Sunday, 15 August 2010

This sounds like a great tip to get tomatoes to ripen faster

I know blogs are supposed to work by folk answering Posts back and forth but if you don't keep checking through them (and why should you) you miss useful stuff like this.....

Lee Worrall said...

Hi, love the blog. I've been growing tomatoes outside for a few years, all the plants produce a decent crop but as you've already said the challenge is getting them to ripen before the dreaded blight or winter gets them.
I got a great tip a couple of years ago and it seems to do the trick, buy a large bag of bananas each week from July onwards, eat a banana a day (healthy for the gardener too) and then hang the banana skins on the tomato plant branches, i believe they give off ethylene which triggers the ripening process on any surrounding fruit, (has also worked with sweet peppers and chilli peppers). It does look a bit odd but they soon dry and turn black. I started doing the banana skins a few weeks ago and nearly all the plants have ripe tomatoes on them now. Unfortunately the first signs of blight have also appeared, may battle commence :)
I planted them out as soon as the weather allowed which was very late this year. I grow the plants against a west facing garage wall in Brandlesholme, 3 plants to a 'decent size' grow bag, with 2 empty 6" plant pots sunk into the grow bags inbetween the plants for easy watering, I fill each pot once a week with tomorite/water and that seems to keep them happy. I pinch out regularly and trim about half the original foliage off. They're supported with 6 ft canes lent against the wall. In previous years, i've followed advice to cut the top off the plant above the 4th or 5th truss, as this was also supposed to encourage earlier ripening but i'm leaving them this year as i've been given the opposite advice!
Hope this info is helpful in some way. I'll upload some current photos of them and post a link so everyone can see my strange tomatobanana plants.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Large green caterpillar

Anyone know what caterpillar this is? 
It was perched on our front door mat.  I think it is a Hawk-moth as is was pretty huge.  This isn't the greatest photo as it has a blue hook on its tail end which you can't see here.  I am guessing something this size lives on trees and shrubs; is that right?  I don't want to go round massacring everything in sight on the assumption it eats my plants, so this is one that got away.  When I looked out a little while later it was gone.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Dead-heading and what to leave

By the beginning of August my borders in the back garden are past their prime and need dead-heading and generally tidying up.  Rather than the one day given over to this I've had to do it in fits and starts this year thanks to the miserable August weather so far.

All the fences have climbing roses against them which need clipping back (removing the spent blooms) and tying in.  If I do it early enough and boost them with a feed ( an ounce of Toprose each) - weather permitting - I usually get a second flush of blooms. I can already see signs of fresh new growth, so fingers crossed.

Generally I cut back any perennials which have finished flowering and are looking scruffy to the point where they look 'tidier'.  This means cutting the flowering stem almost down to the base and taking out any dead/dying leaves and sometimes a bit of a haircut to let the fresh new growth through.   With some plants like geraniums and delphiniums this encourages a second flush of smaller flowers. The borders get a slight sprinkling of bonemeal after this clean up. 

Always the hardest decision is what I want to leave to run to seed.  The obvious answer is to leave anything I want to scatter its seed randomly around such as aquilegia, astrantia, foxgloves and some of my small ground cover geraniums.  That said, this year, I decided only to leave a few of these as I have enough of them already.  A few extras won't go amiss if we have a hard winter and I lose some of the parents. They can always be weeded out, moved to a gap or potted on for anyone who wants them come the spring.  

I don't think it is possible to make a definitive list of what to deadhead and what to leave.  Removing the seed heads should strengthen the parent plant as it will put its energy into making a better root system instead of trying to reproduce.  Some easy (almost wild) perennials like poppies and granny bonnets and geraniums don't need the same degree of coddling and they can seed hither and yon and still reappear next year.  As I said it seems to be a matter of trial and error and striking the balance of what you want to see in your borders.

An example of 'reading the books' and finding it doesn't work for me was verbena bonariensis.  I bought four superb plants last year and they did wonderfully.  Everything I read on them said they 'seed liberally'; indeed some even said cut off the seed heads to prevent this as they were something of a thug.  I happily left on the seed heads as I wanted more plants for my garden.  This spring there was no sign of the parent plants having survived the winter and not a single baby. Perhaps this is another Southern view of a plant which doesn't ring true for  fifty-three degrees North.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Courgette Fritters

Trouble with courgettes is they do too well.  This is the third year I've grown them and probably the last.  I grow three of them in very large pots.  As they aren't the world's most exciting veg him-indoors and me get very fed up of them pretty quickly.  We are all ratatouilled out right now.  I know you can grate and serve them in salads and make chocolate (and other cakes) with them but I never seem to do it.  Frittered is good though.  I have added a very basic starting point recipe (click on Recipes above).  You can add just about anything you like - grated carrot, potato, chilli pepper, feta cheese, any herb you fancy - wherever your imagination takes you.  They make a veggie meal, a posh starter, a light lunch or just a nibble.  Many happy courgettes to you.

Gardens on the Isle of Wight

I mentioned I'd just got back from a holiday on the Isle of Wight.  While we were there we visited Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle, Mottistone Manor and Ventnor Botanical gardens.  I've posted some photos of each.  If you want to check them out click on the Photo link on the left.

Land Cress

One very easy plant to grow is land cress.  If you are a bit of a water cress fan this is a brilliant alternative.  Water cress to buy is never cheap and often I don't use it all and it doesn't keep, which makes it even more expensive.  For the price of a packet of seeds (I scattered these in June to fill a space by the rhubarb) you have more cress than you can shake a stick at.  I grew it last year with exactly the same ease and success.  It seems to stay bug-free too. I suppose you could grow it in a pot too if you don't have a spare corner.  Cress to hand whenever your sandwich needs it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Help from Colin G

Just in case you aren't tracking old posts and attached comments I thought I'd put this one in as a post.  It is a comment from Colin G attached to Why a Blog.  

This may be one step too far for you - it is for me.

Did you know Hugh Fearnley setup a 'Landshare' site a few years ago. I just had thought - I wonder if it is still going and low and behold it is. Also if you are interested or any other visitors there is a growing plot available in Hawkshaw, off Ramsbottom Road. Take a look - it can be found at this web site:

I tried looking for further information about the plot, but it said I need to register with the site. 

Thanks Colin - it made me go back and check out the Landshare site and there are lots of bits of land and people all round the Bury area looking for each other.  It is well worth checking out if you've outgrown (or don't have) your own garden.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Filling in Gaps in the flower border

When I plant up chimneys and hanging baskets in the Spring I often have a few plants left over which I stuff in odds and ends of pots.  They come in very handy for filling gaps in the borders as the summer goes on.  Stuff dies down or new stuff isn't as big as I want it in its first year and I get odd spaces so I shove in a pot of annuals to fill the gap.  I noticed a space around the bird table this year so I hung two very small pots from it (with S hooks) with just one Surfina in each and stood a clay pot with a white geranium in it at the base and it looks much better for it.