Garden Action

The premier gardening information source

MAY 11th to 18th

Susan Explains Tomato Plant Rots
Tomato plants have two types of roots. Those small fibrous ones near the surface of the soil are used to absorb nutrients. The also have a longer tap root which goes deeper into the soil and is the main source of water for tomato plants. Knowing this can help you grow better tomatoes. Apply liquid feed to the surface of the soil. This will ensure that the fibrous roots can absorb the nutrients.

To supply a good source of water, insert a small pipe about 30cm (foot) into the soil near the plant and pour neat water down it (to reach the tap root). Together, this will feed the plants top roots and also get water down to the tap root.

Another alternate feeding method, with the idea in mind, can be found by clicking here.

Grow Bags
Lots of vegetables can be grown in grow bags, tomatoes are one of the most popular. The "soil" in a grow bag is simply a growing medium which retains moisture and nutrients for the roots. The main problem with grow bags is that they are sealed at the bottom and therefore water doesn't drain away easily in wet times and they dry out quickly in dry times.

To help with these two problems, we always place the grow bags on a flower bed or grass (it will kill the grass though). We puncture the base of the grow bag plastic with several smallish holes. This allows excess water to drain into the soil below preventing the plants from being water-logged. It also allows some of the roots to grow out of the base of the grow bag and search out more water in dry times. See the "Susan Explains" paragraph above for why this is especially useful for tomato plants.

Harden Off Tomatoes, Sweet Corn and Other Frost Tender Plants
In average areas of the UK, next week is time to plant out tomato, sweet corn and other very frost tender plants. But this week is the time to harden them off (see April week 2 for an explanation of hardening off). Leave the plants out on warm days, gradually increasing their time outside but keep them inside if the temperature threatens to cause a ground frost or worse.

Earth up Potatoes
Earthing up potatoes should be done when the plants are about 20cm / 8in above the soil surface. Simply gather up the surrounding soil around the base of the plant so that it cover the lower stem and leaves. About 5 cm / 2in of the plant should still be above the drawn up soil.

This has two benefits for potato plants. First, it encourages potatoes to grow higher up the plant giving you a larger crop of potatoes. Second, any potatoes which are forming already near the soil surface will be better covered with soil. This will stop them turning green and becoming inedible.

This earthing up process (it should be repeated in three to four weeks time) is especially important for maincrop potatoes which spend more time in the ground forming potatoes. If you are growing your potatoes in containers, "earth up" by simply adding more compost.

More Information
For more detailed information and timings go to our individual vegetable, herb and fruit pages. If you want to see a condensed vegetable advice page with planting, sowing, care and harvesting information for the entire year on one page then go to our vegetable calendar.