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Veg update: carrots, spinach, lettuce, beans and tomatoes

Time for a look at how the veg are getting along, and with the weather having been fair for most of this month, they’re doing quite nicely.

First, the mixed pot of carrots and spring onions:


I finally got around to thinning out the carrots a couple of days ago, but only on completion of my carrot fly barrier, which I fashioned from 8 build-a-balls, 12 pieces of bamboo cane cut to length and a fine gauge plastic mesh cover sewn together with nylon thread:


Not exactly a thing of beauty but it should stop carrot flies from getting in there to lay their eggs and ruin the crop, which is something you risk any time you touch or handle carrot foliage because carrot flies can smell them from literally a mile away! At around ¬£18 for the materials it’s quite an expense to go to for a handful of carrots (!), but it will of course be reusable from year to year so will hopefully be worth it in the end.

Next to them is the spinach:


I’ve had some aphids on them already, which I removed by hand, but no other problems. I’m not quite sure why they are all such different sizes but I guess the smaller ones will catch up. I’ve thinned down to just the four plants now, so I hope none of them fail!

A couple of feet from the carrots and spinach is my pot of lettuce:


Looking pretty good. I’ve kept the cat deterrent wire over them because it isn’t really in the way yet – I’ll probably remove it when the row I’ve sown in the space on the left start to come through. I’ve had to remove the odd aphid but I’ve had no more attacks from slugs and snails, so maybe the copper tape does work most of the time?

Next there are my french beans (Castandel):


They look good from a distance but close up there are one or two problems becoming apparent, chiefly little holes in the leaves which appear to have been made by some tiny caterpillars (since removed, obviously!). There are also a few aphids kicking around so I’m keeping a very watchful eye. Thankfully no slugs or snails have gotten past the copper tape, and I’ve decided to leave the wire cat deterrent permanently in place as it may serve as a handy support as the beans grow.

Last but not least here are the tomatoes:



They are now reaching the height of the third arris rail and have about four or five stalks of flowers each with set fruit on the lowest trusses, so doing okay I reckon. Both varieties that I’m growing (Sungold and Matina) are cordon types, so I’m diligently removing sideshoots as and when I spot them. Other than that they give me little to do beyond slopping some water into the outer troughs of the growpots every second day or so and some feed (Tomorite) into the inner pots once a week.

Mind you, they never are much trouble pest-wise – it’s disease that’s always the problem, namely blight. Growing out of doors I pretty much know that it will strike at some point, and I just have to hope that it will be late enough in the season to have picked most of my tomatoes, or at least to have had a decent crop. Fingers crossed for a hot, dry summer…


Tomatoes and container-grown veg – early June update

First, a side-by-side comparison photo of my 3 tomatoes in a growbag:



In spite of the fact that we had a cold and rainy end to May, they’ve grown away nicely and are starting to flower well. I’m following the growpot watering instructions to the letter, though I have to say that on hot days I’m sorely tempted to reach for the watering can whether I’m supposed to be watering them or not! Force of habit, I suppose.

Moving on to my container veg, we have germination!

First, the carrots and spring onions:


…need a bit of thinning, I think! I will have to be careful not to attract the attentions of any passing carrot flies, however.

Then we have the perpetual spinach:


I’m aiming to have just 4 plants in this pot – one in each corner – so I’m thinning them progressively as I decide which the strongest seedlings are.

Next, the cut-and-come-again lettuce:


Just the two rows for the moment – I’ll be sowing again in a couple of weeks for a succession. The wire fencing circle is to deter cats from using it as a litter tray, by the way – one of the many little delights of suburban gardening!

And finally, the dwarf french beans:


Same deal with the wire fencing – it will be removed when the plants have filled enough space to deter the cats without assistance.

I’m trying the variety “Castandel” again since I had reasonable success with it last year. This time I didn’t bother trying to get a head start by sowing indoors in pots as I found germination was very poor doing it that way last year; I just sowed direct into the pot outdoors in late May and they’ve come through pretty well. I’ve certainly got enough!

Mind you, if the slugs and snails have their way, I won’t have many for long, so I’m trying out copper tape on all my veg pots to see if it actually will protect them:


I’ve applied a double row so that the big slugs can’t arch over the tape without touching it, and made sure that nothing is overhanging or touching the tops of the pots to make a bridge for them to bypass the tape, so I hope I’ve given the product the best chance of working. I’ve read mixed reviews about it so I have to say that I’m somewhat sceptical, but if it does work I’ll be very happy not to have to use poison pellets around something I’m intending to eat. (If I used nothing at all, with the vast army of slugs and snails in my garden, I wouldn’t have a leaf or stalk to my name by the end of June, I’m afraid!)

So we shall see…fingers crossed!

Now I just have to work out how I’m going to stop everything getting sucked dry by aphids…


Tomatoes in grow bags: how to drain?

I am confused.

I have grown tomatoes in grow bags for many years now and have always, without thinking, punctured several drainage holes directly underneath the bag.

Why do I do this? Because all gardeners know that unless you’re creating a pond, you need drainage holes – good, big ones! – or your plants will quickly turn to a waterlogged mush and will be ruined. We just¬†know it.

Therefore, it came as some surprise to me this morning when, for once, I actually bothered to read the instructions on my grow bag (a Levington Tomorite Giant Tomato Planter) that it specifically said NOT to make holes in the underside of the bag but to put them halfway up the side.

Really? But?…but?…won’t the roots drown and my plants die a sodden death??

Clearly the makers of grow bags know less about how best to use their product than I do (!) so I was about to ignore them and reach for the scissors when it occurred to me to read the instructions for the growpots that I like to use along with the bags and discovered that they too recommended NOT making holes in the underside of the bag but halfway up it instead, as per the following diagram:


I then went scouting round the internet to see if I could find a consensus of opinion but came back none the wiser. Some people advise making holes in the base of the bag, some don’t. Helpful!

So what have I decided? I’m taking a deep breath, crossing my fingers and doing it the makers’ way by putting the holes halfway up the bag – yikes! It goes against all my instincts and I am already convinced that my plants will keel over by July, but nonetheless, if I don’t try it I’ll never know!

The tomatoes, newly planted up – “Sungold” at each end and “Matina” in the middle:


To make this a fair test I will of course be adhering absolutely to the watering regime suggested by the growpot manufacturer, which goes as follows:

  1. On planting, water inner pot with 0.5 litres and outer trough with about 2 litres.
  2. For the next two weeks, do not water the outer trough (I am presuming I can water the inner pot if it looks very dry??)
  3. For the next 3-4 weeks pour 1 litre of water into the outer trough every 2-3 days. The inner pot should not be allowed to dry out and should be watered at least once a week.
  4. When plants have matured the outer trough may need filling with water every day depending how hot and sunny it is.
  5. To check for over-watering, one should squeeze the bag close to the drain holes and if any seeps out cease watering for a day.


Feeding should be done according to the feed instructions, applying it to the inner pot.


It does seem a bit hit and miss to me, but we’ll see!