This is the second year I have tried growing my own vegetables. I had plenty of success last year but much less this. Both years garlic, onions, potatoes and parsnips seem to be going well and last year carrots. But this year I have sowed 2 lots of carrot seed and only 7 have taken. Any ideas? Also both years spring onions don’t seem to grow much beyond the size of a chive.
Hi Rob, slugs and snails are usually the main culprits when carrot seedlings disappear. I’ve had to religiously apply slug pellets to my plot as slugs and snails love young carrot seedlings and the wet spring has been ideal for them! It could also be that the temperatures were just too cold for germination and the wet weather caused the seeds to rot. Luckily it’s not too late to sow some more carrots now for late summer and autumn harvests.
I have always found spring onions a problem on my light and sandy soil - like you I found them growing no larger than a chive. Spring onions need a fertile soil with a good amount of nitrogen whilst they’re young. Lighter, sandy soils tend to be low in nitrogen as it is easily leached out. Try feeding your spring onions with a balanced liquid fertiliser to give them a boost. Do this every week or so (following the manufacturer’s instructions) until you start to see some improvement. I hope this helps Rob, let us know how you get on.
How do you STOP birds eating all the cherries on the tree. It’s so hard to put netting over the tree.
Hi Barbara, unfortunately netting is the best way to stop the birds getting at your cherries. Other methods which have varying levels of success are shiny materials hung on the branches such as old CDs, bits of cardboard wrapped in silver foil, long strips of silver foil and empty tin or aluminium cans. It’s important that these items are allowed to move in the wind as this is what puts the birds off. You can also tie lengths of plastic tape to various branches on the tree which blow around in the wind, hopefully deterring the birds. I haven’t tried these methods myself but have heard varying reports of success. If your tree is too big you may have to consider securely netting just a portion of it and sacrificing the rest of the cherries to the birds. You could also consider growing a dwarf patio cherry tree which would be easy to net each year. Best of luck Barbara, I hope you get to harvest some cherries this year.
Hi Ruth, as mentioned to Barbara above, netting is the best option for keeping unwanted visitors off your fruit. If your tree isn’t touching any other trees or telephone wires (so access is only from the ground) then you can try wrapping something smooth such as sheet metal around the trunk, about five or six feet off the ground so the squirrels cannot grip. You’d need to prune out any particularly low branches for this to be effective.
You can also buy squirrel cage traps, but if you catch a grey squirrel you are obliged to destroy it (humanely!) and not everyone is keen on that idea. However, there are also lots of companies out there who are selling ultrasonic devices which they claim will repel squirrels quite effectively. I have never used one, but it might be worth a try if things are getting desperate. Try googling ‘pest control squirrels’ as there are lots of companies that can help. I hope this helps.
Hi Cathy, I think you could easily blame the weather for this! The constant rain and low temperatures in April and May will have lead to low insect activity which is crucial for good pollination and fruit. Your blossoms may also have been damaged by frost which I believe some of us had in early April this year. There is also the possibility that birds or squirrels could have eaten the buds – bullfinches in particular are renowned for eating apple blossom. I had lots of gooseberry flowers last year and a week later they had all disappeared completely! (This year netting has done the trick)
As for pruning, it is fine to prune your apples during the summer - this method is traditionally used for restricted forms such as espaliers, cordons and fans. This is because summer pruning slows the tree’s growth compared to winter pruning which encourages very vigorous growth. Be careful not to over-do it in the summer as each leaf taken away restricts the tree’s energy supply and could affect its performance next year. It’s best to summer-prune apples in August, just before the tree begins to enter dormancy in the autumn. Start off by removing any dead, damaged or diseased growth (it may be easier to see and carry out this work in the winter when the tree is dormant). You can cut back a few older branches if necessary to maintain a good overall shape. Your main aim should be to cut back new growth to 3 sets of leaves and cut any side shoots on the new growth back to just one set of leaves, to encourage fruiting spurs to form. Always make your cut just above a bud or set of leaves and cut at an angle facing away from the bud. I hope this helps Cathy, best of luck with next year’s fruit!