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Latest posts by Italophile

preserving heritage tomatoes

Posted: 15/06/2013 at 11:21

Yes, they self-pollinate and will usually do so on their own. Insects can be helpful in the process simply by poking around in the flower, their bumping into things triggering the inner workings. You can achieve the same thing yourself with a light flick of the fingers or brushing your palm across the flower. I've noted here before that a friend of mine used to use an electric toothbrush to help the pollination along.

Fig tree sick/dying

Posted: 15/06/2013 at 06:45

Romantica, looks like it could be a fungal problem. A couple of years ago one of my Brown Turkey figs was hit by anthracnose and it looks pretty similar. I removed and destroyed the affected leaves and the tree recovered. Has it been particularly wet in your neck of the woods?

preserving heritage tomatoes

Posted: 15/06/2013 at 06:30

"Peacevine" seems to be listed on some sites as an heirloom and very well could be. If so, it's probably what's called a "created heirloom". It has been bred and grown out over a a number of seasons to stabilise the genes to produce true-to-type. Not all heirlooms are old varieties. Not by any means. All "heirloom" means in this sense is that it will - or should - grow true-to-type.

ChapelGirl, cross-pollination in toms is largely down to insect life buzzing backwards and forwards between varieties and transferring pollen. Separation is one way of trying to avoid it. A guaranteed method is to "bag" the flowers to stop insect life getting at them.

You can make your own bags easily enough. Tulle is a good material. It lets in plenty of light and air. I buy some, cut it into decenty-sized squares, and fashion them into a bag shape.

The key is to bag the flowers before they open, before they are vulnerable to insect life.

Select a cluster of unopened flowers. Carefully nip off all foliage around and close to the cluster. This is to avoid the foliage growing and filling up the bag. Slip the bag over the cluster and tie it closed just tightly enough to secure it. If foliage develops inside the bag, slip off the bag, remove the foliage and replace the bag.

And, of course, not all flowers produce fruit, so it's a good idea to bag several different clusters to improve your chances.

The bag stays in place until the first sign that the flowers have set fruit, until you see the wee pea-sized baby fruit. Having been protected, you know that fruit is pure. Remove the bag, but tie something like a bit of ribbon to the cluster in order to identify it as pure. It's very very easy to forget which cluster of fruit is pure. I've done it!

If you don't fancy buying tulle and cutting it up, you can always just cut the foot section off a pair of light-coloured pantyhose (or those short stocking things) and use that as the basis of the bag.

You don't have to wait till the fruit is ripe to save the seed. Any time from about 30% ripe onwards will produce viable seed.

Welshonion is right. It's a good idea to ferment the seeds. Apart from eliminating any potential nasties, it makes it much easier to get rid of the gooey seed gel.

Cut up the tom and squeeze the seeds and as much of the tomato's juice as possible into a glass jar. If there's not a lot of juice, add a tbsp or so of water to make sure the seeds are well covered by liquid.

Put the jar in a warm spot but not in direct sunlight. Depending on the temperature, you should see a mouldy crust forming within a couple of days. The concoction will also start to stink a bit. They're ready for the next step - washing and drying.

Half fill the jar with fresh water, swirl it around vigorously, then let it settle. You'll see the seeds gradually sink to the bottom of the jar with the gunky mould and seed gel still in suspension. Carefully drain most of the excess water, tipping out the gunk, without also tipping out the seeds. You can either repeat the process two or three times until the water is clear, or, after most of the gunk has gone, tip the seeds into a sieve and blast them under the tap.

Then you dry them. Don't try drying the seeds on tissue paper or kitchen paper. The seeds will stick to both and you'll never get them off. Coffee filter paper is the go. Spread the seeds out on the coffee filter paper and leave them somewhere out of the way of direct sunlight until they're perfectly dry.

Job done.



Tomatoe plants...basic how to guide needed?

Posted: 14/06/2013 at 13:58

It's certainly a lot warmer here but also, crucially, it's a pretty dry heat. I still get fungal problems. They're unavoidable. The spores are everywhere in the air. The drier heat, though, helps against the problems multiplying. Humidity is the spores' friend. Back in Sydney, summer temps would sit in the low-mid 30s but the humidity would hit 80+%. A fungal nightmare.

Tomatoe plants...basic how to guide needed?

Posted: 14/06/2013 at 13:19

It will also depend what else might have been introduced into the tap water by various authorities. When I lived in Sydney, after outbreaks of giardia, the authorities loaded the water with chlorine and other things. Not only undrinkable but virtually poisonous in the garden.

Tomatoe plants...basic how to guide needed?

Posted: 14/06/2013 at 13:00

No, RT, it's a very interesting test. Here in Italy, with the peninsula basically a giant piece of limestone, the tap water is massively alkaline. Over the course of the tom growing season, tap water can and will sweeten the soil to an extent that toms don't appreciate. It's something I always have to keep in mind.

Have you ever tested the pH of your tap water?

Feeding Rhubarb.

Posted: 14/06/2013 at 11:48

Mitzi, the problem with the beans is that (a) they are climbers and will grow to 6' or more and also spread sideways to an extent; and (b) will need strong supports in the form of canes of some description. One 12" pot isn't big enough to accommodate four plants and the pot isn't deep enough to provide stable support for the canes.

You could try separating them into different pots but, again, the problem could be supporting them.

Feeding Rhubarb.

Posted: 14/06/2013 at 07:38

Rhubarb's a bit like asparagus in that wherever it's planted becomes its home for potentially a very long time. So major improvements to the soil need to be done prior to planting. Or, if you've literally only just planted, you can lift the plants, attend to the soil, and replace the plants.

Rhubarb's actually pretty tolerant. It loves well-drained soil with plenty of organic stuff dug in but will still grow in average soil conditions as Sara's rhubarb proves. But the better conditions you give it, the more it will reward you. What sort of soil are yours planted in, Mitzi?

Tomatoe plants...basic how to guide needed?

Posted: 14/06/2013 at 07:21

If only it were ... if only it were ...

Tomatoe plants...basic how to guide needed?

Posted: 13/06/2013 at 22:54

Good idea, Fairygirl, but you'd have to keep the thread towards the top. Otherwise people will miss it and post individual threads as happens now.

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