How to collect flower seeds from your garden

So I’ve been out in the garden with a jam jar this week. And it wasn’t for catching slugs. I’ve been out collecting seeds from the flowers that have passed.

As gardeners, we spend a small fortune on seeds and plants for the garden, we always will but a lot of the time, we are rebuying the same plants over and over, when in fact we could just be saving the seeds from the ones we already have. It might just save you a few pennies.

So this week I’ve been out collecting seeds from the Mims (or Mimulus or Monkeyflowers), Petunias, Violas and Crocosmia.

The Mims were one of the first bedding plants we introduced and they add the most amazing splash of colour. Even better, they self-seed like crazy so you end up with loads of them, everywhere.

Why then you might be asking am I bothering to collect seeds? That is a very good question… because when plants self-seed, it’s not always easy to tell the flowers from the weeds, because you didn’t plant them so they are a bit unexpected. This way I get to control where they grow, so less risk of them being weeded out of the garden.

How to collect seeds

Collecting seeds is actually pretty easy. Two things you need:

  • a dry day (because you want the seed heads to be dry to make it easier to get the seeds
  • a vessel for collecting them, a jam jar or an envelope
  • you will still need an envelope for storing the seeds

Ok, so that was three things.

Basically, the little dry papery seed heads which appear after flowers have passed is where all those lovely, but very tiny, seeds are stored.

To collect them, I simply put the seed heads into the jar and tap them. This lets the seeds fall out into the jar to be saved.

Not all flowers work this way though… Viola for instance.

Viola seed heads pop open and the seeds fall out, however, the seeds don’t fall out straight away so you get a bit of time to go around and find seed heads which are still full of seeds – hurrah!!

With these, you can simply scrape the seeds off into your jar (or envelope).

Petunias are like Violas, their tiny little seed heads pop open and let the seeds out so you have to watch for this.

and… the seeds are soooo tiny and easy to lose. So be careful collecting them.

Some seed heads though are a wee bit trickier again. Some are pods, like the Crocosmia.

The Crocosmia seeds are encased in the long seed pods of the plant, I find it easier to take this whole pod off the plant and then go and “encourage” the seeds out in a nice safe space like a table or bench in the greenhouse. This way you are less likely to lose some to unexpected places.

These seeds are quite a bit bigger though, so easier to spot.

How to store the seeds until planting

This is where your envelope comes in. You don’t want to store the seeds in the jam jar, as you want any moisture to be able to evaporate, making it less likely that you’ll get mould etc on the seeds, so I always store them in an envelope. It doesn’t have to be a fancy envelope, just what you have around.

Remember to write the name of the seeds on the envelope though, and I usually write a note of when to plant them too.

There you go, really easy huh?

Some hints

A few hints though.

  • you need to wait until the seeds are ripe before harvesting or they may not be viable. Usually, this is when they are brown or black, so avoid green or “fresh” looking seeds
  • F1 or hybrids: be warned that hybrid may not produce exactly the same flower as the original because that one has been bred using two specific plants. Only heirloom (or open pollinated) varieties will reliably produce the same flowers again and again.

We have seen this change in flowers with our Mims, when we bout them, they all had a spotty pattern which was awesome.

But over the last few years as they have been cross-pollinated with each other they have mostly become solid colours, and even then the colours seem to randomly change each year. I like this, I think it’s fun that I never know what I’m going to get but if you have a strict colour pallet in your garden you may want to be aware of this.

So there you go, save a few pennies and get out and collect some seeds… I’m just watching and waiting for the sunflowers to be ready to go collect some seeds from my beasties.


Someone … might even have got a name check in this week’s video… cough, ahem…. Annie!




Season finale 2019 – final harvest

It’s that time again folks, the growing season here at Ar Bruidair is coming to an end, so this weekend we went about tidying, clearing out, cutting back and harvesting what needed to be harvested. I’m not going to look at it as a sad day though, instead I’m going to look at it as the beginning of next season.

Really happy with this year, the new greenhouse is certainly making life easier and we’ve had a constant supply of peppers and tomatoes this year. Even though I accidentally grew three bush types – not a lot of space. We did have a batch of unripened tomatoes which last year I used to make passata and chutney, this year we didn’t get quite that amount.

First time this year that we’ve grown Roma Peppers, and we’ll be adding that to our list. Awesome peppers and a bit fun. Although, word of warning, the smaller ones look a bit like large jalapenos so be careful 🙂

But generally, we’re pretty happy. We’ve had the usual courgette fun – find them before they become marrows. That’s always a fun game.

And I know you were all advising me to wear gloves when dealing with the courgettes, so I promise, I did for the final harvest – just for you guys.

A bit easier in the greenhouse, not as prickly or as cold, but big bowl fulls of jalapenos and San Marzano tomatoes. Yum! And not to forget the amazing mix of peppers.

The fun this year has to go to the carrots though, I don’t think I’ve had a single straight carrot, but I have had some Instagram stars…

The Jacob Reese Mogg (recumbent) of the carrot world went down a storm on twitter.

And I’ll leave this one to your imagination…

Going to put a bit more focus on flowers next year, so you’ll see a few changes in the greenhouse, namely a little bit less in the way of tomatoes and peppers, but hopefully, that will make for better-hanging baskets and borders, hurrah! And hopefully even BIGGER sunflowers than this year… which have been whoppers! Kate took some photos to show you… With an Eli for scale.

This is our tallest one

And our smallest…

I suspect the next few weeks will see lots of cooking to use up garden goodies, it may even be courgette fritters for tea tonight.

If you have a harvest bounty and are running out of ideas…

http://www.eliapplebydonald.co.uk/blog/category/food-drink/bountiful_harvest

I think there may be a few more recipes coming your way soon to use up the amazing harvests we’re all having.

As ever, pop over to Youtube to join me in the greenhouse for a bit of a chat




Starting carrots in the root trainer

Way back in March when I was getting the spring planting underway, I spoke to you about the problems I can have getting carrots and beetroot to take. Mostly due to the length of time it takes for the ground to heat up here in Scotland and the fact that we can have gorgeous, warm spring weather one week and back to snow the next.

Well this year I took you guys on a bit of a different journey with me, I tried something which was a bit of a mad experiment. One random moment in the greenhouse I just thought, “what the heck”. I saw the root trainers sitting on the bench empty and decided to have a go at planting the carrots in them, that way I could keep them in the greenhouse, away from the pearls of the Scottish spring and hopefully, hopefully, give them a chance to establish before I put them out into the raised beds.

Well I am very happy to say that this worked an absolute treat and will now be my new go to way of getting carrots and beetroot going in spring.

The carrots not only ALL made it this year, but they came on so quickly and were ready to each much faster than normal. unfortunately the experiment of using the seed tape for beetroot wasn’t as successful, but next year the beetroot will be joining the carrots in their new adventure.

So one very happy houseful, eating lots of purple carrots as normal. Hooray!!

We put out a video on Friday so come have a wander around the garden with me, but watch out for those courgette plants. They sting like mad!




Autumn is the time to give your lawn some love

You have all joined us on our journey from blocked car park to luscious lawn, so we thought it only fair to share some important autumn tips with you.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the hardest plants to grow and maintain in our garden, believe it or not, is grass. Well, not in all those places you don’t want it to; like between the paving slabs, in the flower beds and rockery, even in the greenhouse, but trying to get that beautiful, flat, green lawn is a heck of a load of work and I suspect it’s one of the reasons people give in with gardening early on because they didn’t realise just how much work a lawn is.

front of house
How the front looked when we bought the house

Way back when we first bought the house, there wasn’t a lawn. The previous owners had been elderly and found it was too much for them, so they had replaced it with a paved area which more suited their lifestyle. Kate, however, had two images in her head of what it meant to be a proper house owner and paving slabs weren’t on that list (house owner not flat or apartment owner).

These were;

  1. shovelling snow from your driveway
  2. mowing your front lawn.

So as you can imagine, quite early on we decided to lift the paving and lay a lawn. There is now quite a library of blog posts for your perusal all about our lawn adventures. Everything from laying the lawn to accidentally killing it and then having to re-seed it.

So over the last few years, we have learned about grass and lawns and how to look after them and we now have our yearly routine.

It all starts in the Autumn

or September to be precise.

After the summer, the lawn has been growing rapidly and using up nutrients in the soil, so it needs a really good feed. Not just a feed though, it needs feed with Autumn lawn food, high in potash and phosphates which will protect the grass from frost and ice. The high nitrogen spring/summer feeds encourage lots of leafy, top growth, which is soft and easily damaged by frosts, so you don’t want to use these for autumn and winter.

However, before we feed the lawn, we need to give it a good scarify to take out any moss, dead grass, dead leaves etc that are clogging up the soil and potentially taking nutrients away from our lawn. This is called thatch. This is also a good time to go around with a garden fork and put lots of holes into the lawn to release some of the pressure from the compacted earth and to allow air, water and nutrients down to the roots.

Unfortunately scarifying is as much work as digging, so prepare to be knackered, blistered and in pain, but we have found that gin and tonic that evening at least helps with the pain.

So how do I scarify the lawn?

We have found that the best way to do this is to rake the entire lawn in one direction and then go back and repeat this in the opposite direction, kind of like crisscrossing (or kriss krossing if you are a child of the nineties).

Now you can think about feeding. You can use dried food (which is most common) but be careful, we have a fine type of ornamental grass in our front lawn and it burns so, so, so easily. As you all know, so be careful. You won’t have to feed the grass as often during the colder months at all, maybe once in autumn once in winter (at most).

It starts again in spring…

So there you go, Autumn chores are done, but I did say we had a yearly routine….

Yep, you have to do all this again in the spring, just in time for the new shoots to pop up and say hello. However, the feed you use for spring and summer is different, you want high nitrogen feeds for this time of year. You want that green, soft growth I mentioned earlier.

Mowing really takes it out of the grass and so you need to feed it regularly throughout summer and spring. Our efforts over the last couple of years have shown us that feeding fortnightly with a high nitrogen feed works wonders and just for a bit of a giggle and to show how wonderful it is, here is a photo of the lawn when Kate hadn’t been paying attention when feeding. Make sure you use good straight and overlapping lines when you feed folks. Or this could happen.

IMAG2471

Can you see the parts which didn’t get the feed? I still chuckle when I see this.

Of course, you are actually wanting to see this… nice and even.

Moss

Lastly a bit of a tip for dealing with moss. If you’ve ever had a mossy lawn and applied the various moss killing treatments, you may very well have had the heart-stopping moment where your lawn suddenly develops huge black patches where the lawn once was. This is horrible, you put all that work in and it looks worse than when you started.

Luckily, thanks to Beechgrove garden, Kate has a solution to this, she uses a product called Mobacter. It works a little differently, it does kill the moss, yes, but you don’t get the huge black or bald spots because what it does is break the moss down and turn it into food for the grass so it actually feeds the grass at the same time as killing the moss. A word of warning though, it has the weirdest smell, be warned, it’s like a mixture of chocolate and chicken poo…. very weird and not very pleasant for a couple of days.

But worth it!

IMAG3786

Just for you… here is our explanation of scarifying your lawn – our pain and blisters included free of charge.




Let’s have a look back at 2019 so far

It’s not the end of the year, so it may seem a little silly to be looking back over 2019, however, when you are a gardener you are always reflecting and the end of one season and the start of the next is the perfect opportunity.

March

It’s hard to imagine the garden cold and bare, looking out now into the sunshine, but until March this year, there really wasn’t much happening. It was still far too cold to plant any seeds, even with a greenhouse, so March is when it all started. March is our “get seedlings going month” and also the month when we usually have a wee dabble in something new.

This year we tried something a bit different for beetroot in the raised beds. We used seed tape. I’ve always liked the idea of seed tape for the carrots, mainly because with the smaller seeds like carrots, you always sow too many and have to “thin them out” later on. This basically means pulling the “runts” and binning them. Which I hate doing, it’s just such a waste (more on carrots in a second).

So we saw seed tape and gave it a try.

If you’ve never used this before, it’s basically a big row of seeds encased in some paper. So you bury the whole strip and you get the precise amount of seeds, at the precise spacing you need for your bed. Sound awesome.

Not to mince my words… it was crap! We have had precisely NO BEETROOT this year. None, zip, squat, zero, nadda! Won’t be using that stuff again!

Obviously there could be lots of reason for this, but given that beetroot is probably our most successful crop ever and we are usually giving them away, this year has been a blow. We have had leaves, almost every seed germinated, but they just either bolted or didn’t give us anything other than leaves. Sigh! So this post has started with fail…. onto a win then 🙂

CARROTS!!!!!!!!

Yup, we tried something a tad different with the carrots this year too… not seed tape but root trainers. Which I will admit was a bit on the mad side, but hey that’s how we roll!

If you aren’t sure what root trainers are, they are little seed trays that are really tall, letting the seedling roots develop without being impeded by a shallow pot or tray. They split apart so that you can take each little plant out and plant it without disturbing the roots.

So I planted the carrot seeds directly into these and it meant I could bring the carrots on in the greenhouse, which is a bit warmer than the raised beds. It worked a treat. The carrots ALL germinated, and all came on really quickly. And best of all, no need to thin any carrots out, I used all the seedlings – smug!!!!!!

This seems to have made a huge difference with the carrots this year, all of them have been huge and most of them have been pretty straight. Normally we have some right weird ones.

The new greenhouse has been great in letting me try out these ideas. Having the staging makes it so much easier for me to deal with seedlings in there, without the constant back pain of having things on the floor. It was even great to get hanging baskets started off in there, now that I have hanging rails.

Only downside though, I kept smacking my head on them.

April

April was a busy month, busy, busy, busy. We had banana bread, hot-cross buns and little name tags for the plants.

The name tags were so much fun to make (who doesn’t like hitting things with a hammer?) and have been a whopping success. The greenhouse and beds all still have their little tags and they are all completely readable.

There was one bit of sad news in April though, Jim McColl, the longstanding presenter of Beechgrove garden retired. He has been an inspiration of mine and indeed can probably be blamed for my start off in gardening. So… it was only fitting that I paid tribute.

May

So April came and went, the seedlings got bigger and got planted on but just before then… some of them got brand new homes to go to. We have started the huge job of replacing our old, falling apart, raised beds.

To be fair, those beds were never meant to last this long, they were a tester to see if we liked the idea of gardening, I’m guessing we do then?

So out with the old and in with the new, solid railway sleeper raised beds.

new raised beds made from railways sleepers

I think you’ll agree that they do look absolutely amazing… but there was an awful lot of digging and moving heavy things involved and …. I put my back out.

Eli levelling the ground for the raised beds

I wish I could say that this was my only downside of May to tell you about, but alas it’s not to be. Some muppet also burned the hell out of the front lawn. It looked awful…. I wonder who that was????

But it did give us something to focus on and you guys really enjoyed joining in with us on social media and following the hashtag we created. It was fun hearing from you all on the stories of your lawn problems and knowing you were rooting for us (pun intended).

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/isthelawngreenyet/?hl=en

June

June saw the lawn go from bald to lush as the sun finally started to wake up and give us some sunny bright days and the greenhouse came alive.

The tomatoes began appearing and we even named a tomato plant in honor of Jim (see the previous mention of Jim McColl).

June was such a successful month that I don’t have any failures to tell you about, only successes, so instead let me remind you how amazing homemade Bakewell tart is….. mmmmmmm

We blogged our recipe especially for Luke, the young gentlemen who lives next door. We gave him some last Christmas and he has apparently been raving about it, so we gave him the recipe. He’s yet to pop in with a slice for me to try…. disappointed. This year he is getting coal!!!

July

Boy, this was only meant to be a quick update blog post but it’s been such a busy year, we’ve so much to tell you.

So July, I think the best thing I can do for July is not to tell you how awesome it was, instead let me show you. Fancy coming for a walk around the garden with me?

So that finally brings us to August

In August I shared two of my top gardening tips with you, pollinating your greenhouse by hand to increase your harvest and deadheading your flower to increase the colour and beauty in your garden.

We did have one sad face for August, I told you guys about our first experience of blossom end rot. Was a sad one as this was also the first time we’d grown San Marzano tomatoes so it was really frustrating to see something stealing them from us, but the good news is…. we think we’ve defeated it – yippeeeeeeee.

Watch out for a youtube video on Friday to find out more…..

So that’s us, a mahoosive update for you on the year so far… I can only guess what’s still to come. Keep popping back to find out.




A garden update for August

It’s the end of August, summer is beginning to pass to make way for all the gorgeous colours of autumn and I guess that’s probably the perfect time to give you an update on the garden for this season so far and let you know how things have been with the new greenhouse.

I’ve probably done fewer updates this year than normal, but it’s not because there is nothing happening, it’s simply because there hasn’t really been anything new or exciting to tell you guys about, and I don’t want to bore you with lots of repeats.

The main thing this year has been that we are now one season in with our lovely glass greenhouse (named Olive).

The greenhouse update

So… apart from being way cleaner and prettier the new greenhouse is also fabulously less steamy and icky. Due to the extra vents along to two longer sides and the two automatic windows in the roof. So she doesn’t rely on me opening and closing things, she takes care of that all by herself! hurrah!

In terms of the plants in there, it’s the same as usual, we are growing tomatoes, peppers and chillies and the greenhouse is overfull. So no news there then 🙂

We have decided though, that we are not making the best use of the space, as it tends to be completely dominated by eatables (see aforementioned tomatoes) and this means we have been putting our flower plugs out far too early and not really getting the best from them. So we have decided that next year we will be making a change, and the greenhouse will be evenly split between fruit and veg and flowers. So that should be a fantastic new adventure to join us in. Ok if we are honest, we started without you guys. Sorry. We have already taken the seeds from our foxgloves and planted them up in seed trays. Can’t wait to see how they come on.

The raised beds

We are continuing to love having the courgettes outdoors, the plants just seem way happier and way more fruitfull, although as always we end up with marrows because we can’t keep up. Kate is actually making courgette fritters as I type to try to use up a batch I picked yesterday.

We replaced two of the beds this year and now have big, sturdy beds made with railway sleepers. The last bed had strawberries in there so it won’t get a refresh until spring. But it is so nice to not worry about the beds completely falling apart on us now.

The lawn

Now, I am super smug about the lawn. The lawn has been this year’s massive success story. Well to be fair, the fact that there was an issue was my fault, to begin with, but we’ll just gloss over that part and go, look…

from this…

to this…

You can go read the full story in previous posts, but I’m choosing to just bask in the success bit.

The flowers

This is just an excuse to post pictures of sunflowers.

Which are VERY tall

So, there we go, a quick update on the garden and the fun of this month. If you want a more in-depth look at things, grab a cuppa and sit back and watch the video update




Blossom end rot on my tomatoes for the first time ever

I’ve a sad story to tell today, we’ve had our very first experience of blossom end rot. Sigh! Thing is, it’s not necessarily unusual for gardeners to experience this with their tomatoes, it’s just the first time we’ve seen it so we thought it would be a great thing to share and hopefully help you guys learn along with us and make it less common.

It sound dramatic, doesn’t it, blossom end rot! Like a leg is going to fall off or something, but in reality its a wee black spot on the end of a tomato. Yup a tomato so it doesn’t even affect the entire plant, so not nearly as dramatic as say, potato blight. But still, an annoyance just the same.

So what exactly is it?

Well like I said, a wee black spot on the end of the tomato. But the wee black spot gets a bit bigger and becomes sunken because the flesh of the tomato under the spot is a bit on the dodgy side. I won’t say rotten, but essentially yeah, it might as well be. And it’s not just on the outside, it carried on inside the tomato too.

And it’s cause?

Well basically it’s down to watering, well watering and calcium deficiency. It’s caused by calcium deficiency, basically this deficiency shows itself in the furthest away part of the plant from the roots, so the very end of the fruit.

I said it’s to do with watering because most of the time this is exactly what has caused the issue, poor watering. See for the calcium to get from the roots to the very ends of all the branches, and essentially the fruit, there needs to be good water flow. Generally the soil has enough calcium for the plant, its just that it can’t get to where it needs to be.

So this is what caused my problems I think, this year I am getting used to the new greenhouse and this has meant getting used to all the small changes, like how quickly the plants are draining the water reservoir. So yeah there was a couple of times that the water ran out before I had realised and I think this has caused the problem.

Now here’s the next conundrum, it is only affecting one type of tomato plant – my San Marzano plums. And even more strange… there is one plant in each of the quadgrow planters, so not both in the same water supply.

Da da daaaaaaa!!!!!!!!

Ok I was trying to make a big Dan Brown style conspiracy thing out of nothing there. There is a perfectly sensible reason why it’s specifically affecting these two plants. They are both at the same end of the quadgrow planters, the far end from the door. The end that is very, slightly uphill in the greenhouse. Cause you know, life would be too easy if the greenhouse floor was perfect level.

So what has happened is that the water has begun to dry up, and as the floor slopes, the furthest end has been left without water first, meaning those two plants were the first ones to feel the drought and so, had just long enough for it to cause an issue.

So, I did consider the trick of adding Epsom Salts to the water to help the plants absorb calcium (old gardener’s trick) but I think it would be overkill for such a silly thing, so instead I have simply set an alert on my phone to remind me to check the water levels. That pops up ever Sunday, so we shouldn’t have anymore issues of the plants running out of water.

I’ll keep you guys updated on how we get on but in the meantime to make you feel all happy and smiley again… how about I share a picture of this little blue tilt who came to visit with his friend?




Deadheading your flowers: why, how and when?

Deadheading basically just means taking the spent flowers off your plants and there are two good reasons why you should:

  1. dead and decaying flowers just don’t look great and can make your whole plant look a bit ropey
  2. it can encourage your plant to keep flowering for longer or even give you a whole second flush of flowers

Why & when?

Well, basically the whole purpose of life (plants and animals) is to reproduce. For plants, this means producing flowers, which turn into seeds which then disperse. And Voila! Baby plants. So if you take off the flowers after they have stopped looking gorgeous but before they set seed, it will encourage most plants to create more flowers.

It doesn’t work with all plants, but for some, like sweetpeas, it’s absolutely essential.

Most nights after work, we take a short walk around the garden with a bucket and pull any flower heads which we think have “gone over”. So that’s our petunias, primula, viola, mimula, marigolds, gerbera, etc.

How?

Just pinch the faded blossoms off the stem, or you can cut them with scissors. With some plants, you may get more than one flower per stem so be careful not to cut a stem below a bud which hasn’t opened yet. That would defeat the purpose somewhat.

Also, a fantastic tip, from experience, be careful if you pull a plant, if the roots aren’t strong you may actually pull the plant out of the soil (I’ve done this a few times). So pinch the flower off with your fingernail or snip with scissors just to be safe.




The jade plant adventure finishes

Well my adventure with the jade plants has come to an end. The very last of the little cuttings has gone to it’s forever home and my plants are looking happy and healthy.

I am becoming quite the regular at delivering plants by bike.

I can’t believe I went from absolute panic that I was going to lose my plant, and I really believed I was, to having so many healthy jade plants that I was having to find new homes for them as they had taken over the house.

jade plants on a table

I ended up giving away 6 plants from my smaller cuttings and one of the larger ones and I smile when I wander around work and see them on people’s desks.

It has been an amazing adventure and I have learned so much about taking care of my plants. Here are my top tips about taking care of your jade plants, learned from my experience:

  1. Watering
    You can so very easily over water your plant and it will have a huge impact so be very mean when it comes to watering. I have found that you absolutely cannot tell if the plant needs watered just by the soil alone, even sticking your finger deep into the pot. I repotted a plant recently to give to a friend (remember the weird looking stick of a cutting) and found the soil was bone dry until a couple of inches form the bottom of the pot where it was soaking wet. So be aware of that.

    Instead I have been leaving the plants until the leave feel slightly soft to the touch, then I water by giving the plant a good soak. A really good soak, but then leave it until the leaves go slightly soft again. This can actually be a couple of months.

  2. Feeding
    Jade plants need feeding just like any other potted plant but sparingly. Depending on the size of the plant and how long it has been in the pot, every 4 to 6 months. The difficulty though is that feeding on dry soil is complicated as the feed doesn’t permeate the soil as well, so I have found the best way is to water the plant as normal with about half as much water and then once the soil is damp, then add the feed. This has been working well and I can see the result in the plants leaves. All shiny and glossy.
  3. Light
    These plants need A LOT of light, but don’t sit them in strong, direct, sunlight if you can help it. I have a filter on my window which was a bit like sugar glass. So not coloured but just defused the light a little. The plant really didn’t seem to like this. So try to find a nice bright spot.
  4. Pruning
    The last thing I have learned is to be brave and prune and train your plants to look the way you want. The plants will give you so much please as a beautiful thing to look at. They are hardy when it comes to pruning and even a little bit of wiring to encourage them to grow in a certain direction if you want.

Mostly my biggest tip is to just enjoy your jade plant, they really are beautiful plants and a little bit of love goes a long way.

You can catch up on the whole adventure below if you have missed out on any of the previous posts (see the related posts section).




3 tips for pollinating your plants by hand and increasing your harvest

I had one of those laughable moments a few weeks ago when it was like I was a brand new, inexperienced gardener again, when I had for a second, forgotten everything I have learned over the years.

I was in the greenhouse wondering why I had next to no tomatoes and especially next to nothing on the pepper plants when in previous years I’d had lots. It took a second but then I remembered that maybe I should hand pollinate the plants. Now it’s not as dodgy as it sounds, although Kate does admit to feeling slightly uncomfortable about the whole thing. Like it should be done in the privacy of a darkened room.

Basically if you think about it, the plants in the garden get all sorts of pollinating visitors from bees to butterflies to hoverflies and also gets a bit of wind around the flowers. The greenhouse gets some insects, but not nearly as many as if the plants were outside and it would be a rare day for the greenhouse to get any kind of proper wind inside, so naturally, it takes a bit longer for all the flowers to cross pollinate.

So we can help that along. It’s another one of those simple and quick tasks you can add to your weekly routine and it goes something like this.

Option one: tomatoes

Tomatoes are what’s called self pollinating or self fertile, which means the flowers have both male and female parts and basically pollinate themselves. this works because the tomato flowers hang down (face down) and vibrations from the wind, insects etc make the pollen fall from the stamen (male part) to the pistil (female part) and pollinating the plant.

So to help this happen, you just need to cause some vibrations on the flower, just gently. You can do this by tapping the flowers. Nice and simple, or as is actually quite common, you can actually use an electric toothbrush. Yup you read that correctly, an electric toothbrush. Basically just hold it against the stem just above the flower for a couple of seconds. That’s all it takes, and the vibrations help the pollen to drop.

Option two: peppers and chillies

The flowers on pepper and chilli plants are slightly different. They are open and designed to be pollinated by insects, bees, moths and even ants etc. As the insects crawls around in the flower, they get pollen on them which they then transmit to other flowers as they go exploring. So to mimic this… grab a soft bristled paintbrush or a cotton swap. Start at one point in the greenhouse, make a note of your starting point, and just very gently brush the cotton swab or paint brush over the pollen in the flowers on the plants. Then do the same on another plant to transfer that pollen and pick up some new pollen.

I say to make a note of where you start because you want to do this methodically to make sure you cover every flower on every plant.

Option 3: courgettes

The first time I did this when we were growing courgettes in the greenhouse, and I thought that might be a nice thing to talk to you about because it’s a wee bit different on plants like courgettes. Courgettes have both male and female flowers so you need to make sure you are taking the pollen from the male flower and transferring it to the female flower. Don’t worry it’s easy to tell them apart. The male flowers are basically the flowers on long thin stems. The female flowers are on short, fat stems that look like tiny courgettes.

Give it a try, go have a look at the current state of affairs in your greenhouse and make a note of how much fruit you have on the plants and then go around and give the plants a little bit of help with pollination. Then have another check in a couple of weeks and see if it’s made a difference.