Author: Tshering

How to plant lily of the valley: instructions & expert tips

How to plant lily of the valley: instructions & expert tips

Lily of the valley is an easy to care for perennial for shady places. Here you can find out everything about flowering time, location and care. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) flowers in May, when it boasts a myriad of dainty white flowers that…

Companion plants for tomatoes: which plants are best to grow with tomatoes?

Companion plants for tomatoes: which plants are best to grow with tomatoes?

Which plants are most compatible with tomatoes? We will show you which plants make the best neighbours for these delicious fruits and will give you expert tips for companion planting tomatoes. Companion planting is probably the most primitive form of growing vegetables of different species…

Growing carrots: expert advice

Growing carrots: expert advice

As probably the most popular root vegetables of all, carrots are a must-have for every garden. You can find helpful advice on planting and cultivating carrots here.

Growing carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) in your garden has one advantage in particular: the tasty roots can be repeatedly harvested over a long period of time. While they are a little bit smaller in size in the beginning, they are especially mild and sweet tasting. As time goes by, the aroma intensifies and the harvest will continue to grow.

Planting carrots: location and requirements

Carrots, Daucus carota, like loose and sandy soil, just like all other root and tuber vegetables. If the soil is too clayey or rocky, carrots tend to develop strange shapes or worse, become suppressed in their growth. For heavy soil, it is helpful to loosen it first with green manure (such as oil radish) to support root development. Additionally, ridge planting or raised beds can be a good option for successfully cultivating carrots in difficult locations.

Sunny locations are especially favoured by carrots. This vegetable should not be grown in beds that have been recently fertilised with fresh compost, because of the heightened risk of attracting carrot flies. Carrots are particularly happy with locations where leek has been previously grown. They like having onions, dill, garlic or leek as their neighbours. The reason being, that the smell of the bulbous plants helps to deter the pesky carrot fly.

Tip: If you have experienced trouble with the carrot fly, wait for at least three years, before growing carrots in the infested bed.

Multiplying and sowing carrots

Multiplying carrots is a relatively cumbersome process. Carrots are biennial plants and only yield blossoms and seeds in their second year. In temperate climate zones, carrots cannot survive the winter. For this reason, some carrots have to be harvested in autumn in order to secure reproduction. Carrots have to be harvested intact and have to keep about 2 cm of their greens. Ideally, they are then stored unwashed in the sand in an earth cellar or in an alternative dry location over the course of the winter.

In spring, you should aim to plant around two of the carrots in storage into your bed. The carrot plants will grow to more than a meter in height and will produce beautiful umbels. By the end of September, the seeds will be ripe. In order to prevent them from sowing themselves, you will need to cut off the umbels in time and hang them up to dry. You can remove the seeds by rubbing the umbels softly between your fingers.

Sowing carrots: the right timing

Carrots are not very sensitive to cold. Therefore, they can be sowed in early spring. Sowing them as early as the beginning of March is only recommended for early varieties that can be, depending on the temperatures, harvested from the end of May or the beginning of June onwards. If you want to regularly harvest fresh carrots, you should sow seeds every four weeks from the beginning of March until May. The so-called storage carrots, which are to be stored for the winter, should also not be sown before May. Until fall, they will grow to just about the right size and can then be stored.

Sowing carrots: the right procedure

  • Make several grooves, about 3 cm deep, leaving 20 cm of space in between each in between carrots.
  • Sow the carrots thinly, preferably leaving about 2 to 4 cm of space in between each seed.

Tip: Carrots need a very long time to sprout. It can take up to four weeks, until the cotyledon starts to show up at the surface. If you sow a radish in the grooves between each carrot, you can use the space optimally. Depending on weather conditions, the radishes will be ripe after about six weeks. The carrots will then have the entire space for themselves.

  • You can also sow a row of dill or radishes around the carrots. They will sprout quicker and mark where the carrots have been sown. Dill and carrots even foster each other’s growth!
  • Cover the grooves and seeds with soil, press down softly and water the soil.

Another option would be to put down seed tapes. Seed tapes are extremely handy and help sow plants at the right distance automatically. By doing this, thinning out at later stages can be avoided.

Cultivating carrots: suitable varieties

The various kinds of carrots differ from one another, first and foremost, in their point of maturation, their suitability for certain locations, their taste and in their shape. There are carrots with a very conical shape, often called ‘Chantenay’ carrots, but there are also rounded, cylindrical or bluntly shaped ones, as well as the very long varieties. They can also vary in their suitability to be stored. In this article, you can find an overview of carrot varieties.

Cultivating, watering and fertilising carrots

Generally speaking, carrots are vegetables that are relatively low maintenance. They have to watered only if the weather is excessively dry and they don’t have to be fertilised if your garden bed is well-maintained. Additionally, carrot plants don’t have to be thinned out if they have been sown at the right distance or if a seed tape has been used. Once the soil in the garden bed has settled a little and if the carrots have been sown a little too close to the surface, the top of the roots can stick out of the ground. This can be easily improved by putting some extra soil on top of the vegetables.

Watering carrots the right way

Carrots like an even spread of moisture. However, the bigger the roots are, the less moisture they demand. The bigger your carrots get, the more they can tolerate some dryness. In any case, carrots should only be watered with care. Too much water causes the plants to invest their energy in growing leaves instead of roots.

Fertilising carrots the right way

Carrots are moderate feeders. This means that they don’t need a lot of nitrogen and when fertilised heavily, they react with an intense leaf growth. As you want to harvest the roots and not the leaves, you should fertilise cautiously. Composted farmyard manure or compost, combined with green manure, such as oil radish, for root penetration during autumn, is enough nutrition for a rich carrot harvest.

If the garden bed has been cleared out early in the previous year, you could plant a nitrogen-fixating green manure plant, such as clover or lupin. Even though you should not fertilise with farmyard manure in the spring, a small amount of compost can assist in the sowing or early development in a bed that lacks nutrients.

Thinning and weeding carrots

If your carrots have been sown too closely, they will definitely have to be thinned out. If not, you will continue to harvest a lot of mini-carrots, but no big ones, even after a very long wait. The plants simply do not have enough space to form bigger roots. In the beginning, it is hard to recognise how many plants there are and how many will have to be pulled out, especially if the carrots have been sown too closely. For that reason, you should wait to thin out your plants until they have grown to at least 5 cm in height. Thin them out in damp and rainy weather. The rain will prevent the roots’ smell from spreading and attracting carrot flies into your garden.

If you try to plant the carrots you have pulled out at a different location, they will not grow well. If the seedlings are very small, you should save yourself some work and toss them into the compost pile. Should there be some tiny carrots, go ahead and enjoy the sweet treat. Close off the gaps in between the remaining carrots with soil and press it down firmly. After the thinning, each plant should be at least 2 cm apart from the next carrot. For autumn varieties that are supposed to grow very thickly, you should pull out the thinner carrots about a month prior to the harvest time.

Carrots are not particularly strong and competitive and should therefore definitely be freed from weeds early in their development. You should be careful when weeding with a hoe, because the little roots are very delicate. Weeding by hand would be the safer option.

Harvesting carrots: identifying the appropriate harvest time

There is no perfect time to harvest carrots. Harvesting is a matter of taste. The bigger the roots grow, the more intense their flavour becomes. If harvested early, carrots have a sweet and mild taste and they can be easily eaten with their peels. In brief, harvest your carrots according to your taste preferences.

carrot harvest
There is no right time to harvest carrots because it is a matter of taste preferences – the bigger the carrots grow, the more intense their taste becomes [Shutterstock.com/LedyX]

Generally, carrots can be harvested after about three months of growing. This timeframe will of course vary depending on the weather and climate conditions. If sown in a cold March, it will take the carrots at least a few more days or even weeks to sprout than carrots sown in April or May. Carrots that have been sown early will, thus, be rather small and thin even after three months of growing. In such a case, they should stay in the ground a little bit longer.

Here, you will find out how to harvest carrots.

Storing carrots

Most of the time, there is no need to store carrots as they can be harvested whenever needed. Once out of the ground, carrots lose moisture quickly and should therefore be stored in the fridge. If you wrap them in newspaper or in an airtight bag in order to avoid mould from forming, they can last for about a week. After a week, they will slowly start to shrivel. One way of storing carrots is to freeze them. You can freeze your carrots peeled and cut and ready to cook. Their consistency, however, will change a little. This way of storing carrots is ideal for stews or soups that will be pureed anyway. Lastly, carrots can also be stored in sand boxes in dark and cold cellars, traditionally referred to as earth cellars.

The best berries to grow in the garden

The best berries to grow in the garden

Here is a list of the best types of raspberries, blackberries, currants, blueberries, gooseberries, cranberries and lingonberries to grow in the garden. For many gardeners, berry bushes are their favourite plants to grow. Even though raspberries and blackberries sometimes take up a lot of space,…

Growing sweet potatoes: care, varieties & harvesting

Growing sweet potatoes: care, varieties & harvesting

How to grow sweet potatoes at home? Here are the best varieties of the sweet potato and tips on planting, care, fertilising and harvesting. Already in the 16th century, the sweet potato (Ipomea batata) conquered the European market, even before the omnipresent regular potato. However,…

How to get rid of the box tree moth?

How to get rid of the box tree moth?

The box tree moth is feared by many gardeners and box tree lovers. All the methods of eliminating the box tree moth are explained here.

The box tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis) is an insatiable pest. In a case of a heavy infestation a young or a small box tree (Buxus) can be completely defoliated in a matter of days. Although the robust bushes often survive the moth plague – their appearance suffers after the caterpillars’ feast. Unfortunately, repeated and prolonged infestation can even lead to the death of the plant. We will introduce you to the various methods which effectively combat the harmful box caterpillar and will inform you about the advantages and disadvantages.

Box tree moth treatment

At what time and with what chemical spray, household remedy or natural product can the box tree moth be eradicated? In the following, you will find a variety of methods as well as information on their effectiveness and references to our special comprehensive articles. This is an overview of the various control methods:

Means of treatmentReliableImmediate halt in feeding Gentle to beesGentle to beneficial animalsNaturalEasy to use/practical
Pheromone trapsNoNoYesYesYesYes
Conventional pesticidesYesYesYesNoNoNo
Neem productsYesYesYesNoYesNo
Homemade remediesLessNoYesYesYesDepends

Box tree moth treatment: when is the right time

When to use sprays against the box tree moth and how about the other measures of treatment? This depends on the stages of the development of the pest. Young box caterpillars are protected from the agents in sprays because they live in the webs inside the shrubs. The pupae in cocoons are also well sheltered. However, eggs and freshly hatched larvae can be removed from the bush by pruning, and the older caterpillars, that live on the outside of the box tree, can be treated with sprays or simply rinsed away with water from the gardening hose. In order to fully understand when and which measure has an effect, you must get to know your enemy: eggs, caterpillars and moths occur in a very specific order and in 2 to 3 generations a year. This article describes the biology of the box tree moth and explains when and what method to use.

Tip: The use of pheromone traps is an effective tool to follow the development of the box tree moth in your own garden. Pheromone traps allow you to act directly and can give you a heads up before the larvae hatch. The traps emit sexual pheromones, which attract the males of the box tree moth. Based on the activity of the moth, it can be established when exactly the eggs are laid and predicted when the caterpillars will occur.

Treating box tree moths chemically

If you want to control the box tree moth with insecticides, there are various products and active ingredients available, which are summarized in the table below. However, these insecticides can also have harmful effects, which is also indicated in the table under this paragraph. Please note that products that are marketed as ‘non-hazardous to bees’ often have an enormously harmful effect on other no less important or useful organisms. For this reason, we strongly advise against using any of the active ingredients listed below in your garden. If you would like to find out more about the properties of spray agents, you can do so in a list of authorities approved plant protection products.

Active ingredientEffectNotes
AzadirachtinContact poison, inhibits feeding, larval development and reproduction, causes deathHarmful to various insects, arachnids and aquatic organisms
ThiaclopridSystemic and contact poison, causes paralysis and deathIn undiluted form harmful to humans, harmful to various insects, arachnids and aquatic organisms
AcetamipridSystemic and contact poison, causes paralysis and deathSlightly harmful to various insects, arachnids and aquatic organisms
Pyrethrin, rapseed oilContact poison, anaesthesia and deathHarmful to various insects, arachnids and water organisms

Note: The active ingredient azadirachtin is obtained from the seeds of the neem tree. Neem products are frequently used in organic farming and are considered ‘organic’. However, the isolated active ingredient is equally harmful to many non-target organisms just as conventional insecticides. Homemade brews made from natural neem oil, on the other hand, are often less concentrated and also contain substances that have a deterring effect on all insects which can prevent contact with the harmful azadirachtin.

Treating box tree moths naturally

We recommend to combat the box tree moth naturally. The use of low doses of neem oil is a possible option. The spray liquid must be applied regularly and also acts as an effective deterrent due to the ingredients Salannin and Meliantriol. It simply keeps the moth at a distance because of the unpleasant smell. Next, the use of beneficial insects is also a possible solution: nematodes of the species Steinernema carpocapsae parasitize and kill the box caterpillars. However, in order for the nematodes to reach the caterpillars at all, a very special formula of the spray liquid is necessary, containing bonding and swelling agents. Promoting and supporting beneficial organisms is the best and most nature friendly option. Native garden birds and wasps feed on the moth and caterpillars and help inhibit the spread of the pest.

Authorities and experts recommend the use of highly specific Bt preparations. They contain a special strain of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which exclusively impact the harmful box tree moth caterpillars. The bacterium has to be absorbed by the caterpillar through feeding, a toxin is released in their intestine, which causes the insects to stop feeding and subsequently die. Caterpillars that do not feed on the box tree are not attacked by the bacterium – admirals, swallowtails and other moths and butterflies are therefore safe.

This article provides a comprehensive guide to the possibilities of natural control.

Treating box tree moth with household remedies

The box tree moth can be kept in check to a certain extent with some easy and homemade tips and tricks. If the infestation is small, it is still worth collecting the caterpillars by hand and cutting out the webs manually. If you observe the flight of the nocturnal moths – and thus the mating – by means of pheromone traps and use the hedge trimmer two weeks later at the latest, you can remove the eggs and freshly hatched larvae that have been laid on the outside of the bush. Covering the entire box tree using a net can curb the egg deposition right from the start. The nets of course obstruct the view of the beautiful shrub, though. If you want to reduce a heavy infestation quickly, you can also use the gardening hose and wash away the box caterpillars out of the buxus branches. Or you can cover up individual box trees in black plastic bags and let the sun heat up the shrub to eliminate the caterpillars.

cydalima perspectalis
The voracious caterpillars can be treated with household remedies [Shutterstock.com/ Zerbor]

We would advise against the use of baking powder and algae lime, because these agents are ineffective or even harmful for your box tree. Last but not least, supporting birds and wasps in the garden is a great preventive measure against the box tree moth. These species feed on the moths (possibly even the box caterpillars) and thus reduce the pest population. You can find detailed information about these household remedies in this article. Please note that household remedies often require more time and effort and can be less successful than some specially developed remedies.

Tip: The caterpillars of the box tree moth contain many toxins, which they absorb from the equally poisonous boxwood. Just as it is possible for most people to touch the box tree, skin contact with the box tree moth is not dangerous. However, please do not eat either the moths and caterpillars or the box tree. Here you will find further information on the poisonousness of the box tree moth.

Geranium care: maintenance & diseases

Geranium care: maintenance & diseases

The flowers of geraniums are stunning. Here is our guide to geranium care from the right way to prune, water, fertilise and avoid diseases. Pelargonium (also known as geranium) belongs to the family Geraniaceae. Most of the approximately 250 wild species are native to South…

10 shrubs & trees with the best autumn colours

10 shrubs & trees with the best autumn colours

Colourful leaves are synonymous to autumn. Here you can find out which shrubs and trees develop the most vibrant foliage in autumn. For many people autumn is their favourite season. Above all else, the brightly hued leaves have always fascinated both young and old. The…

Top 10 strangest fruits in the world

Top 10 strangest fruits in the world

Are you fed up with the ordinary bananas and oranges? These rare fruits will definitely inspire you to try something new!

The diversity that nature has to offer is simply astonishing. Especially in the world of plants, Mother Earth did not hold her creativity back, which has led to some very strange shapes, colours, smells and flavours of fruit. In this article, we have compiled a list of the most unusual fruit that nature blessed us with. 

10. Horned melon or kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus)

Horned melon, also called kiwano or spiked melon, is a plant from the gourd family, which makes it a relative to the pumpkin as well as the cucumber. Its ripe fruits have a yellow to orange skin, while the flesh inside is lime green. The plant originally comes from New Zealand, but today it is mainly cultivated in the USA, Chile and Australia.

9. Dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus, monacanthus, megalanthus)

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is part of the cactus family. Its trademark characteristic is the fuchsia pink colour. In contrast to its vibrant skin, the flesh of the fruit is snow-white with a multitude of small, black seeds. It tastes incredibly good: it is mild and sweet and the flesh melts on the tongue. Sometimes, there is a slight hint of acidity that balances out the flavour. In tropical regions, to which it is native, it is a favourite refreshing snack.

dragon fruit
Dragonfruit belongs to the cactus family [Shutterstock.com/ panuwat panyacharoen]

8. Durian (Durio zibethinus)

Durian is a fascinating fruit that some love while others strongly dislike. Although many find the scent emitted by the durian sweet and appealing, many claim it is absolutely disgusting because it reminds them of rotting onions. Native to the Southeast Asia, it is also referred to there by many as the queen of fruits. Its fruits are characterized by their size, the outer thorns and, of course, the intense smell. Due to the sharp scent of durian, it is strictly forbidden in many Asian countries in public transport such as buses or airplanes.

7. Buddha’s Hand (Citrus medica)

Buddha’s hand belongs to the citrus family. Funnily enough, it is also referred to as the fingered citron. Its comical nickname comes from the bizarre finger-like segments that point away from the main fruiting body of the fruit. In China and Japan, it is mainly used to produce room fresheners. Here in Europe, the fruit with the curious shape is not very well known yet.

6. Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis)

This exotic delicacy has already made its way to the fruit shelves of Europe. It is cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. On the outside, the fruit is dark purple. The inside is made of a rich yellow flesh and many black seeds. The passion fruit is extremely aromatic and has a striking acidic and sweet flavour. A small tip: adding passion fruit onto watermelon in summer is to die for!

5. Jamaican tangelo or ugli (C. reticulata × paradise)

The name of this fruit is, in fact, a blend of the words tangerine and pomelo. Knowing this, it is easy to guess the fruit’s origin. It is a hybrid of tangerine and pomelo. This fruit is also called ‘ugli’ or ‘uglifruit’, which refers to its unattractive appearance. Unlike other citrus fruits, the ugli lacks the bright colour typical of citruses and is usually greenish yellow with a wrinkled and bumpy skin.

4. Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum)

The tropical Southeast Asia are home to the funky looking fruit called rambutan. The rambutan is cultivated predominantly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The name of the fruit in Malay means “messy hair” and the reason for that is quite clear when you look at the fruit. Its leathery pink to red skin is covered with unusual hair-like strands. The flesh of the fruit is white, sometimes with a pink sheen and is a little transparent. The flavour of this rare fruit is sweet and slightly acidic.

3. Five-leaf akebia (Akebia quinata)

The fruits of the five-leaf akebia have a sausage-like shape and there are plenty of seeds inside the plant. Despite all the seeds, the fruit has a pleasant sweet taste. The shrub, on which the fruit grows, comes from the Far East and is common in China, Japan and Korea.

2. Atemoya (Annona × atemoya)

Atemoya is a hybrid of the sugar-apple and the cherimoya. Its origin lies in the tropical regions of Latin America. The fruit is heat shaped with green skin and white and sweet flesh, which contains black seeds.

1. Snake fruit (Salacca zalacca)

The fruit of the Salak palm comes from Indonesia and grows mainly on the main islands Sumatra and Java. This unusual fruit owes its name to its skin. The red to brown skin looks astonishingly like that of a snake! It even has scales. The fruit is shaped like a fig and has the same distinct tip. The flesh of the snake fruit tastes sweet and is balanced out with a pleasant slightly sour undertone.

Growing vegetables from scraps: our guide to regrowing vegetables

Growing vegetables from scraps: our guide to regrowing vegetables

You can use your vegetable scraps to grow back whole veggies again. Celery, spring onion, lettuce, carrots and many others can be regrown back. To many this may be hard to believe but, yes, a lot of vegetables you buy every week can grow almost…