Gardening: Logistics result in giving peat-free grow bags a miss

The long window wall packed with plants.
The long window wall packed with plants.

While it’s good to see more peat-free grow bags on the market, I’ve decided to give them a miss this year.

Why? It’s a matter of logistics – most of my tomatoes grow in the conservatory, a 30ftx5ft structure which was originally a path round the side of the house.

A Rosella tomato truss.

A Rosella tomato truss.

My house is built into a hill, so it has two storeys at the front and three at the back.

To reach the kitchen and conservatory, you have to go up a hefty flight of stairs.

That means carting large quantities of soil up there. With the conservatory being so narrow, grow bags and tray hang over the sills, held up by Heath Robinson-type stakes.

It always was an accident waiting to happen and made watering (and access to the kitchen) a thankless task and a complete trip hazard.

Last year's grow bag/ring culture pot combination.

Last year's grow bag/ring culture pot combination.

There was also the added problem of lugging the used bags back out at the end of the season, where they were invariably dumped until bit by bit, I used them as mulch.

Placing ring culture pots on top of grow bags is another tiresome chore, as I find they dry out too quickly without them.

Instead, I’m using a combination of 10” pots and solid 10” ring culture containers (they’re bottomless).

They all fit well into windowsill drip trays – the ring culture pots squeeze into the trays, getting four plants per tray.

Using this method, I’ve fitted in 43 plants, about double that of my normal tally.

Excess water soon evaporates away, so I’m hoping root rot won’t be a problem with the bottomless pots.

I plan to stop them before they become too unmanageable and have to be picked by ladder, so even if the yield per plant is less, I should end up with a bigger overall crop.

My tomatoes are late – I sowed them later than usual, then I was too busy to pot them on, so they’re a bit straggly but still have their first and second flower trusses.

There are five varieties – Sungold, Suncherry Premium, Rosella, Garnet and Santonio.

I’m using New Horizon Peat Free & Organic Multi-Purpose Compost because it’s the only one my local garden centre stocks.

I don’t drive and beggars can’t be choosers when you have to rely on multiple trips for soil!

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JOBS TO DO THIS WEEKEND

Keep tubs, hanging baskets and alpine troughs well watered. Use rainwater, or recycled grey water wherever possible.

Cut back clumps of spring-flowering perennials to encourage a fresh flush of foliage.

Cut back and deadhead Oriental poppies after flowering. Cutting them to ground level will stimulate new foliage and blooms. Mulch and feed.

Euphorbias look a lot better if spent flowers are removed, cutting the flowered stems back to ground level. This can be especially important with Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae, as old stems are prone to powdery mildew.

Perennials that are showing new shoots from the crown can still be propagated via basal stem cuttings.

Take cuttings from garden pinks (Dianthus). They can be pulled off the parent plant while holding a suitable non-flowering shoot four pairs of leaves from the tip. Treat as softwood cuttings.

Pot on plants showing signs of being root bound.

Remove early aphid infestations by hand. Aphids can transmit viruses, as can other sap-sucking insects.

Prune deciduous magnolias once the plant is in full leaf. If this is done in winter, when the tree is dormant, dieback can occur.

Clip evergreen hedges such as privet, box, and Lonicera nitida if needed. If they are not too woody, shredded clippings can be added to the compost heap. Prune out any frost damage from affected evergreen shrubs.