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Friday, 1 June 2012

Germination woes

Veg patch update part 1

I've had an awful time this year trying to get things to germinate. I think a combination of warm end of March, chilly April and something horribly wrong with some of the sacks of potting compost I use. I've been using this stuff for years and never had a problem before.

Out of all the courgettes, cucumbers, potimarrons and various different coloured French beans which were sown individually in pots in my cold frames from mid April to early May I got one solitary French bean! 

It was time for Plan B to be put into action.

Cucumber, Courgette and Potimarron seeds, 17th May

Chitting the seed indoors on damp kitchen towel in a closed up marge tub. All the cucumbers and courgettes started to germinate really quickly so I planted them up only 2 days later, put them in the cold frames and after a few more days leaves started to appear. I did the same out of desperation with French beans and they all germinated too, including my second direct sowing outdoors which are only just now beginning to germinate, and the leaves are much smaller! However the potimarrons steadfastly refused to do a thing and just went mouldy. All seeds were brand new this year. 

Potimarron is a winter squash by the way, in case you are not familiar with it. I think it's pretty much the same thing as one that goes under the name of Itchy Curry or something like that. (Joke. Wikipedia tells me it's Uchiki Kuri, also known as Red Kuri and many other names, just to confuse us all). 

So all I have in the way of potimarrons is one solitary plant which self seeded in the veg patch, which is in itself very strange as sometimes I don't even bother sowing seed as dozens of them self seed in the soil from our compost which is dug in! 

Finally have beans, cucs and courgettes! The Cayennes at
the top are the healthy ones which haven't been repotted yet.

I've also had had a problem with my indoor sown tomatoes and chillies which were slow to grow after pricking out into individual pots. I got them outside into the cold frames as soon as I could so they could get as much light as possible, but some of my chillies have stood still for about a month now and not grown at all. I've potted them on into bigger pots but they still are not doing anything. Yet my last sowing of cayenne peppers which haven't even been repotted are 5 times bigger and healthier with loads of leaves! Nothing makes any sense and the sooner I plant the whole lot out into the soil the better I think. Also when I think about it, my second sowing of French marigolds (which I plant between the tomatoes as a companion plant) are now bigger than the first sowing, yet they are about two weeks younger. Maybe it was a duff batch of potting compost.  *scratches head*

I did buy some tomato plants so I will be ahead and of the two varieties that I grew from seed, Gardeners' Delight and Apero, I have one of each planted into big tubs on the sunny side of the house, along with a bought Sungold. All the rest of the bought ones are in the veg patch and they'll be joined shortly by a few more pathetically small Gardeners' Delights.

The Sungold (on left) has a naughty side shoot which I shall pinch off
and make into a new plant!

Most of the Aperos did nothing after the initial pricking out and they remain as thin lanky strangely coloured plants. I did give them a liquid feed weeks ago but that didn't seem to help and are a very wierd dark greeny almost purple colour. Never mind I had too many plants so they are going in the compost! This is just such a wierd year but it's not worth puzzling over any more, I'm gonna be tough, plant them out and they either will or they won't. I'm going to concentrate on what is growing properly now!

Next posting will be into the veg patch as it's finally worthy of being seen in public!


  1. Ha! Like your 'moaning' label. I should probably utilise that quite a lot more. Now I could have sworn that earlier I read on here something about picking off side shoots off tomatos and replanting them, but apparently I'm going bonkers. I'm going to ask my question anyway in the hope that you might know the answer. I just picked lots of side shoots off but some of them were bigger than the supposed main shoots!! Should I have picked off the smaller one even if a main shoot? Thank you in advance for answering a question that alludes to something not even mentioned here!!

  2. That's a really good question! I'm going to ask Mr Tomato King what he thinks about that one. My gut instinct would be to go with the stronger shoot but that would rather depend upon if the shoot has 'got away' too much and gone off at a funny angle, and whether it is possible to try to straighten it up to make it into a new leader.

    The aim with the cordon tomatoes is to keep them as straight and upright as possible (with no side shoots, obviously!). They don't really want to grow like that and even if you are vigilant with the pinching out and tying in, they will still be zig zag shaped up the support. I'm sure your plants will be fine even if you have picked off bigger shoots as now all the plants' energy can go into the main stem and the fruit on it.

    I don't know if I've mentioned rooting side shoots on here or not, but they are amazing and will root in no time at all. One of those ones you forgot about which is quite chunky rather than a tiny little 2 inch long one is better, and sometimes I'll leave some side shoots to grow on purpose for propagating from. They will survive even being bunged straight into the soil in full hot sun so long as you water them in. Give them a week and they've straightened up, rooted and started growing!

    Oh - just realised - it was on the caption of the photo! I think that's what you meant, not an earlier posting. Duh. :-)

  3. I have a post here about pruning tomatoes.

    There is also a great video to watch, far more professional than my videos.
    You can leave shoots on to grow a little longer if you are saving them to re-plant, but not too many on each plant.

    Even if you have shoots longer than the stem that you have missed take these out, the only time you would let a shoot take over from the main stem is if you have snapped the head off by mistake, or if the plants grows blind. There is a mention of this in this post.

    Remember that cordon tomato plants can grow over 20 ft long supported in a greenhouse, so when growing outdoors they do need support. If you stem tie them to a long pole they could side down later with the weight of the fruit, so it would be best to nip out the heads at about 4 to 5 to foot high. Or if you could have a support above them and support them with string then that would be better.

    Tomatoes will obviously not grow as tall outdoors because of weather conditions and the wind and rain will eventually damage them. They are also more prove to blight, so keep them well away from potato crops.

    I started my blog as I was giving out daily advice of the 'grow your own' magazine on-line forum. It was easier than posting an answer every time, I will add a little help section on my blog sometime so you can pop over an ask questions.

    Just remember that when saving seeds and even shoots form F1 plants that they might not always grow true to form. But as we are not commercial growers it is not really a problem.

    Mr TK

  4. Thank you so much Steve as that's really informative. I had to let a side shoot take over as the main stem last year as something ate the growing tip of my 'Ananas' tomato, so it took a long time to come back into flower again and then fruit, which was a shame.

  5. Yeah, thanks Mandy and Steve! My tomatoes seem to be doing well at the moment but I am slightly alarmed by the fact they can grow up to 20 feet! I need some kind of cathedral to grow them in methinks... (Or I could just, as suggested, nip them back to 4 or 5 feet.) Also nice to know I WASN'T going bonkers and had just failed to reread your caption. Very much 'duh' on my part.