Hartley Magazine

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

Seasonal tips for harvesting and ripening.

It is interesting how different each year can be. In 2023, I had no problems with red spider mite, whitefly, or blossom end rot on the tomatoes; I cannot recall when that last happened, or if it has ever happened at all. It is down to a cool summer where temperatures have been warm enough to ripen almost everything in the greenhouse, with a few stragglers remaining, like sweet peppers, chillies and aubergines, but not to make it ideal for pests and problems. Even in an unheated glasshouse, it is better to allow crops to ripen on the plant for as long as possible, watering with high potash tomato fertiliser to encourage ripening, removing any leaves shading the crop and most importantly, making sure everything is harvested before the first frosts.

The hidden squash, revealed!

When I was ill earlier in the year and unable to garden, I received a batch of small plants from a friend, (www.pippagreenwood.com) which were planted in in the greenhouse and outdoors. An outdoor squash which was inadvertently planted in the greenhouse under the cucumbers, has been remarkably successful compared to those growing outdoors in cooler conditions. I must confess I have never thought of planting outdoor squashes indoors before, but it has performed so well in a poor summer, I will certainly be planting one a year in the greenhouse from now on. Sometimes you just ‘get lucky’ in gardening; living proof that we all learn from experience.

When you finally pick the last of your last tomatoes, sweet peppers, and chillies, leave them to ripen on a sunny windowsill or pop them in a paper bag with a ripe banana or pear. Already ripened fruit produces ethylene and will soon do the same for your crops.

Blemish free tomatoes can be stored in a cool drawer and taken out for ripening in the fruit bowl, when needed in winter. (I remember my mother doing this when I was a child. In the chest of draws in my bedroom, it was top draw: jumpers, second draw, trousers, third draw tomatoes, fourth draw, socks!) Check them regularly, removing any showing signs of decay and make sure they are not packed too closely or touch each other. Tomatoes stored like this do not have the same taste as those that are sun ripened but they are full of goodness and a tempting taste of things to come.

Pot on cuttings of tender plants once they have rooted, into 7.5cm pots of peat free multipurpose compost, making sure they are protected over winter, taking care not to overwater. If your greenhouse is unheated, put them in a spare room or a cool, bright frost-free place.

Hippeastrum bulbs which are now for sale are ideal for bringing cheer to Christmas and the New Year. Start them into growth, watering sparingly at first; just trickling tepid water around the bulb, increasing the amount as growth increases. Once they are actively growing, keep the compost moist but not waterlogged and take care not to wet the flower bud when watering. Keep them at around 20 C. Once they are growing well, they can be moved indoors, ready for you to enjoy the flowers.

Happy gardening, Matt.