Tomato Hats – now a fruit-fly-free zone.

Fruit Fly InfestationBeing rather prone to fruit fly in our area we have had most of our tomato and capsicum crops decimated by fruit fly in recent years.  Pesticides and sticky insect traps made a small impression but most fruit were still being attacked.

Its not easy to see at first, as they burrow through the fruit skin to lay their eggs which then hatch and turn the insides to mush.  So initially there is only a tiny hole to indicate that we had squatters inside our tomatoes.

Then I read that fruit fly only land on the top of the fruit – be it tomato or capsicum so we made some small cloth hats which were tied over the top of the green fruits.

Cloth Hat for Tomato

Essentially they are no more than a square of cotton, just large enough to tie over the fruit like a sunhat.

Green tomatoes

Hat raised to show how it works.

I was eager to see if it adversely affected ripening, but it soon became clear that ripening is an internal chemical reaction that doesn’t require sun rays on the fruit skin to make it happen.

Ripe tomato harvestTwo weeks later we were harvesting perfect fruit – made doubly satisfying knowing that it didn’t need washing because it had never been sprayed.  We washed it anyway to be 100% safe but now feel very happy that we have another Integrated Pest Management technique to add to the armoury.

P.S. before posting this blog I did an internet search to see if anyone else had had the same idea but only found fruit fly bags which require sewing and draw strings to attach.  I’d suggest that fruit do not need 100% enclosing – just the top only as we have proved.  But, as always, am keen to know your thoughts.

Author: Bob Saunders

Mulching Vegetables

In planting out the raised veggie beds recently I decided to try some different approaches to see if yields improved.

The most obvious is the addition of mulch and this time I’m trying sugar cane mulch.  This should help maintain soil moisture, keep roots cooler on those hot Sydney summer days and (I like this one the most) keep weeds at bay.  The most depressing thing about being a lazy gardener is watching the weeds stealing the nutrients from your prized crops.  Not only do they yield less, they become more susceptible to disease and pests.

So rather than be a slave to weeds I thought we’d give them less chance this year.  One or two have poked through since but its a lot easier to spot them now.  Overall I’d say the incidence of weeds has decreased markedly already.

Sugar cane mulch on vegetables

Sugar cane mulch on vegetables

Then there’s the leeks – recognising that they’ll need earthing up as they grow, I’ve planted them in a trough with the soil already piled up alongside to earth them up with later.  Essentially this will mean longer and whiter leeks come harvest time.  And I reckon leek soup on a cold winter’s day is pretty damn good.

Those are Pak Choy, by the way on the left of the photo.  If you haven’t tried Chinese vegetables yet then I’d highly recommend them. Quick and easy to grow and a wonderfully fresh, crisp ingredient in stir fry.

They’ve all had regular waterings with Nitrosol which is essentially a sort of liquid blood and bone with a few extra nutrients thrown in.  Excellent at promoting good root growth which is what we want at this point in the growing cycle and also loaded with nitrogen for good leaf growth.

Mulched Tomatoes

Mulched Tomatoes – well spaced out

I’ve also been more careful to give all plants a bit more room. Its easy to crowd them in, wanting to grow as much as possible but in a moist summer climate the threat of fungal attacks are high so lots of room for air to move around is vital.  These tomatoes have plenty of room to breathe so instead of filling the gaps with companion plants like lettuce as I’ve done in previous seasons, this time they are left open.  I’d say that comparatively growth is above average already simply from leaving all the nutrition to the tomatoes.

Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)