Eggplants a wise choice

Aubergines, or eggplants, are one of the less-frequently grown vegetables. However, they grow well in home vegetable gardens, producing a good supply of the familiar deep purple fruits.

MANY POSITIVES: Eggplants are well-suited to the home vege patch, and offer a range of tasty food alternatives.

MANY POSITIVES: Eggplants are well-suited to the home vege patch, and offer a range of tasty food alternatives.

Seeds may be sown in seed trays and planted out in about 5 weeks.

Seedlings should be planted out into soil that has been enriched with compost. The soil should have begun to warm up before eggplants are planted out.

Plants may require staking as the heavy fruits may cause the plants to fall over.

When harvesting, the use of scissors or a sharp knife is recommended to avoid damaging the stems.

Eggplants can be grown successfully in the same vegetable bed as beans, capsicum, lettuce and thyme. They are relatives of tomatoes and, as such, have the same soil requirements. Avoiding planting them in gardens where tomatoes have recently been grown would be good planning. Planting them near potatoes should be avoided.

Traditional eggplants are the deep purple varieties. However, they are also available with fruits in a range of colours including pink, white, green and lavender. Lebanese eggplants produce long, skinny fruits. They are very easy to grow and make good specimens for pot or container growing. Because they produce small fruits they are quicker to harvest.

Fruit may be sliced and fried in olive oil, or brushed with oil and grilled or baked. They may be microwaved plain for about 4 minutes on a high setting. Eggplants make a good substitute for pasta in lasagne. They form the basis for moussaka recipes.

BLACK SPOT

Humid conditions and watering plants later in the day can create conditions that are ideal for the development of black spot, a fungal disease of roses. The presence of black spot becomes evident when the leaves display black patches, surrounded by areas of yellow. The leaves will eventually fall from the plant. All leaves that have fallen to the ground should be removed and disposed of with the weekly garbage.

Commercial products are available to control black spot, but environmentally friendly treatments can also be used. Fat-free milk, mixed with water in equal quantities can be applied as a spray to the leaves of rose bushes. It provides a coating that will assist in preventing black spores attaching themselves to the leaves.

Another home-made product that is popular with rose growers is made by dissolving 1 tablespoon of baking soda in 4.5 litres of water. The addition of 2.5 tablespoons of Pest Oil to the mixture will also help the mixture coat the leaves.

These sprays should be applied regularly, ideally at weekly intervals in more humid conditions.

HYDRANGEAS

Hydrangeas are now in flower in many gardens, as well as being available in nursery and garden centres. Many people are familiar with the large heads of numerous individual flowers, in colours of pinks and blues.

IN FLOWER: Hydrangeas  are now in flower and bring mauve or pink tones to many gardens.

IN FLOWER: Hydrangeas are now in flower and bring mauve or pink tones to many gardens.

However, many people become disappointed when their plants flower a second time and the flowers have lost much of the colour intensity of the original flowers. This occurs because the flower colours are not determined by plant breeding. Instead, the type of soil determines the colours of the flowers.

Acid soil, with a pH value of 5 - 5.5 will result in blue flowers. An alkaline soil, where the pH value is 6.5 – 7.5, produces flowers in pinks and reds.

However, hydrangeas with white flowers will always produce white flowers, as they are not affected by the soil.

Hydrangeas are available in many, different growth habits and styles to suit a variety of positions and purposes, ranging from pot culture through to general garden habitats.

Lacecap varieties produce flowers that have an outer ring of large, sterile flowers, with an inner layer of tiny, sterile flowers. Flowers can be pink or blue. Some have variegated leaves, which add an extra, attractive dimension to the plants.

White-flowered hydrangeas combine very successfully with the blue and pink-flowered varieties. These plants prefer to be grown in a sheltered position as direct sun and wind may cause the blooms to discolour. Such a position will ensure a prolonged flowering season. Growing hydrangeas under deciduous trees is an ideal situation.

Two less-commonly grown white flowered hydrangeas are Hydrangea quercifolia and Hydrangea paniculata.

Hydrangea quercifolia is commonly known as the Oak-leaf hydrangea, because of the shape of the leaves, which are like giant oak leaves in appearance. The flowers are pyramidal in form, unlike the more common hydrangea flowers that are somewhat rounded and slightly raised in shape.

The flower heads actually consist of two different types of flowers. Large, while sterile flowers are on the outside, while tiny, fertile flowers cluster around the stem. The fragrance is similar to a field of clover. The leaves turn a deep, strong red in autumn.

Hydrangea paniculata, sometimes known as the Peegee hydrangea, produces creamy white flowers in a pyramidal shape. Flowers appear later than the other varieties, during the summer months.

Hydrangeas will grow successfully from cuttings taken when the plants have finished flowering.

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