Gardening can be a lot of fun, but when things don't turn out right it can be a lot of cruel heartbreak. Last minute pest attacks; fruits splitting last minute; perhaps the onset of some funky disease when everything seemed so right...there's a washing machine of emotions ready to tumble dry you out of your precious crops.
Rather than standing back and hoping for the best, there's some proactive strategies we can use to tip the fruiting odds back in our favour.
Potash is the final secret ingredient for the summer veggie patch. Think of it as a pinch of salt for your garden; just the right amount can elevate the flavour and health of your plants, particularly of the fruiting varieties.
It helps regulate water balance, making sure they stay hydrated, while it also strengthens the roots and stems, giving them the support they need to carry those heavy fruit.
Fruit quality is also a big beneficiary of a potash boost, helping to extend their shelf life and shielding against disease and pests. By strengthening the plant's cell walls, it makes them less vulnerable to attack, reducing the need for sprays.
Best to apply Potash as the first flowers form, but the patch and plants will benefit from an application at any point in its life cycle.
Fruit Protection Bags
Just like a security guard watching over your prized possessions, these bags ensure that everything stays safe and protected. From slugs and snails munching on your strawberries, to birds pecking at your tomatoes, fruit protection bags provide a barrier to keep these pests at bay. The fine mesh also ensures they are protected from the most micro (but macro annoyance) of pests, such as aphids and fruit fly.
We've also been grappling with the best protection from rats and have found that the mesh of these bags is a better barrier/deterrent than regular garden netting. Sure, rats could still chew through both, but in our experience they're far less likely to make their way into these bags.
They will also help provide protection from the harsh summer sun, ensuring that they ripen evenly and consistently and don't blister. A covering means they are also less likely to develop cracks and other blemishes, allowing them to last longer on the vine (to develop deeper flavour).
Overwatering is silent killer of your sweet fruit dreams. While it might seem like a good idea to elevate your watering as fruit is producing, too much can lead to problems.
Splitting occurs when the fruit takes in too much water too quickly, causing the skin to stretch and eventually break open. This exposes the flesh to disease and pests, ruining what would otherwise be a perfectly ripe fruit.
To avoid this, cut back on watering at the fruiting stage. Perhaps that's just a simple adjustment to your irrigation timer, or alternatively scratch off a water per week. You just want to ensure that the moisture is absorbed gradually into your fruits (we're really just talking about tomatoes) and prevents the skin from stretching too quickly.
Keeping a tidy and hygienic vegetable garden is never more important than when fruits are on the verge of harvest. Leaving dying/diseased foliage or fruits over ripening on the vine is like an invitation to a pest party, as well as increasing the risks of introducing diseases.
While you're in the garden inspecting your fruits - we're know you can't stop looking - do a mini clean up of any excess foliage. If you're using fruit protection bags, don't forget to check the fruit inside! Perhaps the no.1 problem with using these bags is allowing the fruit to over ripen. Doh!