Hartley Magazine

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

Tomatoes, Apples and Roses

Tomatoes bought from shops and supermarkets are pale imitation of those grown at home, lacking not only the flavour but the rich aroma of those grown in your greenhouse. To ensure good crops, keep them well shaded, ventilated, fed and watered throughout the growing season and remove the leaf just above the fourth truss to ensure that the fruits ripen by the end of the season. (Bush tomatoes growing in the greenhouse do not need any leaves removing.) Use the predatory wasp Encarsia formosa as a natural predator to control whitefly in the greenhouse and feed with Epsom Salts at one teaspoon per gallon at the first signs of yellowing to avoid magnesium deficiency. Once the plants have set fruit, give them two or three feeds with general fertilizer to boost their health and vigor plant before reverting to high potash fertilizer for the rest of the season.

Although Apple trees shed some fruit from the end of June to early July, those still bearing large crops can be thinned further to ensure larger fruit and avoid the problem of a tree exhausting itself and taking a year off to recover. It also improves ripening and reduces fungal problems by improving air circulation. Remove any fruit that are blemished or damaged and the ‘king’ or central fruit, plus any which are small or mis-shapen, leaving a fruit every four to six inches depending on the vigor of the cultivar (the average hand span is around six inches across). Thin pears too, leaving one or two fruits per cluster and apricots to three inches apart when they are the size of hazelnuts, leaving plums with pairs of fruit six inches apart.

Although lawns turn brown during drought, they have a remarkable capacity for recovery as all of the worlds grasslands testify. If you prefer a green lawn, use a sprinkler once a week unless your local water supplier has implemented a hosepipe ban. Place the sprinkler where the water falls on the lawn, not the surrounding paths and place a jar in the catchment area marked at ½” from the base. Turn on your sprinker in the evening and stop watering when it has reached this level as it is the required volume to avoid wasting water while still providing enough for the roots to keep the grass green.

Roses are traditionally budded onto rootstocks or wild species like that often sprout unwanted stems of their own, known as ‘suckers’, which are more vigorous than the plant you want to grow and deprive your chosen rose of invaluable nutrients. As soon as suckers appear, clear away the soil and tear them off at the point where they are connected to the root and replace the soil. Don’t be tempted to cut them off near the root or at ground level, it stimulates the dormant buds below and rather than having a single stem, you’ll end up with several and an even greater problem. Take care when hoeing around roses because damage to the rootstock stimulates ‘suckers’ too. Some are more prone to ‘suckering’ than others; the only way to avoid the problem is to buy roses grown on their own roots or propagate them from hardwood cuttings. Happy gardening!