Fruit or Vegetable Problems

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TOMATOES UNDER ATTACK

Question: I had a big the problem with my tomatoes this year. I lost over 50% of the crop which was annoying as this would have been the heaviest that I have ever grown. They were grown outdoors on the allotment and all the nearby plots have had the same problem. I am assuming that it is some sort of bacterial or fungal attack, and would appreciate any tips to pre-rent this happening next year. I haven’t been able to tie up the look of my tomatoes with any of the illustrations on any of the help websites.

Answer: At first glance I thought this was blight but then realised I’d seen the same thing on my own bight-resistant toms this summer. The fruits were brown and rotting but the foliage seemed undamaged. The tomato plants floundered in a poor summer and were only ripening decent fruit in early October. I think we can blame the weather, because we had a cold spring, then some fine weather in late spring and early summer but then a cold wet July and August. This plus the likelihood of blight in a wet part of the country is why I generally grow all my toms under glass (the blight-resistant ones were an experiment). The technical term would be ’corky stylar scar’, the stylar being the place at the flower end of the fruit and the damage begins when blossoms are fighting to set at low temperatures. The tissues become damaged at this time and the fruit rots. This is obviously a poor year for this and there’s not a lot you can do to prevent the trouble. Perhaps smaller fruiting tomatoes might place more easily, so throw some cherry varieties into the mix.

LOST QUINCES

Question: I have had an allotment for one year now and am still learning.  At the beginning of the year, I bought a young quince tree and planted it in my allotment which doesn’t have much shade. In August, I had eight lovely little quinces and by September I had lost each one of them and fell disheartened. I’ve tried looking on the internet on how to care for a quince tree and it sad that quinces were easy to grow. I live in the north of England and was wondering if it could be the North East weather that quinces don’t thrive in, or could it be that it’s not in the shade? As I don’t have much shade what would be the best advice you can give me for caring for my lovely quince tree.

Answer: I assume as you say tree you mean Cydonia, a white-flowered pear-like quince, not the bushier ornamental reddish-flowered Chaenomeles sort. Quinces are easy to grow and other than a tendency to mildew suffer few problems. They are self-fertile and can crop even in colder districts because they flower later than many fruits and usually miss frost damage. Now obviously they will do in a site that is warmer and I ‘ve never heard of them desiring shadiness! The most likely reason they will not be holding their fruits is thirst – quinces don’t crop good on grounds that are dry and much prefer moist to damp sites.

I suggest you apply a thick mulch, and water heavily throughout the growing season.

MYSTERY VISITOR

Question: I have this strange plant growing in my courgette bed. It has a single main stem about 3ft high and I have no idea where it came from.

Answer: This is a Datura stramonium (also known as thorn apple or Jimson weed), a noxious weed. The seed pods should be destroyed before they burst and scatter the black seeds. It does have some use: it is extremely competitive for phosphates – scavenging them ruthlessly – thus damaging nearby crops, but if sown thickly and grown lushly then incorporated while still small and before the seeds are formed, the decaying material increases available phosphates.

 

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