(someone): All of them, yeah. Okay, great. So the next question is about tomatoes. So someone said that the leaves on their tomato plant look very sickly and seem to be rotting. What's the issue? Are they going to have any problems with their fruit and what can they do about it?
(someone): Well, this sounds very like tomato blight or potato blight. They're the same disease. The way to recognise it is you see sort of blotches which are about the size of a penny on the margin of the leaf. They look slightly grey. And yes, there is a danger that they will spread to the fruit. The first signs on the fruit is that the fruit starts to look slightly grey and sickly. and you will find that it won't ripen and the fruit will be inedible. My advice is by the time you've got to this stage you can just remove the leaves off the plant and that will also improve the air circulation and prevent the likelihood of the fruit becoming rotten as well. So remove those infected leaves as soon as possible.
(someone): This is probably more likely to happen in a greenhouse, tomatoes growing in a greenhouse.
(someone): No, I had a whole crop of, and it was exactly for the reason I had a block of tomatoes on my lot a couple of years ago and I planted them thick and they were almost like a complete foliage cover and when the blight hit it went straight through and that was outdoors. So I think that the movement of air is the main ingredient here isn't it, making sure that the breezes get through them and they're separated out a little bit.
(someone): OK, our last one, and I particularly like this one. What is your best advice for ripening green tomatoes? Anton, what do you do with your green tomatoes?
(someone): Well, I must admit, I put them in a fruit bowl with the other fruit because I know that there's a gas called ethene, which comes off ripe bananas and apples, which will help to ripen those fruits. Some people say they would put them in a drawer to increase that effect, to sort of increase the amount of that gas around them. But personally, I don't like doing that because then I can't see them and I'm likely to forget about them. I like to keep my eye on them as well because it is important that you make sure that you remove any ones which are damaged or diseased. Sometimes I find the ones later in the season there might be a few ones which are split and those ones obviously you cannot keep so well.
(someone): Chris, are you a draw person or a fruit bowl person?
(someone): I'm absolutely a fruit bowl person, I agree. You put them in a drawer and I would forget about them. I think there's more chance of them sweating, the humidity around them, you might get moulds in there. I have quite a lot of green tomatoes this year. I think one important tip I have, as I've learnt this the hard way, is you juggle them in the bowl, okay, juggle your tomatoes, which just basically means move them around, because the ones on the bottom might get a bit sweaty, a bit forgotten, and they're more likely to go mildewy.
(someone): I have quite a lot of green tomatoes this year. I think one important tip I have, as I've learnt this the hard way, is you juggle them in the bowl, okay, juggle your tomatoes, which just basically means move them around, because the ones on the bottom might get a bit sweaty, a bit forgotten, and they're more likely to go mildewy.
(someone): Yeah, I'd like to add to that because we're all we seem to have a sort of innate fear of a green tomato, hoping that it will turn red. But in fact, the green tomato is perfectly edible. It's not like a green potato, which might be poisonous. And not only are they edible, but they actually can be quite delicious. Well, we all know about green tomato chutney, but I make a really good green tomato salsa, which involves mashing them up with lemon, garlic and parsley. It's really tart, really good. Anton, are you a chutney fan?
(someone): I do like chutney, but sometimes I don't always have the time to make it. It's a bit of a time investment. So what I like to do is fry them up with a little bit of garlic and some mushrooms and have them on toast and It's the sort of tartness of the green tomatoes goes really well with the mushrooms.
(someone): Great. So all you out there like me who've got bunches of green tomatoes, don't panic. Put them in the fruit bowl or just get eating them. Thank you, guys. I think that's everything for this month. Thanks a lot.
(someone): You need to pinch out side shoots which are growing in the armpits of the leaves. And then once you get to about seven or eight tiers of fruit, you need to pinch out the top as well. Otherwise, you'll just end up with sort of endless fruit production and the ones lower down won't ripen.
(someone): Chris, are you a cordon or a bush variety?
(someone): Well, I grow all mine, all my tomatoes, I must admit, in hanging baskets. And I usually grow tumbler. I will grow some Gardener's Delight maybe in a tub as well. I get a tremendous amount from them, especially on the balcony because I'm south facing and it's very warm. I don't really have to play with them much, I grow them from seed and once they're in the baskets I pretty much leave them to it. I might pinch or thin them out a little bit to stop the botrytis to get the air around them. but pretty much from July on I've got a constant supply of tomatoes and I quite like them too because if you grow the bigger tomatoes if you haven't got a greenhouse like me what tends to happen is if the weather's cool they just sit green they don't ever seem to ripen up especially the big beef varieties so really with a small sort of cherry tomatoes in a basket I'm guaranteed loads of beautiful tomatoes from July till the autumn and I kind of think it's important to say that when it does come to tomatoes a lot of the ones we buy from the supermarket are coming from abroad and produced hydroponically and the difference in taste between one off your own plant and one off from a supermarket is quite quite palpable.
(someone): exec in the world. I have an argument that isn't worth arguing about. Is it a good idea? Of course it is. Yes, it's a bit hard ones to knock back, isn't it? Well, I have to say, if anyone's more interested in finding out more about School Food Matters, there's loads out on social media, isn't there? There's Instagram accounts, Twitter accounts, all of that. You have a website? Tell me the website. Schoolfoodmatters.org
(someone): SchoolforMatters.org and please, I'm sure Stephanie would love to hear from you. Thanks Stephanie very much for chatting to me today. Always happy to talk about school. Now it's time for some questions from you. So we're going to open up the post bag and I'm here with Anton. Hello Anton. Hello. and also Chris got some really cracking questions this time. So the first one is all about tomatoes. So for several years I've been growing lots of different tomatoes in my greenhouse and each year the fruits split before I harvest them. What am I doing wrong?
(someone): So I'm going to ask Chris. Well, they're not really doing anything wrong, I don't think. I've had a lot of splitting on my tomatoes this year. All mine are outside. I grow them on the balcony or go down the allotment. They're not in a protected environment. And I found that they were at a bumper crop this year, but we had a lot of rain at the end of this drought and a lot of mine split. So I think it's moisture. It's water related. So I think there is too much moisture. It causes them to split. This means they're not unusable. They just don't keep as fresh as long.
(someone): beautiful tomatoes from July till the autumn and I kind of think it's important to say that when it does come to tomatoes a lot of the ones we buy from the supermarket are coming from abroad and produced hydroponically and the difference in taste between one off your own plant and one off from a supermarket is quite quite palpable. So I think whether you're a bit more expert and you want to grow them on a cordon or just that hanging basket for them it's really worth the effort.
(someone): Is it right Anton that you can almost make a choice on this matter? I grow Gardner's Delight for instance it's a very popular variety of tomato And I know that I could pinch out the side shoots and it would grow as a cordon, or I could just leave them and I will get more but smaller fruit.
(someone): It is true to some extent, although some varieties do seem to lend themselves better to be cordons and others better to being as bushes. But there are some like Roma or Coralic or Gardener's Delight you can do either with as well. So there are some which sort of swing both ways.
(someone): That's great. Thank you. All right, we have another email here and I think this is very pertinent because Chris and I have been talking a lot about watering. The listener asks, is it okay to use my washing up water for watering? Chris, what are your thoughts?
(someone): So I've not been big on using washing up water to be honest with you but I did have a bath on Monday and there was literally, you could have grown tatties in it because I've been on the allotment all day and a lot of stuff came off me but obviously I used a lot of soap.
(someone): and that means your soil depletes vital things like nitrogen and phosphorus and potassium, etc. So yeah, just protect it in a way. I think there's a few ways of going about this. Maybe if you've got lots of leaf mould, if you've collected leaf mould over the years, you can put a big thick sort of band of that on, that'll stop the rain breaking it up. Even maybe put down cardboard if you like, weighted down, because don't want to blow it away and obviously it can get a bit windy in Scotland, that will protect it in its own right as well. So I think any kind of protection sort of gap you do, almost like a mulch if you like, at the beginning of the winter so you can stop that rain penetration, that leaching and breaking up of the soil structure will help.
(someone): OK, moving on to what we might be planting in the spring. We've had a question from somebody who's just bought some organic potatoes. The variety is acoustic and they're infected with sprang. Are they safe to eat? Now, first of all, what's sprang? Anton, can you help me with this?
(someone): Sprang is caused by a virus and it basically causes these sort of crescent shapes, sort of brown shapes inside the potato tuber. So you end up with these sort of brown crescents. It's quite often mixed up with another disorder that's called internal rust spot. and the difference between them, the way to tell the difference between them, is you need to cut the tuber both horizontally and vertically. Then you will be able to see whether you've got spots or crescents within your tuber, but only by cutting it will you actually be able to see that. You need to cut it both ways because the crescent might be running a different way through the tuber.
(someone): Otherwise, you'll find your plants will start to stress.
(someone): I think also the key about watering in greenhouses and polytunnels is don't overwater and make sure that you don't wet the leaves if possible, because if you do that, there's every chance that you're going to encourage disease infection, that the spores of mold and such like will be able to germinate. So when you water, make sure you're watering the soil and down at the bottom of the plant, not the leaf above.
(someone): Yeah, very important. Also, if it's very hot, especially through glass, you're going to have to worry about scorching. So you want to make sure that the air is moving through and you're controlling your watering.
(someone): Talking about watering and air circulation, one of the things I've noticed this year is that I've got quite a lot of powdery mildew on my apple trees. This I think is because the growth on the apple trees has been so luscious, it's almost too thick and too green and that has stopped there being proper air circulation within the tree and around it. It's not a difficult one to deal with, just make sure that you cut out any of the end growth, any of the twigs that are showing the powdery mildew. Keep them separate. Don't put them on the compost heap. Keep them separate in a bag or whatever, and then decide what you're going to do with them. Maybe send them to the local council composting collection, or maybe burn them. Whatever you find is most appropriate to get rid of those twigs.
(someone): Manufacturers are a little bit cagey about exactly what is different about a grow bag, but it really is a matter of convenience. I tend to find that grow bags dry out a little bit more quickly than if you were growing in pots because the plants don't have so much opportunity to form such a big root system, so they will dry out. You have to pay more attention to the watering.
(someone): Okay, Fiona, are you a grow bag grower?
(someone): Over the years I've used them a lot, yes. I would say my one tip with using grow bag is is to put a board underneath the grow bag at the beginning of the season because if things change and the tomatoes get too big or whatever and you want to move them it's impossible to move a grow bag once you've got two large tomato plants in it. So slip a board underneath and that will see you through the season.
(someone): Useful tip there. How about you Chris? Grow bags or no?
(someone): No, I'm not a grow bag, mainly because I just don't really, because my tomatoes tend to, I tend to grow them all on the balcony. It's just a space thing, really. They would take up too much room for me. So I grow smaller cherry tomatoes and I grow them all in hanging baskets and it's incredibly successful. Use a decent peat free compost or start the tomatoes off indoors, prick them out, harden them off, get them in the baskets and then just go from there. I think that I'm south facing, so it works quite well.
(someone): and they seem to be doing very well. So I'll let you know how, what sort of crop I get them.
(someone): They're good for, with the kids, you know, my stuff I worked in schools we used to do hessian planting and what to do is you put some soil in about a quarter then put your seed potatoes in, cover them over and as potatoes start to grow then you add more soil so you get potatoes right through the bag and that. That's a great thing to do as a family exercise or if you're in limited space like a balcony, it's a very, very good thing to do.
(someone): So what about in your polytunnel? What's going on in there?
(someone): Well, the secret, I mean, it's because we had that big hot period and more is coming, I think, as well, is just to make sure you get the air moving. The worst thing you can do in enclosed space at the moment is let that heat build up. If you do, I've had tomato plants where the leaves start to curl. You can start to see they're worrying about transpiration. Just make sure the doors are open or any vents are open. Same with the greenhouse. Make sure the air is moving through it. Otherwise, you'll find your plants will start to stress.
(someone): I think also the key about watering in greenhouses and polytunnels is don't overwater and make sure that you don't wet the leaves if possible, because if you do that, there's every chance that you're going to encourage disease infection, that the spores of mold and such like will be able to germinate.
(someone): Yeah, they get height sickness, don't they, carrot fly? Very peculiar fly. They get height sickness. But those tips are brilliant. The Victorians came up with this. They used to grow a lot of big pots of carrots in greenhouses and stuff, actually, in cold frames as well.
(someone): There is some evidence that growing carrots with onions can help, but with all the research that we've done at Garden Organic over the years, we found that actually you need at least four rows of onions to one of carrots. yeah that's quite a lot of onions and also once the onion leaves begin to die down or begin to flatten out they cease to be so effective so it's a mixture I'm guessing of the height as well as the the smell of the bruised foliage yes that's exactly yeah Now, something I'm going to be looking out for, Chris, because I grow a lot of chard and spinach, is powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a very common disease, especially in dry weather. It can be specific to certain sorts of plants, and the one for chard and spinach, it's a grey powdery coating on the leaves, and it almost always appears in hot, dry weather. So the secret to this is to keep on top of your watering. I like your idea of puddling, Chris. But again, back to the organic principle of making sure that your soil is in good enough condition to hold the moisture, to hold the water. And to do that, you need to put in plenty of homemade compost, something that will bulk up the soil to keep the moisture within it.
(someone): I'm here with Emma O'Neill, our head gardener, and Chris Collins. Hello, Chris. Hi, Emma. Good to see you. Got some great questions this time. So, first of all, my tomatoes are a good size, looking healthy overall. However, they have developed leaf curl at the top of all the plants. I can't see any aphids, and I have tried spraying them with a very weak washing-up liquid. Do you have any suggestions as to what could be causing the leaf curl? This is a particular question from one of our members, but we've had a few similar questions. So it sounds like this could all be a bit of a common problem. So first of all, what's causing the leaf curl, Emma?
(someone): It's more than likely to be environment. So nighttime temperatures often cause it, so the sudden drop in temperature. And all the plant's actually trying to do is protect itself by curling up its leaves. One of the other common problems is watering. So if you have a tendency to water a lot in one go and then you leave it and you dry it out, it's sort of reacting to that. So it's best to water them regularly on a regular basis. It's unlikely to be aphids from that. And I wouldn't recommend spraying them with washing up liquid.
(someone): No, indeed. And we tend to advise not to spray with anything because although washing up liquid is safe for human consumption, we don't know anything about whether or not it's safe for other animals and predators in the garden.
(someone): and the difference between them, the way to tell the difference between them, is you need to cut the tuber both horizontally and vertically. Then you will be able to see whether you've got spots or crescents within your tuber, but only by cutting it will you actually be able to see that. You need to cut it both ways because the crescent might be running a different way through the tuber. Now these are actually caused by quite different things. So sprang, like I said, it's caused by a virus, but the virus can be transmitted in two different ways. It can either be by nematodes, which are microscopic worms, and they travel in the soil moisture, or it can be transmitted by a fungus called the powdery scab fungus. And again, that needs moisture in the soil. If we've had a really dry year, I think it's unlikely that it's going to be sprang because the sort of two agents that are needed to transmit the virus are unlikely to be in the soil because they both need moisture. However, the internal rust spot is caused by a lack of calcium in the tubers and that is most commonly caused by lack of water because the calcium needs water to be transmitted. So it's similar in a way to blossom end rot in tomatoes or bitter pit in apples. It's the lack of calcium which causes little bits of the tubers to die. Although it's not toxic to eat, it can slightly taste bitter as well if you've got a lot of it. So if you've just got a small amount, I would probably just bung the whole tuber in a curry or something so it disguises the slight bitterness. Otherwise, I might try cutting the sort of affected bits out. Yeah, so sprang and internal rust spot are two things which are often sort of confused.
(someone): on my tomatoes this year. All mine are outside. I grow them on the balcony or go down the allotment. They're not in a protected environment. And I found that they were at a bumper crop this year, but we had a lot of rain at the end of this drought and a lot of mine split. So I think it's moisture. It's water related. So I think there is too much moisture. It causes them to split. This means they're not unusable. They just don't keep as fresh as long.
(someone): Actually, on the balcony where I control my watering a lot more, I didn't have so much of a problem. I think Anton will probably know a little bit more about this. Yeah, I'd go along with that. It tends to be the sort of watering is a little bit uneven, so they might have a very dry period and then when they get a lot of water, plants can't sort of keep up with their growth basically, so that's why they end up splitting. So that's just what's happened with you, Chris. You had a dry period where you probably couldn't keep on top of the watering however hard you tried. and then a lot of rainfall came and the tomatoes just started growing very quickly and split. I didn't have so much of a problem in the glasshouse. If I left them on the plant for too long then they would split, but I think that happens to most people. But I also invested in a very cheap drip irrigation system this year. It could water 10 pots at a time and just have little drippers on to each pot. And that was absolutely brilliant because it just kept the sort of moisture levels in the soil much more consistent.