Month: May 2020

How to get rid of earwigs in the house

How to get rid of earwigs in the house

Earwigs disgust many people, especially when they have invaded the house. Find out here how to get rid of earwigs with traps and other means. Once earwigs (Forficula auricularia) have chosen one’s hallway, garage, garden shed or even the bedroom as their new dwelling, it…

Using cinnamon in the garden: benefits & uses

Using cinnamon in the garden: benefits & uses

Ground cinnamon is a very popular spice for cooking. But have you ever heard of the benefits of using cinnamon on plants? Many people only know cinnamon as a spice used in the kitchen. This spice is made from the dried bark of the cinnamon…

Fertilising potatoes: expert tips

Fertilising potatoes: expert tips

Potatoes are very versatile and loved by most gardeners. Find out here, when, how and with what to fertilise potatoes for a successful harvest.

The potato (Solanum tuberosum) is a plant that belongs to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). This plant comes from South America and was brought to Europe only about 400 years ago. Since then, the tuber vegetable has become an essential staple used in kitchens all around the globe and cultivated in many home gardens. However, the highly demanding potato plants must be optimally supplied with nutrients for successful growth and an abundant harvest. But when is the best time to fertilise the plant? Which is the best fertiliser for potatoes and what is the best way to manure? We have summarised the most important information on fertilising potatoes here.

When to fertilise potatoes?

It is important to know that potatoes are not grown from seeds but either from seed potatoes or from healthy ware potatoes that have not sprouted just yet. Each “mother potato” forms offshoots, which in turn can develop up to twelve new tubers. Due to its high nutrient requirements, this tuber vegetable is ideally suited as a primary crop in the gardening year. It is best to carry out the first fertilisation when planting in spring.

First and foremost, there are two groups of potatoes that can be distinguished: early and late potato varieties. Early potatoes grow relatively quickly, can be harvested in June and are eventually ready for consumption. Once the soil has warmed up sufficiently, you can plant the pre-germinated tubers as early as the beginning of April and fertilise them for the first time. Planting and fertilising late varieties for the main harvest in autumn, on the other hand, should take place from the end of April to the beginning of May. After two months at the latest, it is recommended to fertilise once more, in order to supply the potatoes with an optimal amount of nutrients. In order to protect the plants, as well as the soil and animals in the garden, it is best to use organic slow-release fertilisers. The optimal amount of fertiliser can vary depending on the product. Therefore, always follow the producer’s instructions.

Expert tip: For the young potato plants to have an optimal start in spring, it has proven to be a good idea to work some rotten manure or compost into the soil in the previous autumn.

How and with what to fertilise potatoes?

An abundant harvest can only be achieved if the potato is sufficiently fertilised. However, overfertilisation or irregular fertilisation is something one should avoid, since it can also lead to an increased susceptibility to disease. In the following, we present some possible ways of ensuring an optimal fertilisation of the potato plant:

Fertilising potatoes organically

It makes sense, both from a scientific point of view and for the sake of sustainability, to use organic slow-release fertilisers in the garden. They mainly consist of organic materials, that feed the organisms living in the soil and are gradually broken down by them. Thus, the plant benefits from the nutrients provided and, at the same time, the structure of the soil will be improved in a sustainable way. Besides, these types of fertilisers are particularly gentle to the environment because they do not contain any harsh chemicals.

In order to ensure that the potato plant is optimally supplied with nutrients, take a look at the detailed instructions below.

Organic long-term fertilisation: instructions

  • Before planting, work 100 – 180 g/m² of organic slow-release fertiliser into the upper soil layers
  • After planting, water the plant well so that the granules can dissolve
  • After 2 months, fertilise once more with 80 – 120 g (7 – 10 heaped tablespoons) per plant

Mineral fertilisers: blue grain fertiliser, calcium cyanamide and more

Mineral fertilisers are easily soluble and can be absorbed by the plant directly. However, the amount of fertiliser used should be adapted to the plant’s nutrient requirements. Using the correct amount can prove to be quite difficult when applying these fertilisers. Therefore, the risk of overfertilisation and leaching of nutrients is quite high. On top of that, the fertilising salts damage soil life, because they cause the number of nitrogen-fixing bacteria to decrease and, as a result, earthworms disappear.

There are controversial discussions about whether liming should be used as a way of fertilising potatoes. On the one hand, experts claim that this type of fertiliser promotes plant diseases. On the other hand, proponents of liming insist on the advantages that include more abundant harvests and an improved quality of the plants it is used on. Lime increases the pH-value of the soil and ammonium supplies the plant with nitrogen over a longer period of time. Calcium cyanamide, commercially known as nitrolime, should be applied with care and, most importantly, early enough (at the latest three weeks before planting). However, this type of fertiliser is usually not sold at a reasonable price in proportion to its effect.

Fertilising potatoes with DIY methods

Some DIY remedies and natural homemade fertilisers can be used to fertilise potatoes. For example, when planting, simply sprinkle some compost over the tubers before covering them with soil. Compost or farmyard manure can be worked into the soil from autumn onwards. As the process of decomposition begins in the winter, the nutrients will immediately be available to the plant in spring. During the flowering period, you can also use homemade liquid manure to support the plant. Nettle liquid manure, for instance, is rich in nitrogen and becomes an effective plant strengthening agent when used with liquid manure made from comfrey, that is rich in potassium. It is best to dilute the liquid manure with water in a ratio of 1:10 and to water the plants once every week in the morning or evening.

Expert tip: The effect of the liquid manure can be enhanced by mulching the plant with nettle or comfrey leaves.

Summary: how to fertilise potatoes and with what?

  • The first fertilisation should happen during the planting process by incorporating compost or organic slow-release fertilisers into the soil
  • Organic slow-release fertilisers promote healthy soil life and provide the potato plant with nutrients for a long period of time
  • Mineral fertilisers ensure a quick effect, but there is a risk of over-fertilisation and they ultimately damage organisms living in the soil
  • Natural fertilisers (compost, farmyard manure or liquid manure) provide the plant with additional nutrients
potato fertilising
The best way to fertilise potatoes is to use organic slow-release fertilisers [Shutterstock.com/mjaud]

Green manure and crop rotation

To improve the soil, green manure can be applied in autumn before planting. Legumes (also known as Leguminosae) such as peas (Pisum), clover (Trifolium) and vetches (Vicia) are great to plant as green manure. They pull up nutrients (especially nitrogen) from deeper soil layers and, at the same time, they loosen the soil with their roots. As these plants are not frost hardy, they die during winter and can be left to wither on the bed. In spring, the remains of the plants be incorporated into the soil. Due to the potato’s high nutrient requirements, it is recommended to replant it in a different bed at least every four years. Once the early potatoes have been harvested, the bed can be used for cultivating other vegetables during summer. Various types of cabbage (Brassica), for example, are suitable for repeated cropping. Crop rotation prevents complete removal of nutrients from the soil and it also helps against pests, such as the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata).

Expert tip: Potatoes thrive particularly well in mixed cultivation. Sow some spinach in between the rows, for instance, and once the spinach harvested, the rest of the plants can be left as mulch in the bed. This is a great way to avoid weeding and the roots of the harvested plants can remain in the soil as a supply of humus.

Growing kiwi berries

Growing kiwi berries

Baby kiwis are one of the trendiest plants right now. Find out here when and how to plant the kiwi berry in the garden and what to look out for when doing so. Baby kiwis (Actinidia arguta), also known as kiwi berries or hardy kiwis,…

Growing red basil: varieties & cultivation

Growing red basil: varieties & cultivation

Red Rubin basil is becoming increasingly popular. Find out here what makes red basil so special and how to grow it at home. Red Rubin basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is a red-leaved variety of basil that belongs to the popular Lamiaceae family. It is an…

Growing Australian finger lime: cultivation & care

Growing Australian finger lime: cultivation & care

The unusual shape of its fruits gives the Australian finger lime plant its name. We will show you how to grow finger limes and how to take care of this unique lime tree.

The Australian finger lime tree (Microcitrus australasica) bears elongated, finger-shaped fruits. If you cut open the exotic fruit though, you will find small pellets on the inside that resemble caviar. For that reason, finger lime plants are also referred to as caviar limes. The so-called “lime pearls” are very expensive and not easy to obtain. Therefore, you might be pleased to know that growing finger limes in your own garden or on the balcony is, in fact, possible. In the following, you will find all kinds of information about finger lime care, cultivation and different varieties.

Australian finger lime: origin & characteristics

The botanical name Microcitrus australasica reveals the finger lime plant’s origin. Australia, more specifically the semiarid zones of northern Australia, is the home of the exotic fruit. It is one of the few wild lime varieties that still exist. Australian finger lime trees are part of the genus Microcitrus and belong to the rue family (Rutaceae). They have a lot of rather small leaves that are narrow and needle-shaped on young trees. Older trees have bigger, more oval leaves with rounded tips. The tree axils have short but very spiky thorns. The white flowers are small with four or five petals and four to eight locules (chambers within the ovary of a flower) per ovary. Compared to other lime varieties, the scent of the flowers and fruits is not quite as aromatic. The lime pearls inside the fruit make up for that, though: they have a wonderfully intense and unique aroma. 

Australian finger lime: colourful varieties

There are various finger lime varieties with different flesh and peel colours and oblong to spherical fruit shapes. Here, you can find a selection of different varieties of the Australian finger lime:

  • ‘Polpa Gallia’: the fruit of the ‘Polpa Gialla’ finger lime has a green peel and yellow flesh.
  • ‘Virgata’: the ripe fruits of this variety have a yellow-green peel. They grow in a round shape but have the typical caviar-like flesh.
  • ‘Byron Sunrise’: this variety has a chestnut brown peel which turns almost black when fully ripe. The colour of the flesh is orange to red.
  • ‘Durham’s Emerald’: the fruits of this finger lime are dark purple to black. The lime pearls are emerald green.
  • ‘Jali Red’: this type of finger lime is characterised by light red to pink flesh. The peel is dark green to brown.
  • ‘Judy’s Everbearing’: the ripe fruits have a bright pink-coloured peel. The lime pearls are also pink.
  • ‘Sunshine Yellow’: as the name suggests, the lime pearls of this variety are yellow. The peel of the fruit is green to yellow.

The biodiversity of finger lime plants is impressive. In addition to the Australian finger lime or caviar lime, there are also many other unique types of citrus fruits.

Buying a finger lime tree

Australian finger lime plants are relatively rare, which makes them expensive and sometimes hard to find. Nevertheless, you should be able to purchase them from well-assorted nurseries and garden centres. There is also a number of online retailers specialising in rare citrus fruits that offer finger lime trees for shipping.

Next, there are some things you should pay attention to when buying your finger lime tree. There should not be any defects, such as broken leaves or damaged bark that are visible to the naked eye. The grafting point – most finger lime varieties are grafted – should be in great condition. Choosing the right variety is also important as the different types of finger limes vary look very different. Lastly, you should check the health of the plant carefully to make sure that the tree is free of pests or diseases.

When buying a finger lime tree, you should pay attention to:

  • Quality
  • Variety
  • Health condition of the plant

Finger lime cultivation: choice of location

Cultivation and care are very similar for all citrus plants. There is not a lot you can do wrong, once you have got the hang of one type of citrus fruit. Citrus plants are not winter hardy; therefore, it is best to grow your finger lime in a pot, so that it can be relocated inside once the weather gets cold. 

Wild species like the Australian finger lime prefer to spend the summer outside. It doesn’t always have to be a spot in full sunlight, though; a semi-shady location is sufficient. However, the tree should stand freely and should not have to fight for sunlight with other plants. To ensure that all sides of the tree get the same amount of sunlight, you should rotate it every two months. In winter, you should relocate the finger lime tree to the conservatory or into your house. It should be kept in a bright spot at a temperature of 3 to 15 °C. 

Location requirements of finger limes at a glance:

  • Outside in summer
  • Sunny to semi-shady location
  • Inside the house in winter
  • Temperatures in winter: 3 to 15 °C

Finger lime tree care

The care for Australian finger lime plants is also not very different from that of other lime tree varieties. Due to the finger limes origin being in semi-arid desert regions, it does not require as much water as other types of limes. Nevertheless, you should water your plant regularly to prevent it from drying out. However, finger lime trees are very sensitive to waterlogging. You should therefore avoid it at all costs. During growing season, you can give your plant a boost with a special citrus fertiliser or some organic fertiliser.

Organic fertilisers with predominantly plant-based ingredients  and a long-term organic effect, are perfectly suited for the Australian finger lime’s nutrient demand. In winter, you can reduce fertilisation or even stop it completely. Pruning finger limes regularly is not necessary, but dead or diseased plant parts should be removed. If the plant grows too unevenly, pruning is also advised. However, you should only do this during the hibernation period in winter. Finger lime trees should be repotted every two years.

Australian finger lime care in a summary:

  • Keep evenly moist
  • Avoid waterlogging at all costs
  • Fertilise once a week in summer with a citrus fertiliser
  • Prune if necessary
  • Repot every two years

Using Australian finger lime in the kitchen

australian finger lime
The fruits of Australian finger lime have many uses in the kitchen [Shutterstock.com/ Brent Hofacker]

The Australian finger lime’s fruits can be enjoyed simply raw. They are also ideal as toppings on various dishes, as a decoration, or as an aromatic addition to drinks. The caviar-like pearls also go very well with fish dishes or on top of sushi. Additionally, it is great as a fruity salad component. The fruits work particularly well in drinks, for example in champagne or mixed into various cocktails. Desserts, such as ice cream or cake, can also be improved with the finger lime pearls.

Plants that repel wasps: expert tips to keep wasps away

Plants that repel wasps: expert tips to keep wasps away

Wasps can be quite annoying, especially in summer. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were plants to keep them away? Find out here what works against wasps. Doesn’t everyone like to sit on the terrace with some fruit juice and enjoy the sun in peace?…

Plants that repel bees: our top 10

Plants that repel bees: our top 10

We often hear about bee-friendly plants, but which plants keep bees away? The following plants are not among the favourites of bees. Bees are incredibly valuable for our environment: they are among the most important pollinators for many different plant species. Sadly, the number of…

The 10 most expensive fruits in the world

The 10 most expensive fruits in the world

In this article, you can find out about the most exclusive fruits in the world with extraordinary looks and outrageous prices.

The amount of money some people spend on fruit is truly sensational. Several thousand euros is not uncommon. But the fruits are not normal supermarket goods either and are by many considered unique pieces of perfection. In other cultures, such as Japan, these are almost regarded as status symbols, especially if the exclusive fruits are given away. The price of the fruit is not just because of its appearance. The highest demands are also made on taste, especially with regard to sweetness and acidity. We have compiled the top 10 most expensive fruits in the world for you below.

1. Buddha pear

This pear is a real eye-catcher: it has the shape of the sitting Buddha! This special pear comes from China, where a farmer named Hao perfected the shape of the pear by breeding it. According to the belief of some Chinese gourmets, the consuming the fruit grants immortality. We are not quite sure whether immortality can be bought for 9 US dollars but that is the price of this special fruit.

2. Sekai Ichi Apple

If you think that the apple in the picture actually looks quite average, almost like the goods from the local supermarket, we suggest looking at the price tag. This rarity from the north of Japan costs a spectacular 21 US dollars each. The price of the apple hints at its uniqueness. These apples with a weight of up to one kilo are significantly larger and heavier than their ordinary relatives.

3. Dekopon

This citrus fruit is considered to be the most delicious citrus fruit in the world. Originating from Japan, it has been bred there since 1972 and is exclusively grown there today. The dekopons are larger than normal oranges or mandarins and also have no seeds. A box of Dekopons costs an astonishing 80 US dollars.

4. Sembikiya Queen Strawberry

At the sight of this fruit beauty your mouth is guaranteed to start watering. The perfect shape and colour of this queen of strawberries make it a real delicacy in Japan. A packet of these fruits (with 12 perfect strawberries) costs a proud 85 US dollars.

5. Square watermelon

No, this watermelon isn’t from a cartoon. In Japan, the country of exclusive fruits, these melons grow in square forms. While the melons grow, they acquire the shape of the form. In order to try a piece of the watermelon, you first have to be able to pay for this unique fruit – with 800 US dollars you can also become a proud owner, because since 2014 these fruits have also been exported abroad.

6. Pineapple from the Lost gardens of Heligan

Guess where this exclusive pineapple grows. You probably didn’t have Cornwall in mind, but yes, that is the home of this special pineapple. This is also the only place in Europe where pineapples are grown. The fact that the plant lets such exotic fruits ripen in a not exactly tropical place like in England is allegedly due to the horse urine with which the plants are fertilised. One of these rare fruits is said to cost up to 1,000 US dollars.

7. Taiyo no Tamago Mango

This mango is called the “egg of the sun” in Japanese, because of its shape. This exotic mango also comes from Japan, but is now also bred in the USA. But they only get the original in Japan and you would have to pay 3,000 US dollars per one fruit to experience the exquisite sweetness of this mango.

8. Ruby Roman Grapes

Of course, the most expensive grapes in the world – you guessed it – also comes from Japan. A single grape is almost the size of a ping-pong ball and there are almost 30 of these grapes growing on a vine. Prices vary, in 2011 a bundle of these deluxe grapes was auctioned for over 5,000 euros.

9. Densuke Watermelon

With its weight of twenty-four pounds the Densuke watermelon is very different to conventional watermelons. No more than 10,000 of the fruits are grown in Japan every year. In terms of price, this melon is almost at the top of our ranking – you have to put 6,000 US dollars on the table to get your hands on this watermelon.

10. Yubari King Melon

The most expensive fruit in the world is this melon from Japan. You have to pay an incredible 23,000 US dollars for a single Yubari melon. The fruits are individually cared for as they grow, have a small hat to protect them from the sun and are even massaged daily. Whether this is still normal is probably up to everyone to decide for themselves.

10 pet-friendly plants for your garden & home

10 pet-friendly plants for your garden & home

Prevention is better than cure – especially with our four-legged friends. That’s why we compiled a list of 10 definitely non-toxic plants even for pets. You look away for a split second and there you have it: your dog eats a flower from your garden…