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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Pick a Tomato Tips

Growing tomatoes from seed is a long journey – about six months. I start at the end of January, sowing into seed compost and lightly covering. You must use a propagator or a warm windowsill, aiming for about 18C to ensure good germination.

Once germinated and you can clearly see the first two leaves have opened out, transplant seedlings into individual pots and grow them on. Don’t let the temperature fall below 15C; be careful of chilly nights, it can knock them back.

Young plants need watering, but do not overwater. I prefer to water in the morning, making sure I don’t get too much on the plant itself. If the soil is almost dried out by the evening you’ve got the amount just right.

Tomato plants naturally want to grow into huge bushes but the aim is to produce a tall plant

At the end of April or early May, when the plants should be about  8-10in (20-25cm) high, they are ready to go into a greenhouse or polytunnel. Prepare the soil by breaking it up as much as possible and incorporating some good-quality compost. Lay some ground cover membrane where you want your plants to go and cut holes in it 2ft (60cm) apart. Dig planting holes through the cuts, place tomatoes, firm them in, and water really well.

Once you know that your plants are growing well, you’ll need to provide some support: tie some strong string at the base of the plant (or see Tip, box right), pull it up fairly tight (but don’t damage the plant) and tie it to one of the crop bars in your polytunnel or greenhouse. If you don’t have these you can use stakes, canes or run string across the width of the house/tunnel on to which you then attach the support strings.

Tomato plants naturally want to grow into huge bushes but the aim is to produce a tall plant. To encourage this, cut off the side shoots. The plant has three main points of growth: leaves, trusses (the flowers that produce the fruit) and side shoots.

A side shoot is a vigorous stem off the main stem. If not picked off, it will make the plant bushier rather than producing lots of fruit.

Once you see tomatoes ripening, start feeding the plants (although for the past two years my soil has been so well fed in the winter I haven’t needed to).

Find a Pond Leak Tips

While some water loss in a water garden is normal due to evaporation and sometimes splash out, significant loss can be a problem. The first, and usually most difficult, step in fixing a leak in a pond is to actually find the leak. Follow these steps to make the job of finding a pond leak little more efficient.

# Turn off the pump. If the water level continues to drop skip to Step C to continue the search for your pond leak. If the water level stays the same see Step B.

You have now determined that the leak is not in the main basin pond. Now you need to narrow it down a bit further. The pond leak is either in the plumbing or in the waterfall / stream. Closely inspect your plumbing, particularly at any joints, make sure there is no leakage here. Next, inspect your waterfall and stream for leaks. Most of the time, the problem is caused by plant matter or other obstructions raising the water level behind the weir and causing an overflow over the liner. Perhaps a stone has settled or your pond liner has slipped below water level in an area. If it hasn’t rained in a few days, check around the perimeter for a wet spot. If you find one, you have a good idea of where to look closer for the source of the leak. If you still have not found the problem use the ideas in Step C in the streambed.

At this point, you have determined that the leak is in the pond itself. Leave the pump off and allow the pond to continue to leak until it stops. If it does not stop before reaching a level dangerous to fish and plants, you will need to temporarily remove them from the pond. While the water level is dropping check around the edges to make sure that the pond liner has not sunken down or rocks have not been displaced. When the water reaches the point where it is no longer dropping it will be necessary to closely inspect the liner all along this water level to find the source of your pond’s leak. You should be looking for any irregularity in the pond liner from a large gash or a tiny pinprick. For fast leaks you can try putting some milk in a squirt bottle and spraying into the water at the edges of the pond. The milk will cloud the water where there is no hole. It will flow toward the hole, if there is one. This method will not work for slow leaks.

Once you have found the source of your pond leak it is time to make repairs. If it was just a displaced liner, move everything back into place. If a hole was found in the pond liner, you can patch it following our Splicing and Patching Instructions.

Healthy Garden Ponds, Here Its Tips

healthy-garden-ponds# Not too tidy

A good wildlife pond has a mixture of different habitats for animals to live and hide in so don’t over-manage it. A mixture of mud, leaves, twigs, stones and lots of plants provides plenty of places for wildlife to live and overwinter in.

#  Mix up the plants

Plants are important habitats; aim for a good mix of underwater plants (submerged), plants with floating leaves and plants that grow out of the water (emergent).

# Buyer beware

# Profitable margins

A broad margin of plants around the edge of the pond acts as a filter and removes nutrients and chemicals from the water. Bankside plants are also important as they provide shelter and food for animals living in the pond and those that visit, including dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, frogs and toads.

# Avoid tap water

Tap water can contain high levels of nutrients such as nitrates. Using it to fill your pond will encourage algae and may turn it a murky green. Use rain water if at all possible. Water levels in ponds fluctuate naturally so don’t be worried by falling levels in summer. However, if you want to top up the pond you could harvest rainwater in a water butt.

# Fish or no fish?

Many people enjoy seeing fish in their ponds, but they do not mix well with other wildlife. If you want a good wildlife pond, which includes frogs and newts, avoid fish. Don’t transfer fish, plants and frog spawn between ponds as this can introduce disease and problem plants.

# A question of shade

Trees and tree roots can provide shelter for pond animals, but too much shade will reduce plant growth and fallen leaves may lead to a lot of decaying organic matter in the bottom. Try to have a balance of shade and sun.

# Not too deep

A mix of shallow and deep water provides a variety of habitats for plants and animals but a pond need not be too deep. For a small pond, 1ft deep is enough for wildlife to flourish. The edges should also be gently shelving.

# Care with chemicals

Be careful when using pesticides, fertilisers or other chemicals near a pond. Water draining off the land will carry these chemicals with it and if you use sprays near water they can easily drift. Small ponds are not able to dilute toxic chemicals sufficiently so they will have a big impact on plant growth and animals.

# Enjoy your pond

Ponds are wildlife-rich, so they are the perfect place to have a bench or seat so you can enjoy the dragonflies and the frogs.