HOW TO GROW JALAPENO PEPPERS FROM SEED





This fantastic, spicy South American food crop has never been more popular and by growing your own from seed you can really create those truly authentic dishes inspired by traditional Mexican dishes and regional cuisines now found throughout the United States.

These thick-walled 3 inch long peppers are often harvested green and used in many Mexican dishes. They are best grown in a greenhouse but if you start them off indoors early enough they can also be grown outdoors in the ground without protection.

Sow indoors around January for if you want them to establish quickly for outdoor planting or sow anytime up to the end of March for greenhouse growing.

Sow your Jalapeno pepper seeds - adequately spaced - into either plugs or a seed tray containing John Innes ‘seed’ compost. Top them off with another 1/2 inch of compost then gently water them in. It's important that the seeds remain moist until they germinate and as such will require adequate ventilation to prevent fungal rots. If ventilation is poor you may need to spray your newly germinating seedlings with a liquid fungicide once a week to protect them.
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Once germinated – this will be normally between 7 and 24 days - pepper seedlings will require plenty of light, in fact for optimal growth they will need between 12 to 16 hours of light a day. If the weather isn’t yet suitable for planting outside then they will need to be placed onto a south-facing windowsill but remember to turn them daily to keep them from acquiring a permanent lean.

Once the seedlings have produced four leaves they will be ready to prick out into individual pots, but you need to be careful so as not to damage the fragile root system. The safest way is to gently hold onto one of the sturdier leaves while using either a pencil or slim dibber to lift the roots as intact and undisturbed as possible. When re-potting, use either a standard multipurpose compost or John Innes ‘No.1’ or ‘No.2’ potting compost.

Grow them on for another couple of weeks and they will be ready for either the greenhouse or for planting directly outside into open ground once the threat of frosts is over. Make sure you choose a location that is in full sunlight and - if you have it - mix in some mushroom compost or other organic compost to help keep the soil fertile and moist.

BUY BLACK SWEET PEPPER SEEDS
HOW TO OVERWINTER CHILLI PEPPER PLANTS

HOW TO RECOGNISE VINE WEEVIL DAMAGE ON PLANTS


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As garden pests go, the hatred that gardeners have for vine weevils is right up there along with slugs and aphids. But it’s not just the amount damage they cause that is the problem, it's the sneaky way they go about it.

The adult vine weevil – in between making a significant number of unsightly, irregular notches in the sides of your plants leaves - lays their eggs in the soil at the base of their preferred plants. That way, the newly hatched larvae can munch their way through the root system - completely unnoticed - until your plant topples over in an unrecoverable heap.

Unfortunately, not only is this often the first symptom you'll come across, it is usually far too late to do anything about it.

If that wasn't enough to worry about, vine weevil larvae will also bore into the tubers, and succulent stem bases of herbaceous plants and - if left uncontrolled - can cause absolute devastation through beloved herbaceous borders.

Vine weevil larvae - Image credit gardenerscorner.co.uk
Vine weevils are not able to survive the cold temperatures of our winters yet every year brings a new infestation, brought into the country on infected container stock. Although one or two weevils by themselves are unable to do much damage, when you consider that all vine weevils are female and each one can produce as many as 1000 larvae over the summer, you can see how quickly a localized6 infestation can occur.

They are also notoriously difficult to find - even if you do find characteristic bite marks on leaf margins - because the adults are nocturnal, only feeding at night. With container grown stock you can search for their stout, creamy white with brown head larvae by removing rootballs from their pots for inspection. But just because you didn’t see any of these grubs one week, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be there the next.

TYPICAL SYMPTOMS

Typical vine weevil damage
Clearly, different plants will show slightly different symptoms. Annuals and perennials will often turn yellow and wilt while with hardy nursery stock, the base of the stems will become loose in the ground, although this is usually a more serious problem with pot grown stock.

In almost all cases the plants will show at least some of the characteristic notching in the leaf margins.

PLANTS COMMONLY AFFECTED

Vines - obviously
Bergenia species
Cyclamen
Epimedium species
Euonymous – evergreen species
Heuchera species
Hydrangea species
Photinia species


ORGANIC CONTROL OF GREY MOULD ON TOMATO PLANTS




Grey mould is a common fungal disease that can affect many plants; however it can become quite a serious problem on tomato plants especially if they are grown under protected conditions environment such as those provide by a greenhouse. Once established in a protected environment, grey mould can be difficult to bring under control and it may in fact remain present within the environment all year round. If left uncontrolled, grey mould will eventually kill off the plants.

Cause: Initial contamination is usually from wind carried fungal spores which infect the host tomato plant through a point of damage such as insect damage, decaying plant tissue or pruning wounds. Grey mould prefers cool and humid conditions. Unfortunately these conditions will also stress the tomato plants, making them further susceptible to the disease.

Symptoms: The most characteristic symptom of a grey mould infection is a grey-brown furry mould, usually first noticed on shrivelled buds and flowers. The infection can spread rapidly – especially under damp/humid conditions and when shaken, clouds of spores are released from these infected areas. The infected areas can expand rapidly covering whole stems, leaves or petals. If left to their own devices these stem infections can ‘ring’ the whole stem and cause the plants above the infected area to wilt and die. More importantly, fungus growing on infected petals may transfer onto the fruit, leaving it inedible.

Treatment: Control of Grey Mould is all about maintaining healthy growing conditions and that means a dry, well ventilated environment. To begin with you will need to reduce the risk of spreading the disease on to other plants and so to start with, increase ventilation as best as you can and only water the plants in the mornings, and as you do so, try to stop water from touching the foliage. This will reduce humidity through the day slowing the spread and growth of new spores. Prune lower, lateral stems regularly and remove any old or dense foliage leaves as this will also improve air movement through the plants. Spray with a sulphur based fungicide for chemical control which may need to be re-applied every 7 days. However if the growing conditions are not suitably improved the infection will inevitably return.

For an organic cultural control of ‘Grey Mould’ take the following steps:

1. Cut out and remove any parts of the plant showing signs of infection.

2. Remove all plant debris from the previous crop – as this is an obvious carrier for dormant 'Grey mould’ spores that can infect the following crop. This debris should be either burned or disposed of well away from other similar crops.

3. Cover the ground below your tomatoes with either plastic sheeting or some other non-porous substitute. This will act as an effective barrier for re-infection by preventing the grey mould fungal spores from surviving in the soil and become a source of infection for the next crop.

4. If you are growing your tomatoes under protection, such as a greenhouse, wash down the walls and floors after each crop.

5. Make sure that you have adequate ventilation. If you do not, consider using fans to help move air within the greenhouse.

6. Reduce your planting density and remove the older, lower leaves from the tomato plants once the first fruits have started to swell as this will allow good air movement between the plants preventing the high humidity needed for infection.

7. Try to avoid wetting the main bulk of the plant when watering and certainly never spray your crops in the afternoon or at any time when the weather is such that the plants will be unable to properly dry out.

ORGANIC CONTROL OF CATERPILLARS
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WHAT CAUSES BLUE HYDRANGEAS TO TURN PINK?




Out of all the hydrangeas available today perhaps the most popular with English gardeners are the macrophylla cultivars. Although they come in a variety of colours from rose-pink to white and even to a deep red, it is the almost cobalt-blue flowering forms that really capture the imagination.

Unfortunately there can be a catch with these glorious blue specimens because if you soil isn't right, the stunning blue colouration – the very reason why you bought this plant - can slowly fade away, eventually to be replaced by a rather ordinary pink.

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This can be a common problem and it is all down to the acidity or to be more accurate - the alkalinity of the soil. If your soil is alkaline in nature then almost all the blue varieties will turn pink or even a reddish-purple colour. However it will also work the other way round because on acid - or even neutral soils - the pink forms can turn blue or purple.

The easiest way to prevent this colour change from happening to your blue hydrangeas is to plant them directly into an ericaceous compost mix and then - if you are watering them in a hard water area - feed with an acidic food such as Miracid or Sequestrien.

In alkaline soils, plants from the Ericaceae family – of which the hydrangea is not a member - have difficulties in taking up iron and magnesium from the soil through the roots. This is typified by characteristic inter-veinal yellowing - known as chlorosis - as both iron and manganese are vital for the formation of chlorophyll pigments within the leaves.

Iron chlorosis on hydrangea - Image credit http://pender.ces.ncsu.edu
This characteristic patterning shown by chlorosis is because the chlorophyll pigment found in the vascular bundles – the leaf veins – will remain unaffected for longer periods than chlorophyll pigment found in the cells between the vascular bundles. Also, because of the low mobility of iron within the plant and relatively higher concentrations within older leaves due to the formation of iron binding proteins, leaf discolouration is far more prevalent in the new, juvenile leaves found near to the growing points.

This will also be experienced in hydrangeas growing in alkaline soil and in extreme cases newly formed leaves can grow through almost pure white in colour.

Although the modern gardener has various products with which they can help acidify the soil around the root ball to relieve this problem is was a different matter going back a century or so to the Victorian gardener. During the latter end of the 19th Century it was common practice for Victorian gardeners to plant their hydrangeas with a healthy mix of rusty nails or old horse shoes. Both of which were made from iron an essential ingredient for the soils nutritional balance. Later, dissolving a spoonful of epsom salts in a watering can and pouring it around the rootball became a popular method. So rather than fix the acidity problem, they instead over loaded the soil with the nutrients that the plants were struggling with.

Today, pink – but originally blue - hydrangeas can be treated by spraying the leaves with soluble iron foliar feeds every 2 - 4 weeks or by lowering the soil pH. This is achieved by applying chelates, ferrous sulphate, aluminum sulphate, or sulfur to the soil surface and allowing them to dissolve into the soil by watering and rainfall. At the very least, use soluble, acidic plant fertilisers such as Miracid or Seqestrian as a weekly liquid feed. Be aware though that it will take weeks and not days for the effects to show through.

WHAT IS CHLOROSIS?




Chlorosis is a common term used to describe symptoms of uniform yellowing of leaves. It may be caused by any number of stresses and although it can affect many plant families is is most commonly seen in acid loving plants - generally known as ericaceous but this is not strictly accurate - such as Rhododendrons, camelias Pieris, and Liquidamber.

In alkaline soils, plants from the Ericaceae family have difficulties in taking up iron and magnesium from the substrate through the roots. This is typified by the characteristic inter-veinal yellowing - known as chlorosis - as both iron and manganese are vital for the formation of chlorophyll pigments within the leaves.

This characteristic patterning is a direct response to these specific nutrient deficiencies and occurs because the chlorophyll pigment found in the vascular bundles – the leaf veins – will remain unaffected for longer periods than chlorophyll pigment found in the cells between the vascular bundles.

Also, because of the low mobility of iron within the plant and relatively higher concentrations within older leaves due to the formation of iron binding proteins, leaf discolouration is far more prevalent in the new, juvenile leaves found near to the growing points. In extreme cases newly formed leaves can grow through almost pure white in colour.

Chorosis can be treated by spraying the leaves with soluble iron foliar feeds every 2 -4 weeks or by lowering the soil pH. This is achieved by applying chelates, ferrous sulphate, aluminum sulphate, or sulfur to the soil surface and allowing them to dissolve into the soil by watering and rainfall. At the very least, use soluble, acidic plant fertilisers such as Miracid or Seqestrian as a weekly liquid feed. Be aware that it will take weeks and not days for the effects to show through.
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WHAT ARE THE NATURAL PREDATORS OF PLANT LICE?




Aphids are probably the most successful - and as such perhaps the most hated - of all the garden pests. Commonly known as ‘plant lice’ or green/black and whitefly in the United Kingdom, aphids can rapidly colonise the soft tissue parts of many ornamental and edible plants reducing their vigour, and productivity. Aphids can also act as a host for transferring viral and bacterial disease.

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With many plant pests you can usually get away with a 'live and let live' attitude as the affect plant - so long as it was reasonably healthy in the first place - will usually grow through any low level damage with no long term effect. Unfortunately when it comes to aphids, if they left to their own devices, the colonised part of the plants will become stunted and withered, and in extreme cases the whole plant may die.

For those wishing to garden organically there are a number of ‘natural sprays’ that you can either ‘buy off the shelf’ or concoct yourself, but there is always the risk of killing off beneficial insects in the process. The truly 'organic way is to call to your plants defences those naturally occurring, native predators who would like nothing more than to get their pincer-like mandibles into a plump, and juicy aphid. The three most commonly occurring native predators are listed below.

LADYBIRDS

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Ladybirds - also known as ‘ladybugs’ – are one of the more easily identifiable aphid predators and can eat over 5000 aphids (or other soft body insects) during their lifetime which is usually about a year. Surprisingly there are about 42 species found in the UK, and although most have the common red and black colouration you will find there are other combinations such as yellow with black spots, and white with black spots.

It is not just the adult ladybird that seems to have an almost insatiable appetite for aphids their larvae will also forage aggressively for aphids.

Adult Ladybirds lay up to 50 yellow Ladybird eggs per day on the undersides of leaves. This equates to up to 1500 eggs in their lifetime although some of the eggs are infertile, thought to be used as a food source for juvenile ladybird larvae.

Most ladybird varieties are excellent predators of pest insects and can usually be found in the garden from March to October.

LACEWINGS

Image credit - http://www.aphotofauna.com/
Lacewings are common insects in British gardens and are easy to recognise by their transparent lace-like wings, which are nearly twice as long as the abdomen. Although adult lacewings feed only on pollen and nectar, their larvae will voraciously attack almost any prey they can fit in their mouths although they seem to have a preference for aphids, other soft-bodied insects and their eggs.
In fact the adults will seek out areas of honey dew - the sugary solution excreted by aphids - in order to find suitable places for laying their eggs.

Lacewing larvae have unusual sucking mouth parts made up of a pair of extremely long, slender and conspicuous mandibles – jaws - that curve forward from the front of the head. These mandibles are tubular in structure, like a pair of hypodermic needles, and are sunk into their preys body and then used to suck out the bodily fluids.

Lacewings can be encouraged to remain in your garden by providing homes for their winter hibernation. That way they will be ready to lay their eggs and help to control your aphids when they emerge from hibernation in the spring.

HOVERFLIES

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Hoverflies are easily recognised by their generally bright colours and hovering ability. They use bright colours so as to mimic wasp colouration to avoid attack by birds and other predators.

While the adult hoverflies will spend much of their life on flowers, feeding on pollen and nectar, their well camouflaged larvae will go largely unnoticed as they crawl over foliage in search of their aphid prey.

Over 250 species have been recorded in the UK, and in fact more than 85 species have been found in a single garden. You can expect to see adult hoverflies between March and early November.

HOW TO CONTROL BLACKFLY ON TOMATO PLANTS





Because of its origins in South America, the tomato plant has very few natural pests here in Great Britain, although it will suffer the scourge of common glasshouse pests if they are grown under protection. In fact, you are far more likely to experience problems when growing under glass or in a grow bag than you will ever get when growing directly into well prepared soil.

Blackfly belong to the aphid family and if left to their own devices can turn into a severe infestation stunting the growth of you plants and reducing your tomato crops yield.

Cause: Blackfly are a well known pest insect that can quickly colonise the soft tissue parts of your plant. They damage and weaken the plant by sucking the sap out of pressurised parenchyma cells just below the leave cuticle.

Symptoms: Clusters of these small insects are readily identifiable, normally at the plants tips or on the underside of their leaves. In severe cases, the infected parts can begin to wither due to the quantity of sap being removed from that area. The foliage can become sticky and may show signs of a harmless, black mould called sooty mould.

Treatment: There are many chemical treatments available including a number of organic, but all of these must be applied at the first signs of infection to achieve the best results. Try applying contact insecticides such as pyrethrum, derris or soft soap solutions as these are the best option for organic gardeners. Alternatively you can try planting 'companion plants' to help draw in natural aphid preditors.

How to Grow Giant Tomatoes

HOW TO CONTROL GREENHOUSE WHITEFLY ON TOMATO PLANTS





Because of its origins in South America, the tomato plant has very few natural pests here in Great Britain although it will suffer the scourge of common glasshouse pests if they are grown under protection. In fact, you are far more likely to experience problems when growing under glass or in a grow bag than you will ever get when growing directly into well prepared soil.

Whitefly are a well known pest of protected crops and if left to their own devices can smother and eventually kill off the host plants.

Cause: Greenhouse whiteflies are a well known pest insect on protected crops and can quickly colonise the soft tissue parts of your plant. They damage and weaken the plant by sucking the sap out of pressurised parenchyma cells just below the leave cuticle.

Symptoms: Like aphids, whiteflies have piercing-sucking mouth parts so the damage caused is very similar to that of aphids. Direct damage to tomato plants can cause deformed new growth and wilting, chlorotic leaves. Whiteflies can also transmit some plant viruses, so if your plant becomes infected, immediately remove and destroy. Also like aphids, whiteflies secrete honeydew, upon which an unsightly - yet harmless - sooty mould will grow on. Feeding by whiteflies can also cause deformed fruit and discoloration of your tomatoes.

Treatment: There are many chemical treatments available including a number of organic, but all of these must be applied at the first signs of infection to achieve the best results. Try applying contact insecticides such as pyrethrum, derris or soft soap solutions as these are the best option for organic gardeners.

Perhaps the most commonly used organic method is the biological control of whitefly by its natural predator Encarsia formosa. This parasitic wasp attacks the whitefly by depositing an egg within the host body then, after about 10 days, the parasitized host will turn brown as wasp pupation occurs. After another 10 days the emerging adult wasp will appear and will, in turn, parasitize more whiteflies.

How to Grow Giant Tomatoes

HOW TO CONTROL LEAF MINER ON TOMATO PLANTS





Because of its origins in South America, the tomato plant has very few natural pests here in Great Britain although it will suffer the scourge of common glasshouse pests if they are grown under protection. In fact, you are far more likely to experience problems when growing under glass or in a grow bag than you will ever get when growing directly into well prepared soil.

The leaf miner adult - and more specifically the larvae - is one of those pests that can be quite difficult to control on tomatoes irrespective of whether they are grown under protection or not and its all down to their unusual life-cycle.

Cause: Leaf miners are small larvae which burrow in-between the leaf layers. You may also come across small puncture marks on new leaves caused by the adult females during the feeding and oviposition processes. Sometimes this can also result in a stippled appearance on foliage.

Symptoms: Typically the first signs you will come across are white ‘wiggle’ marks in the leaves which is the major form of damage by the larvae, and will result in the destruction of the internal leaf mesophyll. The mine becomes noticeable after about three or four days after oviposition and becomes larger in size as the larva matures. Both leaf mining and the stippling caused by the female adult can greatly reduce the leafs ability to photosynthesise. Extensive mining can also cause premature leaf drop.

Control: Leaf miner are difficult to control using a contact insecticides as they are pretty much out of reach, protected by the leaf membrane. They can be controlled though by a systemic insecticide but then you probably wouldn’t want to risk eating the crop afterwards. This is one of those cases where it may be best to leave them alone - other than picking off and destroying the worst affected parts of the plant. In fact, your tomato plants can have as much as 60% of its foliage affected with leaf miner without affecting the fruit or its growth. After harvesting your crop, you can try double digging the soil where the tomatoes grew as the adult leaf miners experience difficulty in emerging if they are buried. You can try repeating this several times over the winter before re-planting your crops in the late spring.

How to Grow Giant Tomatoes

NECTAR RICH PLANTS FOR ATTRACTING LONG TONGUED BUMBLE BEES




Bees have had a rough time of it over the past few years although with most of the news hitting the headlines is to do with naturalised honey bees and the terrible problems with CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). However, our native bumblebees have also been suffering population declines and no more so than the specialist, long-tongued bumble bees.

Unlike the honey bee, bumble bee colonies only store enough pollen and honey to last them a few days should poor weather – or even a temporary lack of suitable nectar rich flowering plants - prevent them from foraging for food. This makes them so much more vulnerable than honey bees to food shortages and therefore it’s vitally important for them to secure nesting sites which can provide constant access to nectar-rich plants throughout the spring, summer and autumn.

Bumble bee nest
In order to help develop local populations of bumble bees in your area it is essential to provide a succession of early flowering nectar-rich plants. This is a particularly important resource as it provides food for the queen bumblebees as they emerge in March from their over-winter hibernation. From this point on, the queen must then single-handedly find enough food to mature her eggs, establish a nest, and rear the first batch of workers.

Once the worker bees have matured, they take on the role of searching for nectar and pollen which, is in turn, used to help rear more workers. Towards the end of the season, the queen begins to stop the production of worker bee eggs, and instead eggs are laid to produce male bees and new queens. These new queens will then found their own colonies the following year, but if they are unable to find a nesting site that is able to provide a season long succession of nectar-rich flowers then the colony will fail and the bumble bees will die.

The single most important thing required for the success of a healthy bumble bee colony is this succession of suitable plants that will provide energy rich pollen and nectar for the whole season – it simply cannot be over stated enough. With the continual loss of habitat combined with the over use of systemic insecticides - which kill off both pest insects as well as beneficial pollinating insects - it has now come down to those of us who have a passion for the environment to repair the damage and provide the natural resources that modern farming and gardening practises have taken away from our native bees.

Below is a list of just a few of the pollen rich plants – and their succession flowering times - that could make all the difference to saving declining native bee populations.

SPRING

Chives – This hardy perennial herb is an easy to grow and increases rapidly. Given a warm spring, chives can come into flower as early as the end of April and can last well into June – a time when there are few suitable plants are in flower. Chives will produce these wonderful ornamental flower heads which burst out into spherical clusters of small deep flowers with superb rich nectar – particularly favoured by early bumble bees – making it an extremely valuable, early source of food. Chives thrive in a medium, loamy soil in either full sun or semi shade. Not only will they grow well in most well drained garden soil, they will also do surprisingly well in window boxes should you be short of space or without a garden!

Ajuga –‘Catlans Giant’ – This hardy herbaceous perennial is as tough as old boots and can be planted any time provided the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged. They are generally trouble free with flowering spikes of deep blue flowers ideal for long tongued specialist bees.

White dead-nettle – Lamium species. Although this is a rather rare native plant to the British Isles, it is under commercial production so availability should be good from most plant retailers. As its name suggests it is similar in look to the common stinging nettle though fortunately, the leaves of this species are soft and not stinging. Its flowers are white, consisting of two lips with a wide-open "mouth" between them, and again are ideal for native long-tongued bees. They will happily survive in poor to medium soils and are suitable in a shaded position. Look out for other plants from the Lamium family as many of them are suitable as nectar rich plants for attracting bees.

Ribes – ornamental or edible fruiting currents – The family of flowering currants provides plenty of reliable performers for the spring garden, blooming every year without any special care needed or to be given. Perhaps the most ornamental variety is 'King Edward VII' which makes a compact, upright plant that drips with dark red flowers. Ribes will thrive in most ordinary, well drained soils in either full sun or light shade. Plants can be left un-pruned, but for the best performance it is worth cutting the branches that have flowered back to a strong pair of buds just after they have bloomed. For best results, top dress with a well-rotted farm manure in April. Look out for Ribes aureaum - alternatively known as R. tenuiflorum – which is a native to North America and commonly known as the golden or buffalo current.

SUMMER

Agastache – another member of the lamium family, this fragrant plant produces upright spikes of tubular, two-lipped flowers develop at the stem tips in summer. The flowers are usually white, pink, mauve, or purple, with the bracts that back the flowers being of the same or a slightly contrasting colour.

Foxgloves - This native European woodland plant is now readily available in many cultivated forms, all of which are attractive to native bees. It is a popular biennial for shaded places, perennial if the flower stems are cut back promptly to prevent self-seeding. They are happy in most good soils but will require a healthy dose of well-rotted farm manure to get the most out of them. With some of the new varieties looking absolute spectacular in flower, they are a must for the ornamental garden, just make sure that they are watered well in dry weather.

.Honeysuckle – This native European climber is an old favourite when it come to pollinating insects, and their rings of curved, almost tubular shaped individual flowers are ideal for long-tongued bees. Plant so the roots are in shade but the stems and flowers can grow out into the sun.

LATE SUMMER – EARLY AUTUMN

Monarda species – so popular are plants from this family with bees that its common name is known as Bee Balm. This native of North America has very distinctive flower-heads with each one consists of a large number of curving tubular flowers growing out from a central point. As the flowers mature they create a shaggy and characteristic dome of petals. The plant has a long flowering season, from early summer to early autumn, and blooms almost continuously if dead-headed periodically. It prefers a free-draining yet moist oil in full sun although it can tolerate semi shade.

Delphiniums - Delphiniums are one of the classic flowers of the traditional summer garden but keep away from the double flowering types are these produce little nectar and are unsuitable for bumble bees and other pollinating insects. Their tall upright spikes laden with intensely-coloured flowers are a feature of herbaceous borders, where they are best grown near the back to add height and drama. Although the flowering season can be relatively short, delphiniums can often be coaxed into producing a few later flowers if the flower spikes are cut down as soon as the blooms are over.

PESTICIDES TOXIC TO HONEY BEES

HOW TO GROW EUCOMIS PLANTS FROM SEED




Even though Eucomis species are a relative newcomer to the English garden, their tropical looks and excellent winter hardiness have already made them a sure-fire hit. Originating from the ‘summer rainfall’ regions of South Africa, the native habitat of this plant is surprisingly varied. Comprising of a mixture of grassland, woodland and even the odd mountainside, what more proof do you need of this plants ability to adapt to the garden environment.

It isn't just its exotic looks and easy-to-grow characteristics that has made this species poplar amongst passionate gardeners, they are also very simple to propagate – especially from seed.

If you are collecting Eucomis seed yourself then allow the seed pods to fully dry out on plants first before collecting. Then, choosing a dry sunny day; remove the pods, but these will need to be broken into before you can retrieve the seeds. One they are in possession, the seeds can then be placed in a labelled envelope, and stored in a cool, dry place over the winter.

The best time to sow Eucomis seeds is in the spring, but you will also get a good take in the autumn. After you have prepared a compost mix of 3 parts John Innes seed ‘compost’ to 1 part perlite, use it to fill 4 inch deep pots or plug trays - the depth here is important for root and bulblet development. Gently dampen the surface of the soil with water, then thinly sow the seed. If you are using plug trays then sow no more than 2 seeds per plug with a view to removing the weaker seedling once they have germinated. Eucomis seeds also require light to germinate so give them a thin covering of perlite just to help keep the moisture in. Place you plug-tray (or pots) in a propagator or cover with clear plastic, then place them in a bright room at a temperature of around 15 -20° Celsius ie, normal room temperature. Keep the surface of the compost moist, but not waterlogged and the seeds should then germinate within 4-6 weeks. At the first sign of germination remove any covers to prevent fungal infections.

When they are large enough to handle, the seedlings can be individually transplanted into 3 inch pots using the same compost mix as described above. As soon as the threat of frosts is over they can be taken outside (under the sheltered protection of a cold frame) to be gradually acclimatised to outdoor conditions. This should take no more than 2-3 weeks, after which they can be planted into their permanent position. For best results, plant the seedlings into a rich, well-drained soil in full sun. However if you area experience cold wet winter they may need some sort of cover to help keep the root environment dry.

In cooler climates the seedlings may need additional protection for the first couple of years and so it’s worth planting them while still keeping them in their pots. That way, they can be easily lifted and brought under protection. If this is the case, then they will be strong enough to plant permanently in the garden in their third year, but again, if you area experience cold wet winter they may need some sort of cover to help keep the root environment dry. Like most bulb, from the time of germination they will then take any time from 3-5 years before they are mature enough to bloom.
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HOW TO CONTROL RED SPIDER MITE ON TOMATO PLANTS





Because of its origins in South America, the tomato plant has very few natural pests here in Great Britain, although it will suffer the scourge of common glasshouse pests if they are grown under protection. In fact, you are far more likely to experience problems when growing under glass or in a grow bag than you will ever get when growing directly into well prepared soil.

The red spider mite - also known as the 'Two Spotted Spider Mite' - is one of those glasshouse pests that can be quite common on tomatoes grown under protections. Unfortunately it can also prove quite difficult to control.

Causes: Like the whitefly this is another fast-colonising pest usually found on protected crops. The red spider mite is a tiny wingless insects - up to about 1 mm long - with eight legs and a one-piece body. Young and adult mites feed on the leaves extracting sap and soft plant cells.

Symptoms: The first sign of a red spider mite infestation are either small spider webs - often high up on the plant - or white speckling on the upper surface of the leaves. As the attack progresses, they take on a bronzed appearance and may wither and die. A fine webbing is produced, strung between parts of the plant or under the leaves. Using a magnifying glass the red spider mites and their eggs can be seen on the undersides of the leaves. In an unheated greenhouse the worst attacks occur from June to September, but red spider mites can be active year round. Serious damage to the plant is only done when population numbers dramatically increase resulting in leaf, flower and even fruit death.

Control: Spray plants with a fine mist of water, twice daily, as the spider mite can only thrive in hot dry conditions. Also try applying contact insecticides such as pyrethrum, derris or soft soap solutions as these are the best option for organic gardeners. They will need to be applied every 5-7 days during the summer on both the upper and lower sides of the leaves. Biological controls can be used safely 1-2 weeks after spraying with Derris, 4 days after pyrethrum and 1 day after soft soap sprays. For an effective home-made solution try making a rhubarb spray. It contains the toxin ‘oxalic acid’ which appears to suck the moisture out of them!

How to Grow Giant Tomatoes

GREY MOULD ON TOMATOES





On the whole, tomatoes are generally quite disease resistant, especially if grown outside. However when grown under protection, poor ventilation and high humidity can make them ripe for fungal attacks.

Perhaps the most common of all the fungal attacks you are likely to come across is 'Grey Mould' a very common and widespread disease of buds and flowers common to many host plants.

Cause: Grey mould is a common fungal disease that can affect many plants; however it can become quite a serious problem on tomato plants especially if they are grown under protected conditions environment such as those provide by a greenhouse. Once established in a protected environment, grey mould can be difficult to treat and it may in fact remain present within the environment all year round. If left uncontrolled, grey mould will eventually kill off the plants.


Initial contamination is usually from wind carried fungal spores which infect the host tomato plant through a point of damage such as insect bites, decaying plant tissue or fresh cuts caused by pruning. Grey mould also prefers cool and humid conditions which unfortunately will stress the tomato plants, making them further susceptible to the disease.

Symptoms: The most characteristic symptoms of a grey mould infection is a grey-brown furry mould, usually first noticed on shrivelled buds and flowers. The infection can spread rapidly – especially under damp/humid conditions, and when shaken, clouds of spores are released from these infected areas. The infected areas can expand rapidly covering whole stems, leaves or petals, and if left to their own devices these stem infections can ‘ring’ the whole stem and cause the plants above the infected area to wilt and die. More importantly, fungus growing on infected petals can transfer onto the fruit, leaving it inedible

Treatment: Control of grey mould is all about maintaining healthy growing conditions and that means a dry, well ventilated environment. To begin with you need to reduce the risk of spreading the disease onto other plants and so to start with, increase ventilation as best as you can and only water plants in the mornings. As you do so, try to stop water from touching the foliage as this will help to reduce humidity throughout the day, slowing the spread and growth of new spores. Prune out lateral stems regularly and remove any old or dense foliage leaves as this too will improve air movement around the plants. Spray with a sulphur based fungicide as a chemical control which may need to be re-applied every 7 days. However if the growing conditions are not suitably improved the infection will inevitably return.

How to Grow Giant Tomatoes