Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Less is More

I have been gradually thinning out fruit on my apple cordons and as always, it is all a matter of judgement. Cooking apples should be around 15-22.5cm (6-9”) apart as the fruit is generally larger: dessert apples should be 10-15cm (4-6”) apart, removing the ‘king fruit’, the one in the centre, which is usually malformed. The plant often shows you which fruit should be removed as the picture illustrates.Image - August 2015 (1 of 1)

Rainfall in Hertfordshire has been below average, so removing more fruit will compensate for lack of moisture in the soil.

‘Side shooting’ tomato plants when the greenhouse is cool, is an enjoyable and leisurely job. Break off the side shoots between the main stem and leaves, on cordon tomatoes when they are about 2.5cm (1”) long, with your finger and thumb, so water is diverted into the developing fruit and sunlight can reach them, too. Once your tomato plants have reached the top of the greenhouse or have seven trusses of fruit, pinch out the main shoot two leaves above the top truss and continue feeding with high potash tomato fertiliser to encourage ripening.

Although your tomatoes, bedding  and hanging baskets need feeding through the growing season, you should stop feeding shrubs by mid August, so the wood ripens before the first frosts. If they have made lots of soft growth, a couple of feeds of high potash fertiliser, ensures that the wood ripens, well before the first frosts.

Rhododendrons and camellias form next year’s flower buds from mid – summer until September. During this time it is vital that the compost or soil around them does not dry out. If it does, buds will either not be formed or plants will shed those that they have already made. Check them daily and water before the onset of dry weather, using stored rain water, or ‘soft water’ to keep the soil moist and build up a bid store of buds for the spring.

It’s important to make arrangements for someone to look after your houseplants while you’re on holiday. Ideally ask a neighbour who’s keen on gardening, who will have an instinct for the job. If your kitchen draining board is not in direct, scorching sunshine, group all your houseplants there, right by a water source otherwise the bathroom will be fine. Write down the instructions clearly on a piece of paper or stick them on the side of each pot, then go through the instructions with your friend  before you leave. Alternatively, fill the sink with water and stand them all on an old towel or capillary matting with one end dipped in water to act as a wick; single plants can be watered using a wick of a cotton shoelace or a piece of wool. Many houseplants enjoy a holiday of their own and are happy outside in a shady spot between the last frost of spring and before the first frosts of autumn being fed and watered with your other container plants. Happy Gardening! Matt