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Latest posts by Italophile


Posted: 07/08/2013 at 09:59

Daisy, covering them is likely to increase the chances of fungal problems. Unless you want to spray, air circulation is one of the best means of minimising the chances of infection. If the air is moving, the fungal spores are more likely to keep moving and not settle. Still air, particularly still and humid air, is a fungal spore's best friend.

It's also a good idea to aid air circulation by selectively thinning the foliage to prevent clumps of impenetrable foliage forming.

If you don't have fungal problems at the moment, it's unlikely that any infection that arrives in the near future will bother your plants. It takes a long time for the most common fungal diseases - Early Blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, etc - to cause serious problems. In fact, the end of the growing season and the arrival of cold weather usually wipes out a plant before a common fungal disease does.


Posted: 07/08/2013 at 09:48

Andrew, it's always a good idea to start afresh with new mix in containers. Apart from avoiding any disease problems, a season of growing depletes the goodness in the mix. Every time you water, nutrients are leached out, including any you've added via fertilising. And caterpillar larvae can and will overwinter in the mix.

In short, your FIL is making life hard for himself!

It might or might not be Tomato Horn Worm. They're very distinctive:


Unless you want to pick them off by hand and send them to meet their maker, or if you have them in plague proportions, the best treatment for caterpillars is a product with Bacillus thuringiensis as its active agent. It's organic, a bacteria derived from soil and is harmless to everything but caterpillars. It's also systemic rather than a contact treatment meaning you don't have to hit the pest with the stuff. It remains active and effective. Until it rains. It's marketed under various trade names including DiPel.

Oh, and his mix is all right providing the manure isn't fresh.

Blossom End Rot (Toms)

Posted: 06/08/2013 at 08:09

When you water isn't really a factor, Andrew, it's the watering pattern that's important. And too much can be as frustrating for the plant as too little.

Early morning is probably best because the soil is still cool, the water will penetrate, and any water you get on the leaves will dry out as the day warms up.

Growing toms shouldn't be stressful. In fact, I think people worry about their toms too much. They're very tough, resilient plants and arguably do their best when left to their own devices. Within reason, obviously.


Posted: 06/08/2013 at 07:57

All toms can be classified as either early-season, mid-season or late-season varieties in terms of the time they take from planting out to maturity. With a bit of crossover, obviously. For unheated greenhouses and shorter growing seasons it's best to stick with the early- or mid-season (at latest) varieties.

As a very very very general rule of thumb:

EARLY - up to 60 days from planting out to maturity. You will find some varieties, like Stupice, of Czech origin, that will ripen earlier. The downside is that they have almost no flavour.

MID - 60 to 75 days from planting out to maturity.

LATE - anything from 75 to 90 (or more) days from planting out to maturity. Most of the larger beefsteak varieties fall into this category.

A bit of Googling will usually reveal a variety's category.

san marzano toms

Posted: 06/08/2013 at 06:55

A feed every couple of weeks is enough for toms in containers at the best of times. You can feed on if you want to, mias, but the reality is that the amount of usable fruit you'll get is dictated by your growing season.

I don't know when your viable growing season ends but fruit that isn't already very well developed - getting somewhere close to changing colour - probably won't make the cut this year. Feeding that fruit is a waste of time and money. And fruit that is already changing colour doesn't need the food anyway.


Posted: 06/08/2013 at 06:45

You'd need to be careful digging it up. Lavender is notorious for not liking its roots disturbed.

san marzano toms

Posted: 05/08/2013 at 15:27

mias, the fruit in the photos is already changing colour on the way to maturity. The closer they get to maturity, the less they rely on the plant for nutrition, etc. The colour change is down to the fruit itself, an internal chemical process, unrelated to the plant. In short, anything you do to the plant now is going to have little impact on the ripening fruit.


Russian toms

Posted: 05/08/2013 at 15:18

Stacey, there's a lot of confusion with the naming of some of the "black" varieties. There's a Russian Black, a smaller variety, though bigger than a cherry; and Black Russian, a beefsteak size. You can see how easily they could be confused. You've got Black Russian.

Apart from the obvious size difference I mention above, there are many "black" varieties that look and taste much the same but travel under different names. They either have "Black" or "Crimea" (or versions of "Crimea", like "Krim") in their name. Tomato experts tend to think that a number of these almost identical varieties are probably one variety that has been renamed and distributed over the years.

Bamboo Problem

Posted: 05/08/2013 at 15:10

Yep, digging and glyphosate. Cut back, expose the mother plant's roots, dig out as much as you can. It will be hard work. Scrape or cut remaining roots to expose bare wood and paint on glyphosate rather than spray it.

Make sure you stick to the recommended dosage. There's always a temptation to strengthen the mixture on the basis that it will work better. It won't. It will only kill that localised area and not work through the plant's system. You will probably need several glyphosate treatments.

Apart from dealing with the mother plant, you have to deal individually with any outcrops which will have rooted themselves separately from the mother plant.


Posted: 05/08/2013 at 14:53

I like the Italian method. Cut just below the flowers after flowering is over. Leave the plant to overwinter. In spring, just as the plant is coming back to life, cut again down to the first sign of new growth, taking all last year's growth. This prevents floppy, woody plants. Once they get floppy and woody it's hard to resurrect them.

Don't ever cut into old wood.

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