Labour Weekend has arrived and it is the traditional time for gardeners to plant out their more tender plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and Impatiens.
Even planting out on Labour Weekend can often be too soon for tender plants if a late frost happens. So what can one do to reduce the damage and be able to plant out?
What I do is spray the plants three days before planting out with Vaporgard. This does give frost protection down to minus 3 for up to 3 months on the foliage sprayed. It also does another important thing in so much as it shields the foliage from UV which means the plant grows more vigorously as it is able to capture more energy from the sun. The film over the foliage also means the plant requires less watering, reduces transplant shock and gives a degree of protection from pests and diseases.
Ideally with tomatoes you should not plant out all the plants you wish to grow in one hit.
Plant a few now, wait a month and plant a few more. I keep doing this right up till February which means a constant supply of fresh tomatoes right into winter.
If you find that by the end of November you cant buy any more tomato plants, no problem, just strike the laterals (side shoots) off your existing plants as cuttings. The best way to do this is to spray the side shoot, a few days before removing, with Vaporgard and then strike as a cutting in moist sand.
Many gardeners lose their tomato plants during the season to a stem rot.
What happens is that the plants get up to about a metre tall, looking really great with flowers and fruit forming and next thing the plant starts to droop. The collapse quickens over the next few days and bye, bye tomato plant.
A disease has entered the plant, likely when you removed laterals, leaves or was damaged in the wind.
The disease attacks on one part of the trunk where the area becomes darker as the rot sets in, cutting off the transfer of moisture from the roots and energy from the sun back down.
Aerial roots will often form as little bumps above the affected area where the plant is desperately trying to produce new roots to save its life.
The solution to the problem is to only remove laterals on a sunny day when the air is dry, not humid.
Spray the wound immediately with Liquid Copper to protect.
Interestingly I had a gardener last season that told me that as soon as he noticed the darker patch on the trunk he painted undiluted Liquid Copper on the area and was able to arrest the disease. Worth a try if it happens to you and the disease has not got too far advanced. Spraying the tomato plants once a month with Perkfection can also assist in prevention. If blights start to occur spray the plants with the Perkfection (monthly) and also spray Liquid Copper with Raingard every 10 to 14 days till the disease period is past.
If growing tomato plants in a glasshouse or indoors (must be in full sun) you may need to, on a nice sunny day, tap the plants to cause a little vibration so that the pollen will move to set the tomatoes.
Hormone sprays for setting fruit such as Full-Set are no longer available.
To overcome whitefly problems sprinkle Neem Tree Granules around near the base of the plants and repeat every 6-8 weeks with a little more. I have found by doing this, that I have no whitefly problems on my tomatoes in the glasshouse or outside. Start as soon as you plant.
This will also assist in control of the new pest, the tomato/potato psyllid. An occasional spray of Neem Tree Oil will be advisable especially as summer progresses.
Another important thing is to keep the soil or growing medium moist but not wet. If growing in containers and the mix dries out too much you will get a problem called blossom end rot where the base of the tomato is black coming towards maturity. It is caused by a lack of calcium at the time the fruit was setting, as a result of insufficient moisture to move the calcium to the fruit set.
There are several different tomato foods available, some better than others and there is my own, ‘Wally’s Secret Tomato Food with Neem Granules’ which a number of gardeners have high praise for.
The important aspect is that tomatoes need adequate potash and magnesium and often these are lacking or insufficient in some foods. Apply Fruit and Flower Power once a month if using other tomato foods to make up the required amounts needed by the plants. (You obtain a far better flavour.)
This also applies to citrus fertilisers as you will note with the yellowing leaves, lack of juice in the fruit and thicker skins. The last thing in the world I would give my citrus trees would be citrus fertiliser.
Instead I just give mine a mulch of chicken manure, a yearly dose of Ocean Solids and a monthly sprinkle of Fruit and Flower Power. Alternative to the chicken manure would be a good dose of Blood & bone, sheep manure pellets and cover these with a layer of compost. You can also place wet sheets of newspaper down before the compost to assist in worm activity.
Roses, not matter how healthy they are, will attract some aphids about now so a spray of Neem Tree Oil with Key Pyrethrum added, applied late in the day just before sunset will take care of these pests.
Another interesting aspect with Neem tree Oil is if you spray the foliage of the roses every couple of weeks it tends to prevent diseases such as black spot, rust and mildews. Possums and rabbits will also leave the plants alone if you live in the country and have problems with these animals.
Two things will assist in giving you better crops and flowers and that is, an annual dose of Ocean Solids which provides all the minerals and elements from the sea. A three monthly soil drench (Spring, Summer and Autumn) of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) and a two to four weekly spray over the foliage of the same.
The key to great gardens is the use of natural products and the total avoidance of chemical foods and sprays. The last thing plants want in their food chain is chemicals and this also applies to ourselves.
It is not actually being organic, it is being sensible and healthy.
Have a great Labour Weekend.