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Latest posts by Italophile


Posted: 07/08/2013 at 17:16

Aisha, if the manure is old and well-rotted, you could dig it into bed 5 in the autumn for spring planting. Root crops - carrots, etc - resent recently-manured beds, particularly if the manure is fresh, that's all. Or recently fertilised in any way, for that matter. The most important thing for the root crops is to have the soil as fine - lump-free - as you can get it.

Tomato problems

Posted: 07/08/2013 at 17:08

Tough skins usually means thick skins, Phil. Some varieties, thanks to their genes, just have thicker skins than others. The plum varieties - San Marzano, etc - are an example. What are you growing?

That said, it's been known for toms of any variety to thicken their skins in hot weather or if there's been a shortage of moisture. It's a kind of defence mechanism to preserve their inner moisture.

Out of interest, how often are you feeding?


Posted: 07/08/2013 at 15:57

David, they don't need feeding weekly. Peppers are like toms, they perform a lot better if left to their own devices rather than pampered. In fact, overfeeding can contribute to fruiting problems.


Posted: 07/08/2013 at 12:44

Could be grey mould. It's not uncommon on raspberries. It's a fungal infection that might well have travelled with the plants when you moved them. I'd be inclined to start again.


Posted: 07/08/2013 at 10:18

Unless the soil is calcium deficient, which would only occur in extremely poor soil, a healthy plant should happily distribute calcium via its roots and internal system to the fruit.

The classic calcium-related problem, Blosson End Rot, arises when plant stress causes a hiccup within the plant's internal distribution system from the roots up. Foliar spraying of calcium doesn't help against BER because calcium can't transfer from the leaves to the fruit.


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.

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