‘TomTato’ Plant Combines Tomatoes and Potatoes Into One Epic Creation!

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Tomatoes and potato plants as separate crops? Pfft, that’s old news! The humble peasants of the past that farmed these green lands would no doubt be amazed at how far things have come since those days. They may even have thought that the newly launched ‘TomTato’ plant verged on black magic, amazingly we can do this at home with a sharp knife or secateurs with wire and a wrap, given that it gives you the best of both worlds by combining the fruit and vegetable types together, this takes creative gardening to a whole new level.

Above ground the ‘TomTato’ plant looks like your normal every day cherry tomato plant, but dig deeper(with a decent fork) and you may be surprised to uncover some potatoes hiding in the dirt. Given the amount of crop growth, fertiliser and soil quality is vitally important. This strange ‘mutant plant’ not to be confused with fascination, isn’t a product of genetic engineering though, it’s produced through a grafting process that takes advantage of Tomatoes and Potatoes being members of the nightshade family – thus being compatible! The result gives you over 500 cherry tomatoes and a decent sized crop of potatoes – ready for turning into chips! More surprising still, this plant grows in a plant pot or, trough, better yet a self watering trough. Combined with decent compost you’ve a remarkably frugal and efficient garden technique.

Plant and seed sellers Thompson & Morgan have developed the plant, calling it a “world exclusive”. However, it’s worth nothing that it’s not the first time this has been attempted, although Thompson & Morgan say that their technique is different – having taken 10 years to perfect – and the result is tastier. There is a way to do it yourself, although you won’t get the same results as you would if you bought one of these new plants. It’s quite a skilled process, as the Telegraph explains;

Mr Hansord said it was “very difficult to achieve the TomTato because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work – it is a very highly-skilled operation.

“They start off joined together by a plastic clip, then the clip pops off as they grow and they’re transferred into a 9cm pot and grow normally.”

source : www.pinterest.com

Speaking of buying, at £14.99 each the plants aren’t exactly cheap, especially as they only last for one season. Despite the price, these types of plants may be the future; especially in countries that have high populations but a lack of space(urban areas) in which to grow separate crops. We just have to be hopeful that they retain the same – or better – quality.

What two types of food would you like to see combined? Pretty soon we’ll be growing carrots on the backs of chickens! Well, that’s a little over the top but here’s an article on rearing chickens instead.

The Leaves on My Plants Have Brown Edges and Tips

“Help! – The Leaves on My Plants Have Brown Edges and Tips”

Checking your plants routinely for any changes is a fantastic method to catch diseases and other problems early on. Making time to walk around your garden and observe is truly worth it; good garden care relies on it. You’ll also be able to see your plants develop much more closely and you’ll also be able to identify problematic areas of the garden as well as individual plants. Not just that, a healthy garden will attracts bird and wildlife in general.

Being able to diagnose these problems properly is one of the key ways in which you can help them have a long and healthy life. However, many people usually mistake one problem for another and end up treating the plant in the wrong way. This means the original issue doesn’t get addressed and more often than not, further damage will be caused as a result. The initial reaction might be to pull out the shears or secateurs and simply remove these problems.

One problem which we continually see to be incorrectly diagnosed is brown tips and edges on leaves. We’ll run through this now to highlight just how important a correct diagnosis is.

A Common Misconception

When gardeners see parts of the plant’s leaves turning brown, they automatically jump to a conclusion; diseases or pests(pest control is probably more dangerous to conclude if you prefer the use of chemicals).. Now, whilst this may be in true in some cases, it’s not always that straight forward.

Take a second to really evaluate the problem. For example, an entire leaf that has turned brown is a completely different problem to the edges or tips turning brown. If the whole leaf is brown, then you’ll have to do far more research because there are dozens of reasons that could cause that. However, when just the tips or edges of the leaves are browning, this points to a single problem – stress, much different to burnt leaves which can be read about here.

Yes, plants can become stressed, they’re no different to us, it could honestly be as simple as you’ve used the hose pipe or watering can too much . And just like you and me, we feel stress in different ways and guess what? So do plants. This makes narrowing down a cause a bit harder since there are several possible reasons as to what has elevated a plant’s stress levels.

Analysing the Cause of the Problem

This is where you analyse the possible reasons and see which one is most likely given the situation. Brown edging or tips on leaves are most commonly caused by a lack of water which results in stress. The following reasons for this condition are as follows:

  • Lack of rainfall – If there isn’t enough natural water getting to the plants; this could be one of the causes. This problem will be extremely obvious in dry spells. Here’s a great article on how to help plants through a drought. Supplement rainwater manually with a watering can from a water butt or tap water if need be. A plant pot saucer will certainly help conserve water. You should also consider taking a look on our article of how to help wildlife through a drought, it’ll also help you with the garden overall.
  • Constricted roots – There’s a common problem with plants that have been grown in small plant pots where the roots have hit the edge and not been able to grow any further. Consider larger pots and directly planting. The same problem is also apparent where soil conditions are heavy and clay-like. Water more to ensure roots get the water they need or consider replanting somewhere which offers more room for the roots to grow. Alternatively, use a self watering trough to attempt to regulate the water better
  • Damaged roots – This is likely to be caused by flooding or not enough breathing room in the soil. When roots become damaged they struggle to pick up water efficiently leading to a lack of water. To correct this problem, address the issue with the roots and at the same time cut back some of the plant so it has lower water requirements until it has fully recovered. One problem I actually had was using an automatic watering system whilst on holiday I caused my own problems. Unfortunately we had a wet couple of weeks and this pushed my plants to the limit. Luckily, easing off the watering did resolve most issues, though I did lost a couple of hanging baskets that weren’t looking too happy.
  • Poor soil – Some soils struggle to maintain moisture (known as sandy soils)  and symptoms of potassium deficiency include the ‘scorching’ of leaf edges. Try these steps and methods to improve the quality of the soil; until then, water regularly to ensure the roots get what they need.

It should become apparent which is the reason behind the problem, but when unsure, work from the most common to the least common. The above solutions should rid your plant’s leaves from any brown edging or tips! Be sure to catch the dead leaves with our quality leaf collector or blower.

How to Remove Japanese Knotweed

“Japanese knotweed”. Just saying those two simple words is enough to strike fear into the heart of any gardener, it makes looking after plants in a drought look like a breeze. It’s not just the scourge of anyone who has a touch of green fingers to them though; homeowners are also in danger of being badly affected by the seemingly endless spread of this troublesome weed. It can get into your home through gaps in the wall and creep up under floorboards, we are talking full on wood care required, and if you don’t take steps to remove Japanese Knotwood then that’s when the real problems begin, it’s far more serious than just an overgrown garden.

Take this Hertfordshire couple for example, who faced having to demolish their £300k home thanks to an invasion of Japanese knotweed. The news story is from 2011, so I have no idea what ended up happening, but the message is that you shouldn’t let it spread or you could have a serious problem on your hands then simply a weed that’s ruining the aesthetic appeal of your garden.

The problem is that Japanese Knotweed is notoriously difficult to kill, it has no problem with snow, although the earlier it’s spotted the better your chances of curtailing its spread. Still, tackling the problem racks up enormous costs around the UK annually and there’s a reason why it’s listed on the World Conservation Union’s world’s 100 worst invasive species list. Let’s delve deep into this nasty piece of work and learn how to remove it.

How did it appear in the UK?

We’ve got the Victorians to thank for that. They loved the plants ornamental qualities so readily imported it from the Land of the Rising Sun during the mid-nineteenth century. It’s not like it can’t look nice; it produces bamboo-like stems that grow to over 2 metres in length and produces leaves and flowers in late summer and early autumn. However, this seemingly nice looking plant took hold quick, hedge trimmers and shears will not keep this brute at bay, spreading along watercourses and railway lines and no doubt quickly making the Victorians regret that they had introduced something that was such a nuisance.

Today the plant is classified as an invasive species in the UK, subsequently making it an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to “plant or otherwise caused to grow in the wild” the plant. It is also a ‘controlled waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, meaning that any disposal must be carried out at licensed landfill sites.

It’s an expensive problem to fix so is unlikely to disappear from the UK any time soon. It has been estimated that a national eradication programme would cost the UK economy £1.56 billion, so during these times of cost cutting and belt tightening it’s simply not an option.

How do I get rid of Japanese Knotweed?

As noted before the best thing you can do to tackle the plant is to spot it early. Early eradication will avoid any of the problems the unfortunate Hertfordshire couple suffered. You can’t just dig the weed out  with a fork or spade though, as it will rarely work and you’ll have to dispose of the remains legally. Instead you need to get the chemicals out, or hire someone who knows exactly what to do.

The main thing to remember when you’re using chemicals is that it’s not going to work straight away, make sure you have the appropriate gloves. Getting rid of the weed is a lengthy process that can take a few years to complete. With that in mind spray the weed with glyphosate weedkiller during May, applying again in mid-summer, July is best, there’s plenty of things to do in August anyway, and again in September before the plant begins to retreat for winter. Make sure you don’t spray your other plants by mistake.

You can speed up the killing process by hiring companies who will use more powerful weedkillers that aren’t available to the general public, but it’s up to you on how much you’re willing to spend or wait, bare in mind chemicals aren’t doing your soil quality any favours at all, and you won’t plant there again for a long time.

Is this the only way?

For the time being yes, although a measure is currently in place that brings a biological solution to the table. The government took the bold step of introducing a new insect to the UK environment; releasing the Japanese psyllid insect, Aphalara itadori, into the wild. This insect loves to make a meal of Japanese Knotweed, so it could theoretically help control its spread. It will be a few years before we know just what effect the little bug will have on this hellish weed, or what affect it’ll have on our own eco system. One assumes yet more pest control will be in order.

The Best Times and Methods to Water the Garden

As a youngster I used to love nothing more than watering my nan’s garden, I am not sure whether it was the fact I could press a trigger on the hose and soak whatever or whoever I wanted, but still to this day if there is a hose lying around and the sun is out then I am more than happy to give it a squeeze and “have a bit of fun”.

Watering your garden is not as easy as waiting for it to rain and letting the elements do the work. A surprising number of people do this and only reach for the hose when the rain has become irregular; if only it was that easy. A drought will quickly have you scrambling to the wildlife, and a lack of water will also have an adverse affect on your plants.

Today’s busy lifestyles mean we do not necessarily have the time in our schedules to devote a great amount of time to watering the garden, however with these simple steps and utilising a few handy gadgets, your garden will be looking vibrant and healthy in no time.

When to Water the Garden

You will have heard so many times in your life the old fashioned saying of ‘only water your garden at night time’ but is that really correct? The way I like to explain it to my children when out gardening at home is like this:

If, in the morning we woke up and did not have a drink until the evening, chances are we would be severely dehydrated and have a blinding headache to deal with. I am not sure of the science behind this or if plants can get a headache but I do know one thing; if I was out in the sun all day without a drink I would be slightly annoyed. Not only that, birds often drink from plants when another water supply isn’t available so you’ll attract these birds too.

So the very best time to water the garden is early in the morning, allowing the plants plenty of liquid to last the day. When doing so make certain that water always gets to the roots as sprinkling on the foliage really has very little benefit at all. Talking about roots, having excellent soil will help with drainage and root growth. Here’s some handy steps to keeping your soil in good condition.

Early evening is the next best time but you also need to be aware that if the night is a hot one, any good soaking that you give the garden, can have adverse effects by allowing fungus and other plant related diseases to attack the plants as they will stay wet in the humidity.

If you are going to water in the evening then do so but only give your garden a light sprinkle.

Did you know?

Watering during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest is pointless as the water will evaporate before the plants can drink it up. You knew that didn’t you? Unless you have plenty of mulch and raised beds that is for the moisture to be trapped underneath.

The Best Times and Methods to Water the Garden

A Good Soaking or a Light Sprinkle?

The general rule is to supply your plants with an inch per week, I always do this with a hose pipe and various hose connectors to reach all the way round my garden as a watering can and water butt arrangement would just be far too much work. I tinkered with the idea of an automatic watering system but never actually followed through on it, I did setup a timer though which is pretty similar. An inch of water is about right, give or take for slight fluctuations in the temperature. If the ground is dry then your garden will definitely need a good soaking but not necessarily every day. It’s always best to monitor it with the naked eye and if your plants are looking somewhat dishevelled then you know what to do. In low temperatures then once a week will be just about right. The best way to test is to do the finger test. Simply place your index finger into the ground as far as it will go and if the ground is still moist then avoid watering.

Did you know?

Too much water can be dangerous to your flowers and plants but in high temperatures then every other day is deemed to be sufficient for the watering process.

Best Methods to Water

There are many devices that can assist you with watering the garden especially if you have a busy lifestyle and are unable to water it at the most important times.

Sprinklers

As much as I love watering the garden it is not always practical and I have a sprinkler system for my lawn that is set on a timer. It takes a bit of practice to get the timings correct but after several attempts, I managed to perfect it and I have now have a fairly decent lawn that doesn’t get water-logged or under watered – both of which I have encountered when I have been mowing the lawn, most inconvenient. I do not recommend using this type of system with vegetables or plants as you need to get to the roots. it works stunningly well on fast draining troughs and hanging baskets though.

Root Feeders

There are a variety of these on the market that are quite useful although I do not speak from experience with these devices, a friend of mine uses them and I strongly advise to research beforehand as placing them too deeply can completely miss the roots of your shrubs.

Trigger/Spray Gun Attachments

A definite favourite of mine and if you get a multi spray version then this can be used in a variety of ways from a misty spray to a pressure jet, depending on what you are using it on. It takes a bit longer to water the garden this way but if you have the time on your hands then it can definitely be the most efficient method.

Watering Can

The good old watering can has been a strong ally for any gardener and it is highly unlikely to ever go away. A valuable tool in any gardeners shed.

Teaching Children

On this blog we have always promoted teaching children how to garden, not only does it promote a valuable life skills but it means you can relax and put your feet up! I am joking of course, kids love playing with water and the last thing that your plants need is to be drowned in the very thing that gives them life; so be patient and teach them correctly.

These are just some of the various methods that gardeners use all over the world but if you have any more handy tips and tricks that we can use and perhaps let us know.

5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden

5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden

Let’s face it; your garden in winter can look pretty dull. Aside from the charm of having a covering of snow (and the new gardening techniques we can use) everything looks bleak, with plants having retreated underground to shelter from the cold and flowers yet to bloom into their full colourful variety. However, all is not lost! There are certain garden plants that can brighten up your winter garden and are hardy enough to take the cold. Here’s five of the best!

5 of the Best Winter Plants

Skimmia ‘Kew Green’

While the flowers of the Asian plant Skimmia won’t burst into life until the spring, bringing with it some charming greenish-white flowers, the green shade of the buds are just as attractive. This plant also thrives in the shade, as too much sun can turn the leaves yellow – meaning it’s perfect for the short days of winter with minimal daylight!

Skimmia Kew Green | 5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden
Skimmia Kew Green

Euonymus Fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’

One of the most versatile evergreen shrubs you can have in your garden, the Euonymus Fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ brings a lovely bright gold-tip leaves look to your garden during most of the year. However, as the colder months roll round the colour of the leaves turns to a pinkish-red that brings some much needed colour to that dreary winter garden. It can also grow as a vine if you provide it with enough support. I wouldn’t use the hedge trimmer on this plant, I much prefer secateurs or shears or shrub trimmers when it comes to pruning this shrub.

5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden
Euonymus Fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’

Cornus Sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’

This one is perfectly named; as you could be forgiven for thinking someone has set fire to your garden from a distance. This beautiful plant looks best during winter, when fiery shade of autumn red falls away to leave a radiant clash of orange, yellow and red stems. It’s pretty robust too, so if you have toddlers then it’s a good choice, it’s definitely safe children. Outside winter it takes on small white flowers and black berries, making it a wonderful addition no matter the season.

5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden
Cornus Sanguinea ‘Winter Flame’

Helleborus Niger ‘Christmas Rose’

Despite being called ‘Christmas Rose’ the Hellebore isn’t actually a rose, although its appearance suggests otherwise. Surprisingly frost resistant, its large bowl-shaped white flowers and lime green centre lend a snowy air to your garden if you haven’t had any of the white stuff that year. The Christmas Rose grows wonderfully in a plant pot.

5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden
Helleborus Niger ‘Christmas Rose’

Hamamelis Mollis ‘Chinese Witch Hazel’

A deciduous shrub, up until autumn the ‘Chinese Witch Hazel’ holds green ovate or rounded leaves, but it’s not until winter where its best look explodes. During the gloomy months the plant blooms with fragrant yellow and red flowers that have four narrow petals, bringing a touch of brightness to the short days.

5 Wonderful Winter Plants to Brighten Up Your Garden
Hamamelis Mollis ‘Chinese Witch Hazel’

As for planting all these? Well, you could always check out the superb offers from www.gardentoolbox.co.uk

Keep your plants hydrated – Despite the drought

Gardeners in the south and east of England are still facing up to the inconvenience of a long hosepipe ban for months to come (some say until autumn). But let’s not get too maudlin as it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s still plenty you can do to make sure your plants and lawn don’t suffer the worst of it and, in fact, never get dehydrated.

Ways to get more water in your plants:

  • Before putting new shrubs or trees into the ground make sure the soil has been well and truly drenched by filling up the hole you’ve chosen with water right to the top and only planting the shrub or tree once the water has completely drained away. Heavily wet the root ball too prior to planting, use a trough or bucket and just drop them in.
  • Dig shallow trenches around the plants where you want the water to go for maximum impact. A pile of compost also keeps the surrounding soil moist. It’s well worth investing in a compost bin, not just for this purpose either.
  • It’s best to water your garden either very early in the morning or late at night as during both these periods water evaporation in minimal.
  • If putting out terracotta pots in your garden or porch always put a large saucer underneath to catch any rain fall and make sure the water doesn’t drain away onto the path or lawn.
  • When draining your patio area make sure the water makes its way towards your plants and lawn
  • When cutting the lawn don’t get carried away and crop it too much. Longer grass gives deeper roots and therefore increased shade. You don’t want to be turfing the lawn again!
  • Keep weeding religiously as you don’t want the plants and the weeds both competing for what little water there is.

Earlier this week TV gardener Charlie Dimmock spoke on behalf of Thames Water when she urged garden lovers to consider plants this year which didn’t require a lot of water to flourish.

She said: “If you plan your drought garden you can get as much enjoyment out of tending plants which are better equipped to deal with a drier soil, like lavender and Bergenia.

Bergenia
Bergenia

“When you do have to water new plants, do it early morning or in the evening to minimise evaporation and apply the water directly to the soil over the roots and cover the soil with mulch to store in the moisture.” I actually use an automatic garden watering system to ensure I use less water, but also plants seem to prefer morning and evening watering.

“When it comes to the lawn, it is green to be brown. Their shallow root system means they will go brown quickly in a drought but they will recover just as quickly when the rain comes. You don’t need to water well-established plants, they can use their roots to find their own”

Planning for the drought

The first thing that comes to my mind is (in a drought) avoid flower hanging baskets, as beautiful as they are, they really need consistent watering. The next issue is what can be done to keep the wildlife coming back during a drounght.

The ban is the first main step of Thames Water’s drought response plan, which has one aim – getting everyone to use less water.

Thames Water is one of seven drought-affected companies imposing ‘temporary use bans’ before Easter Weekend, traditionally one of the most popular gardening periods of the year.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water’s sustainability director, suggested gardeners install a water butt to store rainwater or use “grey water” from the kitchen.

"grey water" from the kitchen
source : www.pinterest.com

Guy Barter Chief Advisor of the Royal Horticultural Society advised gardeners not to worry too much about their lawns as most can be left unwatered without causing long-term damage, no need for a lawn mower in a drought then… He said buds in the grass practically hibernate during the brown dehydrated period, only to start growing again in the autumn months, then a top tip, in November you’ll mow the lawn for the last time before the next year.

How Gardeners Can Help Wildlife During The Drought

After experiencing two of the driest Winters and Springs on record, many parts of the country are parched which has naturally had an impact on the wildlife as well as on our gardens – but there are some simple steps gardeners can take to help the wildlife survive the drought.

Many gardeners have already found a way to beat the hosepipe ban currently placed on areas in southern and eastern England after many water companies took this decision due to low reservoir levels. It seems that gardeners in Oxfordshire are harvesting rainwater in large water butts to combat the drought and to allow them to carry on tending their gardens while they can’t use hoses to water plants and vegetables. Water butts always have a convenient tap so you can simply fill up a watering can and get a little exercise in the evening whilst it’s nice out. If you have a great deal of watering, some are resolving the issue with the use of a wheelbarrow to take the weight of the water from ‘a to b’.

And now gardeners can step in and come to the aid of wildlife during the drought, by adopting a few measures. As an avid gardener, the birdlife in your garden is probably already important to you and it may be you have adopted practices to help the animals when water is scarce. Whether you’re already taking care of the wildlife in your garden or are keen to start, we have a few ideas for you.

Keep in mind that birds will likely be thirsty at the moment because of the lack of rainfall, and also hungry because of the knock-on effect of parched soil. For example, it may be harder for birds to get hold of worms because the ground is harder when dry – if this is the case, it’s a good idea to lightly dig the soil to aid the birds who can then get to the worms more easily. Lightly digging the soil is a great tip for the aeration process too. In a drought, try water-saving techniques like mulching plants and soil too, using leaf mould or well-rotted manure for example, as this retains the moisture and encourages earthworms and insects to survive, which in turn can become bird food. This is especially effective in plant pots and troughs where there is a self watering tray placed under to catch excess water lost. Hanging baskets are a bit of a no-no in droughts. They simply ask for too much water, as beautiful as they look when they are well watered and happy!

When it comes to feeding the birds, again you want to select the right foods for them during the drought. Leaving out chunks of apple, for example, is good as this fruit has particularly high water content. You can then also make bird feeders available too, with foods high in nutritional value. Be sure to leave fresh water out too, and keep an eye on this source to prevent it getting dirty or warm in the sun. Don’t be too fussy though, the animals can survive well enough drinking moisture from pools and grass.

Another measure is to keep your lawn mower locked in the shed – by letting the grass grow long, insect life is encouraged which can then be a food source for birds. If you have any mud in your garden, keep it wet so that birds like house martins and swallows can use the damp mud for building nests. Normally, birds can find muddy water at the edges of reservoirs and randomly on the ground but when the earth is parched such findings are rare – by adding some water to mud the birds can make new nests as well as fix any that need mending.

As much as possible, water the plants in your garden. It may not be possible to use a hosepipe but you can still fill up a watering can and keep plants healthy throughout the dry weather conditions. Plus, if you do harvest rainwater you’ll have an extra supply of water to splash around your garden – either literally or by topping up bird baths.