Top 10 FAQ’s on Plants and Growing Crops

Quite often I get asked, or emailed, questions on all different sorts of aspects around plants and growing crops that have stumped my readers.

I thought it might be helpful if I put down some of those answers that I have responded with, in one handy place, so that other new cultivators (and my hardy readers of this blog), can refer to if they ever get stuck on an area of growing plants.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Growing your own Crops and Garden Plants

How do you grow tomatoes?

Tomatoes are really easy to grow as long as you remember three things:

  • They don’t need huge amounts of space to grow, in fact restricting root growth forces the plant to work on it’s top growth and eventual fruit.  However the less space the roots have the more chance they have of either the soil drying out or lack of nutrients getting to the plant so be wary of this.
  • The side shoots always need removing as the plant grows ever taller (pinch out the top once third of fourth truss is reached),
  • Water little but consistently to ensure fruit grows well without splitting.

Other than that the biggest problem with tomatoes is leaf mold which can effect the whole plant even though it’s usually first spotted on the lower part of the plant.  It effects plants under cover so be sure to allow air to circulate around the plants, especially during long hot summer days.

Why do tomato leaves curl?

Tomato plants are pretty tricky to keep happy.  Leaf curl can happen either trough a pest or disease (aphids), but more often than not it’s more to do with the state of the plant (physiological).  If the plant isn’t getting enough heat (or too much), not enough water (or too much), not enough air circulation (or too much), well you get the idea.  The plants won’t tolerate long periods of extreme pressure on them.     So be aware of their sensitive nature and be prepared to spend time looking after the plants on a daily basis, if you do you’ll be rewarded in fruit bounty!  Things to do:

  • Check the temperature in the evenings and after lunch (when the temperature is at it’s highest).
  • Ensure circulation is available when warmest and stop droughts when it’s chiller.
  • Check the soil of the plant and water sparingly as necessary.

How deep (or high) does a raised bed need to be for growing crops?

Anything above 15cm (6-18″) is going to allow a healthy build up of the right nutrients without having to double dig it over every year.  Anything above 45cm will allow deep roots to develop on your crops.  So depending on what you wish to grow, anything between those two figures will be just fine.

What’s the best crops to grow in a size of 5m x 25m (16ft x 82ft)

Don’t be restricted by any size.  There are only two important aspects of any garden – when does the sun come into the garden and where in the garden does the sun shine?  Once you know that you’ve got a better idea of how much you can grow and where.  Longer gardens mean either portioning off an area for growing crops of using whole one side to grow things near or on the wall/fence.  Small square gardens mean patches can be turned into raised beds or have a whole patio of pots and containers.  Maximum crop output can be attained by careful design so don’t skip on that process.

What vegetables come back year after year?

Any plant that dies down over winter but comes back again the following spring and summer is called a perennial.  Once planted and established they take the hassle out of having to sow the plant from scratch ever again.  They grow, you harvest which makes them nice and easy to have in any garden

Examples of perennial vegetables include:

  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Lovage
  • Sea Kale
  • Hops (okay not strictly a vegetable but useful all the same)
  • Asparagus
  • Artichokes

There are also less well know perennial varieties that take a bit more time to establish like perennial leeks, rocket, chillies, oca (potato) and spinach, to name but a few.  All the above are entirely possible to grow in the UK (Western Europe and USA).  Do some research and you’ll find dedicated growers selling the plants (or seeds if you wish).

What are the best vegetables to grow on a balcony?

As long as your balcony gets some sun then it’s possible to grow any vegetable that doesn’t need too much space.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, peas, beetroot, potatoes are all possible to grow on a balcony.  You might only be able to fit one or two crops onto your balcony but with better growing facilities (like potato bags) and lighter, more environmentally friendly growing mediums (like coir) it makes growing crops not only possible but a lot of fun.  Use all the space, not just the bit on the floor – vertical growing can up your yield of crops considerably.

What fruit can you grow in a pot?

Usually fruit is considered a space monster and people tend to stay away from growing fruit in pots but in actual fact there are quite a few varieties of different fruits than can be grown in pots (or grow bags).  The main worry with fruit used to be how to pollinate it if individually grown but some fruit can self pollinate which means there is now no excuse to grow some vitamin C.

Strawberries can be grown well if the pot is hanging from a wall.  Blueberries exceed in pots as do blackcurrants, red currants and white currants.  Cherry, apple and pear all have cultivars made for pots which limit the size the plants grow while ensuring maximum fruit is established – usually through self fertile means.

Can I use coffee grounds on my plants?

Yes you can, if they have been used then they become PH neutral.  If not used they are more on the acid side so don’t add them to any plant that prefers a more alkaline soil.

Once used coffee grounds can be added as mulch around any plants in the garden.  They can also be used to deter slugs and snails (try it and see)

Best place to use them is in your composter when they will do most good by breaking down and adding vital nutrients like nitrogen and potassium which can then be added to your soil.

How important is it to grow our own food?

Growing your own food, even if it’s just one crop, is about the most important thing you can do in today’s world.

It’s good for your health, your mind and your body.  It gives you exercise, teaches you living skills and shows you what patience really means.

It’s also a lot of fun to try and brings great smiles (and satisfaction) throughout the year.

Plus if that wasn’t reward enough, you’ll also get food that will taste delicious, fresh and organic.

It’s a win win for you, the garden, the plants and the local ecology of your garden.

This blog hopes to win you over to try it out, and empower you to grow your own food.  So if I’m not selling the idea of GYO to you, then I’m doing it all wrong (but hopefully not).  

Check out the eBook I wrote for more detailed growing guides.

What flowers should I grow to attracts bees?

In simple terms bees are looking for any plant they can get nectar from.  Some plants looks very bright and colourful to look at but are actually useless for pollinating insects because they are either too difficult to access pollen from, or lack pollen altogether.

Instead look for plants than develop open flowers where you can actually see the pollen powder on the stamens.  If you can see it, then the bees will have less trouble getting to the pollen.

Examples of best flowers to grow include:

  •  Alliums
  • Comfrey
  • Foxgloves
  • Sunflowers
  • Hollyhocks
  • Lavender
  • Sedums
  • Thyme

Growing a variety of plants that flower from early spring to late autumn will ensure the bees have a constant supply of feed all their working year.

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So there are just a few of the questions that are asked over here on the Forget-me-Not Cultivation blog.

I hope the answers are useful.

If you have a burning question that hasn’t been answered above or would like to know more about anything to do with growing crops and wildlife gardening then don’t hesitate to contact me on the blog, or drop me an email.

Have a great weekend and enjoy your garden.

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