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Growing Questions & Answers May 2019

Strawberries in Hanging Baskets

I have strawberries in 8 hanging baskets in my Polytunnel each basket with 8 or so plants so quite a few. Many are thriving and beginning to form fruit.

I potted up with new compost, sharp sand and a couple of handfuls of blood and bone meal pellets in each.

Some plants prosper for a while, but then the leaves suddenly turn brown and die. Some then recover growing new small leaves. Others not, leaving a gap.

It was very hot so it might have been over-watering to start with especially as it is more often the plants towards the bottom of the basket that suffer, but I have since become very careful not to overwater.

It’s not often the plants at the top of the basket, so not sun-scorch.

Do you think it might be over feeding? Perhaps I should not have used bone meal, but waited till fruiting and used a soluble manure like Tomorite.

Any thoughts?

How are your strawberry baskets doing?

I suspect your problem is related to feed. You’ve given a lot of feed initially – probably too much – and the balance is wrong. Chicken manure pellets tend to be NPK 3:2.5:1.5 plus trace elements and whilst bloodmeal is high in nitrogen, bonemeal is basically low nitrogen and phosphorus – no potash (potassium)

Initially they benefit from a general purpose fertiliser followed by a high potash fertiliser when they start fruiting.

However, we are where we are so the question is how to rescue things. I’d start by feeding them now with a liquid fertiliser like Miracle Gro or Nutrigrow. This should provide enough nitrogen to get the leaves growing and perk them up. Then move onto a high potash fertiliser like a tomato feed.
Good luck!

Hanging Basket Strawberries

Hanging Basket Strawberries in my Polytunnel

Natural Liquid Fertilisers

I have been giving the thought of liquid fertiliser a lot of attention over the past week. There are masses of nettles on the edges allotment and I have sourced some comfrey. I was planning to make a fertiliser out of mixing the two plants in a large sealed water but. Is this a good idea or should I have a different barrel for each plant and mix them where needed?

I was aiming to use this diluted mix as fertiliser for just about everything on my allotment from the tomatoes right through to the new fruit trees

Your advice on the matter would be greatly received


Nettle tea is a good liquid fertiliser although higher in nitrogen than comfrey tea, which is high in potash. Mixing the two should give a great general fertiliser. The best thing is that they’re pulling all sorts of minerals, trace elements and micro-nutrients up from the soil and you’re providing them to the plants in readily available form

Don’t forget the sludge at the end has great value still for the compost heap. Go for it!

Fertiliser for Cabbages

I have planted cabbage. What type of fertilizers can I possibly use?

Ndanduleni Manwadu

I’ve covered feeding leafy brassicas like cabbage, cauliflower etc. with an article on the site here: Fertiliser Requirements for Leafy Brassicas which I hope will help you.

Vine Weevils

Hi, just a quick question I wonder if you have any ideas, our garden is plagued by vine weevil. Apart from systemic insecticide to water on which will stay in the soil and plants or nematodes and you need to know that they are present or you are wasting a precious resource is there anything else you can use to kill or deter them.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Annette Baker

I’m afraid I’ve no better suggestion than you can find on the RHS site here: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=234

Except sending in the chickens. My ladies love scratching up the bugs and turning them into eggs and manure.

Carrot Fly

Reading the May jobs about keeping carrot fly off carrots triggered a memory of the only successful time I grew carrots. I got the tip off a programme I was watching with grandson on CCBC! It was to plant onions with carrots as the smell of onion hid the smell of the carrots from the carrot fly. Anyway thought I would pass that on in case useful.

Best wishes, Judith Whitehouse

Inter-planting onions and carrots as a fly control method has been around for some time. – Some people report brilliant results and others no effect but it does no harm so worth a try. Thanks for the suggestion.

Outdoor Tomato Growing

Thanks John, for your ever helpful and informative emails. I have a quick question regarding tomatoes. I always have great results growing mine in pots in compost from tomato bags, both inside and outside of the greenhouse. This year I was thinking of planting some in the allotment.

Question: will they grow without adding tomato compost in our clay-based Buckinghamshire soil? Or would I need to dig in potash (e.g. wood ash)? Is it worth the trouble?

Mark Lindsell

With the warmer climate in the south, it can be well worth growing tomatoes outdoors. They love potash so wood ashes are a good idea. There are a couple of articles on this site that may help:

Growing Tomatoes Outdoors

Planting & Growing Tomatoes Outdoors

There’s a very good guide on growing outdoor tomatoes from the Dig for Victory campaign issued in 1945 here:

Outdoor Tomatoes, Site & Preparation

French Parsley Bolting

My French parsley sown last year is now bolting. Should I cut off the flower buds and is the parsley still good to eat?

Sally Grey

The flower stems will exhaust the plant. So your best plan is to cut down the plants almost to ground level and give them a little fertiliser and some water. It will come back quickly.

And yes, still good to eat!

Spindly Brassica Seedlings

Hi John, can you advise. We have planted brassica’s from seed this year. They started great but have grown rather spindly. There doesn’t seem to be any problems but don’t look as bulked out as garden centres. Am I growing them correctly?

Mark Priestley

This often happens to me too. All I do is to plant them deep so the soil, if planting outside, or compost, if potting on, is up to the base of the leaves.

Moss & Algae on Raised Beds

I have 3 raised beds 4 ft X 4 ft. In 2 of them there appears to be a mantle of low growing moss type, sort of algae. Will this affect vegetable growth and is there any way to get rid of it? Thank you.

Archibald Cook

This could be a sign of acidity or water-logging. An application of lime will sort out an acid soil and really make a difference to plant growth. See:

Effects of pH on Nutrient Availability

Sorting water logging will depend on the cause. Otherwise, I’d just rake off any moss for the compost bin and use a cultivator or lightly fork over the top 6 ins of the bed.

Which Cauliflower?

Many years ago I used to grow a winter cauliflower which matured March, April, May. I think it was named after a royal person. Does it still exist or is there an equivalent?

Douglas Davison

I’m sorry but not a clue – perhaps someone else will no and pop an answer in the comments or your could try asking on the forums.

Spindly Rhubarb

I have been growing rhubarb in a large pot but a lot of the stems are weak and I don’t get many large stems to take off. I have fed the rhubarb with chicken manure pellets. Do you think it would grow better in the ground?

Arthur Makinson

In theory you can grow anything in a pot if it’s large enough, but I wouldn’t grow rhubarb in a pot. To perform well it needs a lot of feed with a good supply of nitrogen (look how big the leaves grow).

Personally I’d put them in the ground with a good application of manure if available, otherwise some general purpose fertiliser like Growmore or Fish, Blood & Bone. See

How to Grow Rhubarb

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
5 comments on “Growing Questions & Answers May 2019
  1. Rowland Wells says:

    As a matter of interest, when we went to the Malvern show last week I was looking at a liquid feed made from maize and according to the people selling it they had a good feedback from people using this liquid feed and being made from maize. Its a natural feed although I’m not into organics too much I will give it a go and if it works then I will be using it for all my crops.

    I was intending to buy a can from the stall but then I would need to carry it around I was told one can buy it on line but even better for me they have a retailer selling this product not to far from us so I’m going to go and get some next week and give it a go.

  2. Rowland Wells says:

    Hi John unfortunately the booklet I had from the suppliers I can’t find probably because I will be going to collect the maze plant food from a retailer at Farndon Fields Market Harborough I’m going in about a weeks time

    I will e.mail you with the details after I’ve been unless any of our members have actually bought this maze feed from Farndon fields sorry about that John

  3. Derek says:

    I have tried several variety’s of outdoor tomatoes over recent years. The results until the last couple have been ‘blessed’ with wind and blight. Last year I tried St Pier and was amazed. It needs little support & is a strong plant. Fruit can be large and fully of flesh + largely seed free, which is ideal for making sauces. This year we have dug lots of muck in to see what difference it makes.

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