's temperature (warmth) that ripens them, not direct sunlight on the fruit.

tomatoes-growbags or not growbags?

Posted: 20/05/2012 at 13:06
Bookertoo wrote (see)

 Someone said give them 6 - 8 hours sunshine a day - where?   I do not know of anywhere in the UK where that would be possible at present.

Maybe not at present, but perhaps more likely in peak growing season. The 6-8 hour quota is for optimum plant performance. They will perform with less sun exposure but the performance drops as the hours of exposure do.

tomatoes-growbags or not growbags?

Posted: 20/05/2012 at 08:48
artychris wrote (see)

Can anybody tell me whether it is a better idea to grow tomatoes outside in a growbag or, can the crop be just as good, if you grow directly into the ground.

Better in the ground, I think, given half-decent soil of some depth. The soil doesn't have to be rich. Toms are pretty forgiving of most soils providing the pH isn't too far out of kilter. They like things slightly acid but will cope a degree or so either way. The bottom line, though, is position. They need as much as they can get - 6 to 8 hours a day minimum to achieve full potential.

Plants in the ground also need a lot less water. Watering infrequently - maybe once a week - but very deeply will drive the roots down deep into the soil and away from the surface where they're more affected by surface temperatures. Frequent, shallow watering only keeps the roots shallow.

Plants in the ground also need less fertiliser. Providing the soil is half-decent, one feed a couple of weeks after planting out, another one when the first fruit is setting, and one later in the season will be sufficient. They won't suffer. Toms are the sturdiest of critters that respond best to tough love.

how to not attract carrot fly when thinning

Posted: 20/05/2012 at 08:37

It's said that thinning - or, for that matter, harvesting - very late in the day or even after dark can avoid attracting carrot fly.

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