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Latest posts by Italophile

Moving Asparagus

Posted: 17/08/2015 at 06:53

Shame about the losses. The poor old survivor is suffering from shock. Cut it back in late autumn, cover it well with compost or organic material with some balanced fertiliser mixed in, give it a good water, and it should be all right.

tomato stopping

Posted: 16/08/2015 at 09:48

I second all that, particularly timing the housekeeping to take account of the end of the season. 

Problem bamboo

Posted: 16/08/2015 at 09:44

You're stuck with dealing with the symptoms, not the problem, and it's always going to be a losing battle with bamboo. If the neighbour responsible isn't approachable, I'd try the local Council. 

Outdoor tomatoes and chillies in and out

Posted: 15/08/2015 at 11:46

EC, the warmer the weather, the quicker they will ripen. Optimum temps are low-20s and above. The lower the temps, the longer they will take. 

Why won't my tomatoes ripen?

Posted: 15/08/2015 at 11:40

Frankly, I wouldn't bother feeding the toms anymore at this stage of the season. Once fruit begins the process of ripening the plant has no real role in the process. Save the fertiliser for next season. 

Why won't my tomatoes ripen?

Posted: 15/08/2015 at 06:48

No, temps down to 3 or 4 won't help ripening. That's crazy for August. I've still got overnight temps in the mid-20s though it looks like the daytime temps - which have been in the high-30s for a couple of months - will settle down into the high-20s. This year has been a return to Italian summers of old, last year's was very mild.

I think toms tend to be overwatered everywhere. And over-fertilised too. Pampered, basically. Toms are incredibly sturdy plants that respond best when left to their own devices. Mine, in the ground, are never fertilised more than twice in their lives. Once, a couple of weeks after planting out; once more later in the season.

In fact, this year, they haven't been fertilised at all because I've been busy with other things. The crop has been slightly down but only because the temps up on my terraces, surrounded by dry stone walls, have probably been in the mid-40s. For June and July, when a lot of fruit would usually be setting, it was simply too hot. The flowers were frazzled in the heat before they could do their thing. I took cuttings in anticipation of the heat and planted them out about a fortnight ago. They're growing full steam ahead, plenty of flowers developing, so I should have a decent second crop into autumn.

Your watering regime sounds okay, certainly a lot better than daily watering which is all too common, particularly in milder weather. Deep, infrequent watering sends the roots deeper into the soil. They're likely a bit deeper than the top foot of soil so they're probably happier than you think they are. 

They sound like they're happy, though. All you need is some warmth!


Why won't my tomatoes ripen?

Posted: 14/08/2015 at 18:06

Topbird, they don't need sun exposure to ripen. It's down to temperatures. That's why toms will ripen indoors. The plants still need the foliage, though losing a third at this time of the season probably won't hurt.

The Purple Ukranian scandal! (tomato related!)

Posted: 14/08/2015 at 08:15

While a hybrid's gene pool is (usually) very stable, heirlooms' pure gene pools can be volatile.

This is Cherokee Purple:

Years ago in the US, a grower by the name of Craig LeHoullier, a legend amongst heirloom growers, discovered a fruit on his CP plant that was more a mahogany brown colour. Apparently a spontaneous mutation of a colour gene.

He saved seeds, planted them out, and selected only those resulting toms that exhibited the brown colour. Ditto the following seasons until, eventually, he stabilised what became known as Cherokee Chocolate:

Some people find that, for taste and texture, it's essentially the same tom with a different coloured skin. I don't think so. I like CC a lot, but find CP has more taste complexity. And is a better producer. I highly recommend CP to anyone and everyone. Doesn't need a long growing season, doesn't take up a lot of space, is a good producer and delicious.

While stabilised, Cherokee Chocolate can still throw up some genetic quirks. Lo and behold, a green-when-ripe fruit turned up on a CC plant. Seeds saved, grown out over successive seasons, stabilised, and Cherokee Green came into existence:

One of the best green-when-ripe toms I've tasted.

Who knows what else CC has in store? Tomatoes and their genes!

Bye-bye bamboo

Posted: 14/08/2015 at 07:44

If it's the invasive type, steel containers don't restrict bamboo. At our last house in Sydney someone planted bamboo in a buried stainless-steel laundry trough. The runners hit the walls, ran straight up the sides and out.

The Purple Ukranian scandal! (tomato related!)

Posted: 14/08/2015 at 06:36

Joe, they should be a distinct plum shape as per Bob's link. The smaller ones on your plant look to be heading in the right direction. The bigger ones aren't looking plum-shaped, they're more heart-shaped. 

That split will gradually open and expose the fruit to insects, infection, etc. It's all right for the moment but take it inside as soon as you see it opening. You'll need to keep an eye on it inside too.

Commercial hybrid varieties have been well and truly stabilised (the gene pool set to produce identically) before they're released to the public. It's very rare, though not impossible, to have glitches. 

In short, you cross your selected varieties with some sort of goal in mind. The first generation of saved seed will produce an assortment of versions of the parents. You save seed only from the fruits that seem to be heading towards your goal - colour, shape, size, whatever. With each successive generation you, again, only save seeds from fruit heading towards your goal. Eventually, you end up with the fruit you want.

Depending how any parent varieties are involved, it can take a number of years to stabilise them, although commercial operations develop them on a large scale so they can hasten the process. It can be a slow, painstaking process for the home gardener with limited growing space and restricted to one season a year.

In fact, when I lived in Sydney, tomato-growing friends and I were in touch with several growers in the US who were hybridising. They used to send us seeds to grow out in our SH season, thus giving them two seasons a year, theirs and ours. They would tell us their goal, we would save seeds from the resulting fruit (that matched their goal) and send the seeds back for them to use for the next generation.

Perversely, some of the US growers, fanatics, were even trying to dehybridise varieties, getting back to the original parent varieties. An almighty challenge because you have no idea where you're going beyond suspicions and hunches. Made all the harder by the commercial operations, the original hybridisers, guarding the names of their parent varieties fiercely.

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