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Latest posts by Italophile

Talkback: Swifts

Posted: 27/07/2012 at 17:26

They're disappearing for the year around here in central Italy. On the early side, but they left early last year, too. Up till a couple of days ago you felt like you were taking your life in your hands out walking very early in the morning. They were swooping down almost to head height in some of the smaller piazzas.

Fig trees

Posted: 27/07/2012 at 16:01
Chris9 wrote (see)

Thanks for the positive response I can't wait to get one now. 

Italophile, a friend has moved to Italy and lives down south and was pleased with his fig tree so I want to surprise them when they visit with an English fig, yes a bit of competition

Obelxx, I did see Turkey Brown on one of the seed website so will aim for that tree and thanks for the planting info.

It is great to have some many experts who can answer these questions and give such good advice.  Thank to you both and have a good weekend. regards Chris

You see figs everywhere here, Chris. Down the road from us there's even one huge green fig tree growing out of a wall! It's always the first fig in the town to fruit and produces a ton of fruit.

The only secrets to growing in containers is to (a) give them a good feed with a balanced fertiliser - I usually use a 10:10:10 combination - in spring; (b) keep them well watered in summer but with very good drainage, obviously; and (c) don't start out with the container too big. Figs thrive in terms of production if their roots are contained, cramped even. Mine started life in about a 25cm pot and I potted it up a couple of years ago into a 40cm container. It's over 6' and as wide as it is tall.

It will stay in this container for a very long time. The root system can get too compacted, though. Every couple of years, early in spring, I lift it out and use a handsaw (yes, literally) to cut three or four wedges out of the mass of roots. Like taking wedged slices out of a pie, except it's like cutting into solid timber. This both reduces the root mass and rejuvenates it. I fill in the newly created space in the container with potting mix. You'd think the tree would turn up its toes in protest. No way. It gallops on.

Fig trees

Posted: 27/07/2012 at 12:31

I have a fig in a pot on the terrace in central Italy. Like obelixx, we get pretty brutal winters, though not as cold as -25. We have a covered pergola on the terrace and it goes under the pergola, against a protected wall, the container wrapped in two or three layers of bubble wrap. I wrap the tree itself in a couple of layers of heavy-duty fleece. It spends about two and a half months like this and I monitor the moisture level in the container. It averages one or two waterings with tepid/warm water during this period, and, with the container's excellent drainage, it never gets wet feet. Its now five or six years old and produces an extraordinary amount of fruit for its size.

Its sister plant - both grown from cuttings from the same tree - lives in the ground in the garden in a completely exposed position. I don't protect it in any way. It takes everything winter can throw at it and always bounces back in spring.


Posted: 27/07/2012 at 10:48
paull2 wrote (see)

Talking of hybrids. Several years ago I was growing a mini-plum variety called Rosada in the GH and someone gave me a couple of yellow plants, probably Golden Sunrise or the like (medium fruit but average flavour), which I remember did not do very well. I kept a couple of Rosada toms for sowing the following year, and when they fruited, they came out as yellow mini-plum, very sweet and a prolific cropper, very dark leaves, which I have continued to grow every year since. Modesty forbids that I should name the variety anything other than 'those yellow things'.

You got a cross. It's always fun to see what you end up with. Do you get identical fruit every season?


Posted: 27/07/2012 at 10:45

Dipadee - first, load the photo from your camera to your computer, taking note of where you store it in the computer.

Post here. When you want to insert the photo into the post, click your cursor where you want to insert it. Then click on the symbol third from the right in the menu at the top of the window in which you're writing. It looks like a little green tree.

A new window opens. At the top, you can select whether you're uploading from your computer or an external side. Your computer is the default option so leave it as is. Click on Select. Then navigate to where you stored the photo on your computer and select the photo.

Click Upload.

Then click Save.

The photo should appear within your post where you indicated with the cursor.


Posted: 27/07/2012 at 10:00

Is it too late to take a photo of the symptoms, Dipadee?

As I've posted before, it's impossible to avoid fungal spores, the pesky little things that cause these problems. They're invisible, they travel in the air, and they are everywhere.

Preventive spraying is probably the best means of preventing infection. The spray coats the leaves, creating a barrier between the fungal spores and the leaf surface, preventing the spores getting a grip and doing their damage.

Traditionally, the most common spray has been copper sulfate-based and you'll find it under various brand names in any garden centre. Technically it's organic because copper is a naturally-occurring substance. On the other hand, it's a metal, and some growers worry about a build-up of metal in the soil when the sprays drips to the ground.

Spraying is preventive, meaning it has to be undertaken before the spores arrive. It's no use spraying after the spores have arrived - that is, once fungal (or bacterial) symptoms are showing. Usually you start spraying a couple of weeks after planting out and continue to spray every week or 10 days. If it rains within that timeframe, you have to respray to recoat the leaves. Importantly, you have to spray every leaf, and both sides of every leaf.

Preventive spraying doesn't guarantee 100% that you will be fungus (or bacteria) free, but it gives you a huge head start. The only alternative to spraying is very diligent housekeeping - at least 3' between plants to aid air circulation, judicious pruning of branches and leaves to avoid great clumps of leaves which hinder air circulation, and keeping the foliage as dry as possible. Damp foliage is a fungal spore's playground. Finally, removing the lowest branches to keep a gap of at least 1' between the lowest foliage and the soil will help against the spores - that fall from the leaves to the soil - splashing back up onto the leaves when watering.


Posted: 27/07/2012 at 07:06

Potato Blight is the same disease as Late Blight in tomatoes. The pathogen is Phytophthora infestans. In toms, it certainly manifests on the stems, but also on the leaves. That is wasn't showing on the leaves still puzzles me.


Posted: 26/07/2012 at 16:57

Mmmm. About the only disease I can think of that might manifest on the stem before elsewhere is White Mould. I've only ever seen it a couple of times. It starts out as a lesion on the stem, a bit like a stain. Eventually, as the stem succumbs, it turns almost white.

EDIT. I just Googled White Mould for further info. Everyone spells it Mold. Whatever. It seems that it's most common on plants in flower and yours weren't flowering. Might be back to square one.


Posted: 26/07/2012 at 13:05

Ah, shame there's no evidence. Was there any sign of a  problem on the leaves? Most diseases manifest first on the leaves.


Posted: 26/07/2012 at 09:05

Coralie, "blight" has become a generic term for any fungal or bacterial problem. There are actually only two Blights - Early and Late - but there are many more fungal or bacterial diseases, some of which resemble Early Blight in particular.

Can you be more specific about the symptoms - or even post a photo - so we can try to work out what the problem is? And have the plants been indoors or outdoors?

But, in general, unless you spray preventively, all you can do is try to minimise the chance of infection via housekeeping practices. I say minimise because, without preventive spraying, you can't actually stop infection. Fungal spores are invisible to the naked eye, they travel in the air, and they're everywhere. You can't avoid them.

Housekeeping practices include: keeping plants well apart to aid air circulation; judiciously removing foliage to avoid great clumps of leaves to aid air circulation; keeping the foliage as dry as possible because damp leaves are the perfect incubator for the spores. It's also a good idea to remove the lowest branches in order to maintain a gap of at least a foot between the soil and the lowest foliage. Spores can and will fall from the leaves to the soil and can be splashed back up again onto the leaves when watering. The gap helps against this.

When you say well-watered, how often were you watering? Over-watered plants - and over-fertilised plants, for that matter - can be more vulnerable to disease.

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