Latest posts by Italophile


Posted: 08/08/2013 at 09:03

Dove, you can dry the chillies in the sun - if you keep getting sun - for storage and use. Or, as I did a couple of years ago, entirely by accident, freeze-dry them on the plants by leaving them in situ into the winter. I completely forgot about them, went for a potter in the garden, and found them freeze-dried. Just as good as sun-dried.


Posted: 08/08/2013 at 08:56

Exactly. I don't touch mine till early December which is when our frosts usually arrive. Sow the seed in about April, so that's roughly eight months. Just as well they're worth the wait.

Parsnips are largely unknown these days here in Italy. I show my neighbours the photos on the seed packets and get very blank looks. I have to import seeds from the UK. Back in Roman times and a bit later they were immensely popular. For whatever reason, they disappeared from the Italian scene. They're only grown a bit further north, around Parma, as food for the pigs for prosciutto, et al. Bah!


Posted: 08/08/2013 at 07:02

Probably a combination of things, HG. Pollination isn't happening. Though peppers are self-pollinating, they can need a helping hand. Outside, insects can trigger pollination by fossicking in the flowers. In a greenhouse, with fewer insects, you can help by giving the flowers a gentle flick with your fingers.

Extremes of weather can also impact on the pollination process.

You could also be overwatering. Unless the pots are small and it's exceedingly warm, they shouldn't need watering every single day. You can afford to let the mix dry out.

An excess of fertiliser can also impact on fruit production. How often are you feeding?


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.

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