Hung up to ripen

Little by little I’ve been setting up my garden beds for winter. In the front garden, which I worked on several weeks ago, my seedlings of beetroot, purple-sprouting broccoli and cimi di rapa (another brassica) are heading upwards. The turnips and onions are proving a bit slower out of the ground but they are finally starting to appear.

Today was the turn of the back garden and the tomato bed in particular. While my tomato plants are still producing fruit I really want to get ahead and get my broad beans into the ground. I had quite a task ahead of me.


I could have left the tomatoes a bit longer but once I see these shield bugs having a go at the fruit there doesn’t seem much point in persisting. As you can see from the second photo they really are turning out in numbers to suck on the ripening fruit.


The only consolation was that, unlike some of these relatives, these ‘shield’ beetles don’t exude a pungent smell when disturbed. It took quite a while to clear the beds and then dig out as much as I could of the couch grass which was starting to invade the bed. While I didn’t get to plant my broad bean seeds I did find a cluster of spring onions which I split up and transplanted into one end of the bed.


Apart from picking the ripe fruit I chose to hang my healthy tomatoes under the carport so the remaining fruit will ripen on the vine.


In the same bed was our large bush of Vietnamese Mint, which I know won’t survive the winter. So out with the secateurs and after a quick trim back I dug it up and transferred it into a pot which is now inside the polyhouse ready to over winter. This worked quite well last year.


You might just see behind the pot a milk bottle filled with water. This is my new polyhouse experiment for this year. Following on from a suggestion of Lolo Houbein (the author of One Magic Square) I’m placing water-filled bottles around the base of the polyhouse walls to provide some extra insulation for the over-wintering plants. While the polyhouse does stay several degrees above the outside temperature. The plastic walls don’t stop the temperature from dropping below zero on really cold nights. The theory is that the water-filled bottles will build up and retain some heat, which should benefit the plants at night. I suspect that I might need a whole wall of bottles to be really effective, but its worth a try!

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