Have you got a problem in your vegetable garden? Ask Mike our resident gardener, by filling in the comment box below, or contact us. He would like to help you.
Ask Mike to solve your problem, in the comment box below.
109 Comments »
Hope this helps
Comment by TopVeg – March 12, 2007 10:53 am
What a great site – it is great to see so much practical information. The advice about protecting the garden during a cold spell has proved particularly useful this week and will hopefully have prevented any set backs in my garden. Thanks and keep gardening!
Comment by Jane – March 20, 2007 8:15 pm
Comment by Patricia – March 30, 2007 3:10 pm
Butternet squash is delicious, but don’t rush! They like warm soil, so it is a good idea to start them off in the greenhouse.See the link below forÂ more information :http://topveg.com/2007/03/30/butternut-squash-seeds/
Comment by TopVeg – March 30, 2007 5:05 pm
Comment by Alan – March 30, 2007 8:02 pm
Comment by TopVeg – March 30, 2007 10:49 pm
North East England may not be warm enough for your melons – so keep them under cover to be on the safe side.
Melons require lots of warmth, water and plenty of food!
Comment by TopVeg – April 1, 2007 8:32 am
Can you recommend a good watering can for watering my plants evenly in the greenhouse? I have 2 watering cans and the sprinkler nozzles are broken so water just gushes out at the trays and the seeds all move with the water! Or can you recommend another way of watering the greenhouse successfully?
A frustrated greenhouse grower!
The met office says a chance of frost next week. Will my potatoes be OK or will they need protection. My earlies are nearly emerging but I have only just planted the maincrop.
The potatoes in the ground will be fine if there is a frost. But the potatoes that have emerged will need protection from the frost. The green leaves will be damaged by frost and this will set the potatoes back.
So cover all emerged green shoots if a frost is forecast. Keep an eye on the forecast everyday, by clicking on the MetOffice link!
Good luck, TopVeg
Comment by TopVeg – April 16, 2007 6:25 pm
Your watering cans sound a nightmare!! Having the right watering can makes all the difference.
This link may help:
Put a Haws can on your birthday list!
Comment by TopVeg – April 19, 2007 5:32 pm
Sara @ Farming Friends
Give it a go!
Comment by TopVeg – May 2, 2007 8:13 am
Sara from farmingfriends
Sweet potatoes are from the sub-tropical part of the world. They like very warm, humid conditions, growing best between 20 and 30C.
They prefer a light soil.
Good luck, and lets hope for a hot summer!
Comment by TopVeg – May 8, 2007 8:20 pm
I am a first time veg gardener and have ordered plug plants – however, my plot is very small and now I have too many plants. Can I grow the following in pots/growbags?
sweetcorn, winter squash (butternut and crown prince; summer squash.
Comment by TopVeg – May 23, 2007 3:57 pm
Squash will grow in large pots or growbags, but only plant one per bag. They will need lots of water. Only plant as many as you will need, so that you give yourself time to look after them.
I don’t think you will have much luck with sweetcorn in a container. It would need to be a huge container – at least a 5 gallon containerÂ for each plant. Remember to put them in a block so that they can pollinate each other. The sweetcorn will need quite a lot of plant food to keep them going.
Mike from TopVeg
Comment by TopVeg – May 23, 2007 4:06 pm
Its may 25 and the parsnips I sowed 6 weeks ago are really struggling to germinate the bed is full of chickweed and if I try to weed it I end up pulling up one of the few parsnip seedlings, Should i dig it up and start again? Is it too late to sow parsnips? I live in Northern Ireland.
Comment by ciaran – May 26, 2007 12:33 am
Are the parsnips in rows? If so, it should be easy to hoe between the rows. Then hand pull the chickweed within the row. Weeding little & often does not make it such a chore, & if you can get the chickweed when it is tiny, it will not disturb the parsnips so much. Did you see this post on hoeing?
If you have one parsnip every 6″ or so, that will be fine. It is really too late to sow any more, but if you want to chance it- use short rooted varieties if sowing late.
Good to hear from NIreland!
Comment by TopVeg – May 26, 2007 2:01 pm
its summer in india at this time
Are you wanting to grow onions for the bulb or for the spring onions where you eat the leaf & small bulb uncooked?
To grow onions for the bulb, the seed can be sown in August and they will be ready in late June. Or you can sow them in March, when they will be ready in August or September of the same year.
For the salad onions, sow anytime between March and July for a June- October crop. Salad onions take about 12 weeks from sowing to harvest.
Keep in touch and let us know how your onions grow in India.
Comment by TopVeg – May 28, 2007 6:03 pm
Thanks again for a great website!!
Comment by Susanne Rook – June 4, 2007 1:04 pm
The sweetcorn are hungry plants and either tomato feed or just normal organic liquid veg feed will do.
A lot of tomato plants seem to be suffering from virus this year. Try not to touch the infected parts, or if you have to, work on them last, so you do not spread it to the other plants. Then wash your hands & tools thoroughly.
If it is tomato mosaic virus, it is probably not worthwhile removing the old plants, as they will produce normal fruit. As the greenhouse warms up, the symptoms of TMV will decrease.
I wonder if you smoke? Smokers can infect the tomatoes with TMV.
But is if is one of the other viruses, the plants will look pretty awful, & you will have to destroy them. I hope it is TMV!
Let us know how you get on
Comment by TopVeg – June 5, 2007 10:52 am
What vegetables do you like to eat? Do you have an outside vegetable garden too?
You can grow almost anything in a greenhouse, but if you have an outdoor patch, you will probably want to grow plants that need more warmth and shelter.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash are usually grown in a greenhouse.
But lettuce & radish do well inside & will probably grow more quickly.
Comment by TopVeg – June 6, 2007 1:40 pm
I AM A FIRST TIME GARDENER AND I WOULD LOVE TO GROW SOME VEGGIES IN POTS. CAN I PLANT ANY IN JUNE I ONLY HAVE POTS
Comment by LIZ – June 8, 2007 10:52 am
Comment by susanne – June 8, 2007 10:55 am
There is a possibility that the tomatoes have caught tobacco mosaic virus from your fingers which have held the roll up!! But it sounds as they are growing away from it, & they will certainly improve when…if..it gets warmer! The aubergines are probably suffering from the cold northerly winds we have been getting & should perk up when summer arrives.
Good to hear from you
Comment by TopVeg – June 8, 2007 11:20 am
Yes you can grow some delicious salads in pots. Try radish and salad leaves. If you have a big pot courgettes or squash would do well. They will need a bright spot.
More info here http://topveg.com/2007/05/08/vegetable-growing-in-containers/
Can carrots be transplanted easily?
Sara from farmingfriends
Carrots cannot be planted easily, because they have a tap-root. If the tap-root is damaged by transplanting, the carrots become phangy, and slow growing.
Thanks for your interesting question
Comment by TopVeg – June 20, 2007 9:10 pm
Thanks for your question about growing broad beans. It depends where you live. In the UK we are about to have the longest day, and from then on, the hours of daylight (& length of time available for light to be converted into food by the plant in photosynthesis)will be reducing.
It is too late to plant broad beans because they will probably not be able to grow fast enough to reach maturity, because of the declining hours of daylight. The beans will probably not be able to fill the pods.
You could plant some broad beans in November, and they will be ready to harvest in early June next year.
Good to hear from you.
Comment by TopVeg – June 20, 2007 9:24 pm
An interesting question! If the onions at the end of the row are bigger, it is because they have less competition. It shows they like space, so if you want bigger onions, put them further apart within the row.
We find the normal spacing recommendations give smaller onions, so we plant ours further apart.
The same thing happens with carrots and parsnips, with many rows in a bed. The outside rows always produce bigger carrots. Therefore, in the outside rows the carrots are put closer together within the row, to get even sized roots in the whole bed.
Hope that answers the question.
You will be busy with a 10 pole plot!
Comment by TopVeg – June 21, 2007 8:56 am
Comment by Patricia – June 21, 2007 2:36 pm
The carrots should be OK after potatoes. Choose a short rooted variety to go in a pot. They should grow quickly if you put them in before the end of the month.
Thanks for your question, and good luck with the carrots!
Comment by TopVeg – June 21, 2007 3:32 pm
I have been given some purple carrot seedlings. Any advice on growing would be appreciated, eg soil type, best position, spacing etc.
Sara from farmingfriends
Thanks for your question – purple carrots sound interesting!
Soil type – deep, fertile soil is what they like, but not freshly-manured soil.
Position – a sunny spot
Spacing – 5 – 7cm apart
Keep the plot weed free, and damp. Heavy rain on dry soil will cause the roots to split.
Enjoy your purple carrots!
Comment by TopVeg – June 22, 2007 2:05 pm
Sara from farmingfriends
Some crops are more susceptible to flooding than others. Peas do not like wet feet & strawberries rot off as soon as they get damp.
Others seem to survive, so I am sure you will have something left, if the water drains away quite quickly.
I do hope the weather will cheer up for you
Comment by TopVeg – June 28, 2007 9:08 pm
Hope your lovely garden is surviving this wet weather. I see you have a section on herbs as well as veg. I have a query about my Bay tree. I was away in June when we had some very hot weather and unfortunately my Bay Tree dried out. About two thirds of the leaves have gone a very dark brown – do you think it can be salvaged???
Comment by Sinead – July 2, 2007 8:33 pm
Are there any green leaves left on the plant? Make sure you give the root ball a good soak. It is very difficult to wet it once it has dried out. It may be worth immersing the pot in water for 24 hours (no more!).
Also, move the pot into a sheltered position until the plant has recovered. Keep it out of wind, and full sun, so that it does not loose too much water from the leaves.
I hope that the bay will recover. Thanks for your question
Comment by TopVeg – July 2, 2007 9:54 pm
What size carrots do you want? If they are big enough for you, then that is the time to pull them. Early carrots may be ready to lift 12 weeks after sowing. Main crop carrots will be ready 16 weeks after sowing.
If you are planning to store the carrots, it is better to wait until October, when the growing season is over and the temperature is cooler.
Hope that helps.
Comment by TopVeg – July 3, 2007 11:50 am
Shallot seed is similar to onion seed & can be grown using the same techniques. The seed can be started off in modules in the spring & transplanted, or sown directly into the garden. They are ready for harvesting at the same time as the onions- June to September. Each seed produces a single shallot bulb.
To produce the best yield of well shaped bulbs it is important to sow seed at one cm spacing. Seed sown too thinly can result in the bulbs becoming coarse and splitting.
I hope you have a successful crop of shallots from your seed. They should also benefit from hybrid vigour, giving you stronger seedlings.
Thanks for your question.
Comment by TopVeg – July 3, 2007 1:33 pm
It depends where you are and what you are trying to do.
Generally, polytunnels do not need shading.
If you could tell us your location, the height of the tunnel and what you are growing, we will come back to you.
Comment by TopVeg – July 9, 2007 8:07 pm
You should not need shading in these tunnels, generally.
Courgettes & squash will do well, but may take up too much space! Most crops will vegetables grow in this environment – as well as soft fruit.
With correct feeding, you should have a heavy crop of tomatoes, peppers & cucs. Have you tried chillies?
Thanks for visiting.
Comment by TopVeg – July 14, 2007 6:22 am
I have a probelm with my broad beans. The plants are in spectacular shape
(about a metre tall). They started blooming more than a month ago and they are
currently full of flowers but I have no been able to neither collect 1 braod
bean as yet nor seen any small ones. The flowers seem to fall, although I can
not find many flowers on the ground. I can not see any obvious sign of pests on
the plants either. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions etc???
Comment by TopVeg – August 9, 2007 8:54 pm
We had that problem, too. At the start of the season the broad bean flowers dropped off, because they had not been fertilised. We though it was because we had a cold spring and the pollinating insects were not about.
But perhaps there is some physiologiacl trigger in the broad bean which allows bean development when the plant has reached a certain stage of development.
We did eventually get a very heavy crop of beans, which was worth waiting for!
I hope your beans do well.
Comment by TopVeg – August 9, 2007 8:55 pm
If I spray vegetables with rhubarb infusion (oxalic acid) be eaten after washing
the vegetables? how long should I wait after spraying to eat them?
Comment by TopVeg – August 9, 2007 8:57 pm
Are you making the infusion from your rhubarb? If you are not adding anything else, it should be fine to eat the veg straight away. Thanks for your question
Comment by TopVeg – August 9, 2007 8:59 pm
Sara from farmingfriends
How exciting to have some raspberry canes. They will last for ten years, so it is worth giving them a good start. The site needs to be well draines, out of the wind and in the sun. Soil needs to have lots of FYM dug in. More info on http://topveg.com/2007/09/01/planting-raspberry-canes-in-the-garden/
Comment by TopVeg – September 1, 2007 5:05 pm
On our heavy soil we have incorporated coarse sand to make it more friable. The sand particles help to keep the clay particles apart. You need a lot of coarse sand to have any effect. You need so much that it is not really practical.
As you have discovered, adding a lot of organic matter does not solve the problem, because you need to add so much.
Carrots have always been grown on sandy soils, or sandy-loams.
One solution is growing them in a container – which you can fill with the perfect growing medium!
Keep in touch and let us know how you get on with next years carrots
Comment by TopVeg – September 7, 2007 7:40 pm
That is worth trying. I always get soil from a molehill when I want some good soil for planting in. Let us know if it helps and you get some carrots
Comment by TopVeg – September 8, 2007 6:36 pm
This is so disappointing – when the pods look good and healthy, with no beans inside.
I am afraid the answer is probably the weather. Hot, dry weather during pollination results in poor pod set.
Where abouts are you? Are there many bumble bees about?
The other reason could be the quality of the seed. Research by Gardening Which has shown that the average packet of vegetable seeds contains pretty poor quality seed.
Let us know where you are and we will investigate further. Thank you for posting a question on TopVeg.
Comment by TopVeg – September 29, 2007 7:56 am
Comment by Gerry (Kath’s friend) – October 7, 2007 8:35 pm
Sweetcorn should receive at least eight hours of sunlight a day, so it needs a sunny site in the vegetable garden. It also needs plenty of water when it is filling the cobs – at least an inch a week. This year has been dull and dry, not helpful for sweetcorn north of Watford!
Read this article on growing corn
Hope that helps
Comment by TopVeg – October 22, 2007 8:16 am
Sara from farmingfriends
Keep the strawberries weed free, so that they do not have any competition. But only scratch the surface when hoeing – & do not go deep or you will disturb the roots. Keep the hoe well away from the crowns.
Comment by TopVeg – November 11, 2007 6:10 pm
Thanks for all your advice. Sara from farmingfriends
Comment by TopVeg – November 11, 2007 10:21 pm
I think the brassicas are purple sprouting broccoli and they were planted early June but they are not very big may be 10cm in height.
Sara from farmingfriends
If they are only 10cm tall, you should be able to dig up the whole root system, if you dig round and lift a big soil ball. Water them well, when you have moved them and give them some nitrogen, either pellets, or some liquid manure watered down. The puddles round the edge of the manure heap are an excellent tonic when mixed with water.
If you take some weeds with you, you could smother them by placing some old carpet around the base of the broccoli.
Purple sprouting broccoli is always welcome in the spring, so it is worth giving them a bit of help!
Comment by TopVeg – November 13, 2007 4:48 pm
Unlike glass, polythene radiates heat gained back into the atmosphere. Temperatures in a polytunnel can therefore actually be lower than outside, so only hardy salads and veg. can be successfully grown, although of course the tunnel provides excellent protection against the elements!
Because Winter light values are low, the tunnel must be sited in the brightest place possible, but sheltered.
Winter salads are excellent value, especially oriental varieties. They include:
Mustards, e.g. Mizuna (mild), Chinese Green-in Snow (hot), Chinese Giant Red (very hot!).
Radishes, e.g. Chinese Mantanghong, Japanese Mooli.
Spring Onions. Sown in late June, Guardsman crops well and is fully hardy.
Endives, various, mostly quite hardy.
Lamb’s lettuce is an excellent winter salad.
Baby Turnips, Tiny Pal stands well in Autumn and early Winter. Also wonderful as a steamed vegetable.
Many vegetables can be grown on in a polytunnel for late Winter or early Spring cropping, mostly Brassicas. Personal favourite:
Purple sprouting Broccoli. Try extra early Rudolph, or Red Arrow.
Comment by TopVeg – November 20, 2007 5:45 pm
Comment by stewart – March 30, 2008 7:14 am
It is a good idea to plant brassica seeds in the greenhouse and then transplant the young plants into the garden in late May.
Once the seedlings have germinated, transplant them into small pots. Keep the pots in a light position and keep them cool, but frost free. Harden them off before you transplant them into the garden.
Swedes are happier if sown in modules, so that the whole module can be planted out in the garden.
Lettuce grow quite quickly, and you may want to keep some in the greenhouse for cutting earlier, and transplant others out into the garden when they are big enough to handle.
Hope that helps
Comment by TopVeg – March 30, 2008 7:48 am
thanks for the advice on veg plants are tomatoes best grown in pots or long troughs (they are in the greenhouse)
Comment by stewart – March 30, 2008 8:10 am
Tomatoes need a large container- so a big pot or a long, deep trough is OK. Many growers use growbags, with 3 tomato plants per bag.
Growpots are a luxury, which help with the watering.
Hope that helps
Comment by TopVeg – March 30, 2008 6:59 pm
The leaves are in great shape and growing well but No flowers have come, some of the seed potatos that were too many fgor pots were put into the ground and these have flowered. Do I have a problem please?
The pots have been looked after and fed etc.
Comment by Brian Morgan – July 11, 2008 4:49 am
Were they all the same variety?
Different varieties of potatoes flower at different times in the life cycle of the potato plant – so stage of flowering is not a good guide to harvesting time.
You can certainly harvest some varieties of potatoes before the flowers appear. Time of harvest really depends on the size of the new potatoes. Flowering is not directly associated with the size of potatoes.
It is possible to scratch away some soil and have a little look at the potatoes – to see if they are big enough to eat. Click this link to watch a video about how to check the size of new potatoes:
It would be interesting to hear how the size and weight of potatoes vary from the pot & garden.
Comment by TopVeg – July 11, 2008 8:09 am
The only way to control it once you have got it is with chemicals- & fungicides are available in garden centres.
In future, you can grow mildew resistant varieties of swede. Also keep them ‘airy’- get rid of weeds so that there is a bit air circulation around the swedes.
There is more info on mildew here: http://topveg.com/2008/06/28/powdery-mildew-in-courgettes/
The mildew will not affect soil quality.
Comment by TopVeg – August 17, 2008 1:01 pm
A friend recommended I pose this question to you: I planted some eggplant seeds last year (mixed varieties of Asian eggplants) and one plant has been producing deep purple fruit – though not elongated as I had expected. But then came along these yellow-ochre ones that are fairly bitter. You can see photos of the purple fruit here:
And the yellow ones are here:
Comment by TopVeg – August 19, 2008 3:14 pm
Comment by TopVeg – August 20, 2008 4:27 am
I would not remove the leaves – let them die off naturally.
Congratulations on your success!
Comment by TopVeg – August 25, 2008 10:52 pm
I have a crab apple tree, when should I pick the crab apples?
Sara from farmingfriends
When the first apple drops, cut it open to see if the pips are brown. It is ripe if they are brown.
If the apples come off the tree easily, when you cup them in your hand, and give them a gentle twist, they are ready for picking.
Comment by TopVeg – August 28, 2008 5:43 pm
Comment by TopVeg – September 15, 2008 12:32 pm
Comment by Julie – September 26, 2008 4:27 pm
Where exactly is the damage? What does the damage look like? Is it neatly munched into holes (by caterpillars), or are odd bits ripped out (by birds), or are the tops neatly mown off (by deer), or are the whole plants being nibbled by slugs? Or is it the stem, growing centre, or roots?
Please give us a few hints and we will start to piece the jigsaw together!
Comment by TopVeg – September 26, 2008 7:17 pm
My red onions I planted about six months ago in early winter ( N.Z. April) seem to be a good size and some of the top leaves flopped six weeks ago. The plants are still fairly upright and green but some are developing seed heads ?? on the top of the leaves, does this mean I have left them too long, they dont seem truly round yet. Regards from N.Z.
Comment by Peter – October 14, 2008 11:30 am
Break off the seed head when you first notice it developing. The plant may then continue to form a small bulb, allbeit not as good as a non-seeded onion.
Use (eat) the bulbs from seeded-onions first as they do not keep well, so don’t put them into store.
Comment by TopVeg – October 15, 2008 6:18 pm
Fennel is a hardy, perennial herb, which tends to reseed itself, giving an ongoing clump of fennel which comprises young and old plants.
Fennel is very similar to Dill, and it will cross pollinate with Dill (and Coriander).
So the problem comes in a few years time when your original fennel plant dies, you could be left with plants which are fennel X dill – & not as good as your original fennel.
That is why gardeners say keep the fennel on its own – to avoid cross pollination.
Hope that helps!
Comment by TopVeg – October 26, 2008 1:20 pm
It sounds like neck rot which is more common if the onions are lifted in wet weather. You can find out more about neck rot on :
The onion leaves are usually left to dry off naturally and not cut off, as this allows disease to enter.
Try to keep the onions in a well ventilated place, and allow air to circulate round the onions. Use the ones with poor necks first and remove any which are showing signs of rot, so it does not infect others.
Hope that helps
Comment by TopVeg – November 11, 2008 6:26 pm
Can you tell me if a cat using our veg patch as an occasional toilet will be causing the plants (or us) any harm.
A mixture of root veggies, brassicas.
Comment by Peter – December 30, 2008 9:52 am
Cat droppings sometimes carry toxoplasmosis, which is dangerous to expectant mothers, young children & those people with a suppressed immune system.
It is possible to pick up toxoplasmosis in different ways:
faeces of the infected cat may be accidentally swallowed
the faeces may be touched whilst handling the soil when gardening
tools may become contaminated when working in the soil
Never use cat droppings as fertilizer. Toxoplasmosis is especially dangerous for pregnant women, because it is associated with birth defects and miscarriage.
Comment by TopVeg – December 30, 2008 12:30 pm
I have received an email from one of my regular readers about growing garlic.
I’m fairly new at growing garlic. I didn’t get mine planted in the fall, but had been reading about softneck garlic and found that it can be planted in the
spring, in some areas. It’s possible for me to plant out things like kale, chard, broccoli in March under a little cover protection. Would you think I could plant out my garlic as well?
I saw that many UK gardeners start their garlic in the greenhouse in cells. I could maybe get a jump on the March planting and start them in the house establishing some root and top growth first.?
I would appreciate your opinion. Since I have ordered it anyway ~ I guess I’ll be experimenting! Any suggestions would be helpful and thanks in advance.
What advice would you give Lynn who lives in W. Pennsylvania, United States in zone 5 for gardening.
Sara from farmingfriends
Planting garlic in the spring has mixed results – depending on the spring weather. Although spring planted garlic bulbs are often smaller than those planted in the autumn, they are usually quite satisfactory.
We tend to treat our soft-neck garlic like onion sets, and plant them in February, without protection – and we get good results. If some protection is available, this must help, and bring things forward a few weeks.
It amazes me that onions and garlic started in cells in the greenhouse, continue to grow successfully when transplanted. But they do! We have grown onions that way, without any problems.
I hope this helps -
Comment by TopVeg – January 4, 2009 10:48 pm
Here it is freezing rain today, very gloomy out and I’m getting ready to plant. It sure brightens up the season!
Thank you again and I’ll let you know when my pictures are posted.