Causes & Cures for Bitter Pit on Apples

DSC_0125.jpg  Gascoigne's Scarlet.

Brown spots in the flesh of your apples is a sure sign of Bitter Pit. Along with dark depressions in the skin, brown sports dotted throughout the flesh is typical of bitter pit on your apple trees.
Bitter pit is a disorder not an infection or infestation.
Unfortunately the flesh of badly affected apple trees will also taste rather bitter

What Cause Bitter Pit on Apples

  • The disorder is usually brought about by a calcium deficiency.
  • Another potential cause is a susceptibility of the variety.
  • An erratic supply of water will also encourage the disorder.
  • Young trees that are putting on a lot of growth are also rather susceptible.
  • Early picking can cause bitter pit to develop during storage.
  • Dry conditions can reduce the calcium uptake even if it is present
  • Vigorous trees with copious leaf area need more calcium. Bramley’s Seedling and Newton Wonder are large fruiting cookers that are prone to the problem.
  • Trees without adequate Calcium will rob fruit of the calcium to sustain other parts of the tree.

How do you Cure Bitter Pit on Apples

    • Spray the developing fruit with Chempak Calcium mulit-action
    • Foliar sprays of calcium nitrate or Calcium chloride solution can be applied from mid-June to mid-September
    • Make sure your trees are mulched and well watered.
    • Some varieties such as Bramley Seedling and Gascoigne’s Scarlet are more prone than others. Check what grows well in your area and try plant those varieties, Gala is said to be free of the problem.
    • Prevention is the best cure using good cultivation practices.
    • Install irrigation to give tree roots access to moisture and natural calcium.
    • Add lime or chalk to the ground then rake and water in.
    • Do not store apples showing signs of bitter pit. Rather eat or cook with them asap.

Has your Granny Smith got black spots or is your Golden Delicious not totally golden then you may have bitter pit. This is not a fungal or insect borne disease but a chemical imbalance. Bitter Pit is a problem with the fruit on Apple trees caused by a shortage of Calcium. The fruit have dark, sunken spots on the surface, browning flesh and a slightly bitter taste. The problem can continue or start developing after harvest so inspect stored apples. Cork spot and Jonathan spot are similar to Bitter pit in that damage to tissue occurs mostly on the surface and just below. Although apples affected with these disorders are still edible they are unattractive in appearance.

Read about other Apple problems and control

DSC_0125.jpg Gascoigne’s Scarlet. by northdevonfarmer CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ‘Gascoign’s Scarlet. These apples always seem to be affected by bitter pit here.’

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Day Flowers

LBA 070

This Inula is big and brash but only flowers for a relatively short time. After pollination the inflorescence of central flowers start to turn brown. It is still worth a place in a perennial flower bed when the heart shaped leaves provide extra interest.

LBA 064

Day lilies are so named because of there relatively flowering short life. The latin name is Hemerocallis.
New blooms on the same stem open regularly to prolong the display of these brightly coloured flowers.

Cistus maculata

Cistus is another flower that lasts a day but is replaced with new blooms on a very regular basis. Again one of my favourites for sunny perennial borders.

Rock Rose

Rock rose or Helianthemum is a much smaller flower than its cousin the Cistus. It tpoo has short lived flowers but in such profusion and range of colours that it is well worth growing.

Other Flower Pictures Born for a Day


Day Lilies

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Three Dimensional Garden


Make better use of your space by thinking in 3D.
Height is an obvious area for development of a more intensely 3D garden but depth can be developed by planting blues at the back as they make distances recede.
Root vegetables, roof gardens, living walls and other developments are pushing the boundaries (Oh yes pinching some garden from someone’s boundary is a new dimension). Stop this silliness Ed.

Vertical Dimension Ideas

  • Obelisks, pergolas, arbours, arches even simple wigwams can provide a structure for climbers and scramblers.
  • Cloth eyesores with some trellis or strong wires followed by plants.
  • Grow more cordons and standards for fruit, Roses even Fucshias.
  • Use hedges for Trapoleum speciosum (shown above) with it’s showy, fiery red flowers and prominent spur. Even conifers can act as hosts.
  • Hang potted plants from tree branches

Dry Stone Wall Gardens
Drystone Wall Garden

Rock plants and alpines are quite at home in the crevices between rocks in a wall.

Roof Gardens
Roof Garden

Roof Gardens do not need to have been constructed with layers of soil on top of a membrane. A range of pots and containers will be lighter, effective and easier to water. Some trailing plants near the edge may be interesting to break the roof or sky line.

Read Flowering Climbers

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Pruning Peache Trees


Fruit with a stone or kernel are pruned when the sap is still rising, May and June are the key times. Plums, Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Cherries and Gages are all stone fruit to be pruned at this time of year. Fan trained stone fruit like peaches, nectarines and acid cherries, that fruit on previous years wood can be pruned immediately after fruiting

Peach Pruning

  • Peaches are often grafted on to Plum stock like Pershore or Common Mussel.
  • They flower and fruit on wood made in the previous season so once the wood has fruited it can be cut out to allow replacement branches to develop.
  • For young trees the shoot which has born fruit is allowed to grow until it reaches say 18″ then it is pinched out to a wood bud.
  • On a fan trained Peach do not allow one side to dominate the other unchecked. Vertical branches are more dominant than horizontal branches so tie the branches accordingly to direct energy into an even growth pattern.
  • Blossom buds are round and fat whilst wood buds are small and pointed.
  • Bush grown Peaches need drastic pruning in may to encourage a continuous supply of new wood. Growth appearing next to a fruit should be pinched out above the second leaf.

Peach Tips

  • Thin fruit after ‘stoning’ (the natural dropping of excess fruit like the June drop of Apples) to leave 6″ between fruit.
  • Keep Peach trees moist whilst the fruit is developing. Fruit is ripe when the base is slightly soft.
  • For grafted trees make sure the union is above soil level when planting.
  • Peaches need more space than Plums to bear enough new wood.

Best Varieties to Grow

  • Duke of York bears large sweet and juicy fruit in August. The skin is yellow and the flesh is green.
  • Peregrine bears crimson fruit that are smaller but it is a reliable heavy cropper.
  • Alexander is an early variety that needs extra frost protection but crops well
  • Sea Eagle is  a late ripener ready in October but with  milder weather it can perform outside although it produces largest  fruit under glass
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Grow Mandevilla Jasmines

Mandevilla Brazilian Jasmine

There are over 100 species of Mandevilla but the best to grow are often sold under the name Dipladenia splendens. I rate these climbers from Central America as the type of plant you can expect to see in far greater numbers in the coming years.
Mandevilla generally have waxy, fragrant, showy, trumpet-shaped flowers during the growing season in early spring. They are fast growing woody vines that can reach heights of 10 feet so need support. Mandevilla growth is not frost proof and need winter protection although roots may survive.
The fragrant flowers of pink, red and white compensate for slightly sparse foliage.

Top Species to Grow

Mandevilla boliviensis from Bolivia and Equador flowers white
Mandevilla dodsoni Equador
Mandevilla equatorialis Equador
Mandevilla jamesonii Equador etc
Mandevilla sanderi, Brazilian jasmine vine Aphrodite shown above
Mandevilla scabra
Mandevilla splendens, Brazilian Dipladenia
Mandevilla suaveolens,
Mandevilla laxa, Argentina and Chilean jasmine white flowers

Does well in tubs, conservatories and hanging baskets. Keep above 50 degrees F
Repot as little as possible.
Requires a sunny position but tolerates partial shade.
Needs a well drained mulch or potting mix, with slow release fertiliser as it is a heavy feeder. Feed every two weeks with a fertilizer high in phosphor.
Keep moist but do not allow to stand in water.
Propagate from sturdy wood cuttings in spring.
Look out for cultivars Red Riding Hood, Alice du Pont (pink) and Yellow which has wide, bright yellow flowers. They are lower growing and shrubbier than the species and superb in hanging baskets.
Beware if you grow one as a houseplant as the sap or latex can be caustic and is reputed to remove warts (and all).

Alternative Names for Mandevilla

    • Synonym:Dipladenia suaveolens
    • Brazilian Jasmine
    • Scarlet Pimpernel or Red Riding Hood

Mandevilla coccinea
With thanks to Marcia Stefani under creative commons license on Flickr

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Crammed Garden with too Many Plants

Sedum & Fucshia

My son complains that I cram in too many plants into my garden. I guess he is right but I garden for plants not hard landscapes, not sculpture and certainly not for bare soil.

Problems of Too many Plants

  • There is often no space for that great new plant but I cram it in anyway. I often put a plant in the only place available rather than the location that would best suit it. I regret it later because the colour schemes become totally random.
  • Weaker plants can be smothered and killed by the thugs in the garden.
  • Plants need space to reach their full potential and look their individual best.
  • Plants that are too close together can attract mildew and other diseases.
  • Water needs to get down to the roots and a canopy of leaves can create dry spots.

Morley 020

Garden Areas with Too Many Plants

  • I have started collecting and growing Alpines because I can get a lot more plants in a small space. Even so I find it hard to create gaps when everything is in full flow.
  • The border is intended to become ‘low maintenance’ to give me time to focus on other projects. For this area it is fine for the plants to be close together.
  • Vegetable gardens need allotted space as you do want good crops.
  • Natural gardens are fine with lots of wild flowers or local plants but too much grass can then smother smaller plants.

Rhododendron group

The Case for Too Many Plants

  • Life is too short not to aim for abundance. I love the free seeds from RHS and AGS seed distributions. This provides me with lots of plants of varieties I have not already got.
  • A riot of colour, shape and form can be therapeutic as can my informality.
  • You generally have something available to give away.
  • If you neglect a part of the garden for a while it can still seem naturalistic and in keeping with the rest of the garden.
  • You do not need to worry about ground cover, real selected plants can do that job.

Intensive Gardens

  • The term intensive gardening is usually reserved for a raised bed system. Deeper richer soil will support more and better plants or so the theory goes.
  • Interplanting is second nature in a crammed garden, in fact I interplant the interplants.




Plant Inches Plant Inches
Asparagus 15 – 18 Chard, Swiss 6 – 9
Aubergines 18 – 24 Courgette 18-24
Beans, runner 6 – 12 Lettuce, head 10 – 12
Beans, bush 4 – 6 Onion 2 – 4
Beetroot 2 – 4 Peas 2 – 4
Broccoli 12 – 18 Peppers 12 – 15
Brussels sprouts 15 – 18 Potatoes 10 – 12
Cabbage 15 – 18 Sweet corn 15 – 18
Carrots 2 – 3 Tomatoes 18 – 24
Cauliflower 15 – 18 Turnip 4 – 6
Cucumber 12 – 18 Leeks 3 – 6


University of Arizona for the spacing guide

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Twin Oaks or Two Oaks

Quercus bonsai

It takes a long time, a lot of skill and patience to grow an Oak bonsai like the one above.
With the right care and attention a bonsai will last for decades and longer.

Given that observation it takes a lot longer to grow a mature Oak in a forest or woodland.

Left to their own devices trees can take on extraordinary shapes.

may12 002

I like the oil painting Two Oaks by Jan van Goyen from 1642 available to view on Wahoo

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Slender Crocosmia Plants

Crocosmia Lucifer

Do you like frondy plants that wave in the breeze? There are many elegant grasses to choose from but I like a grassland plant called Crocosmia.

Crocosmia Lucifer

  • Crocosmia Lucifer shown above is a robust perennial with pleated or ribbed green leaves.
  • Tall linear leaves upto 3 feet tall are produced from corms.
  • The arching stems carry bold deep red flowers in summer.

Montbretia and Crocosmia

  • Makes an excellent cut flower and a dramatic impact to any border.
  • Also known as Montbretia of which there are several varieties in yellow and orange. Lucifer is the best red I have found.
  • Named from the Greek ‘Krokos’ (saffron) and ‘osme’ (smell) as the leaves are said to smell of saffron when rubbed.
  • Trouble free long lived and easy to grow at the back or middle of the border.
  • They enjoy damp soil and are rabbit resistant which is just as well in my garden this year.


More Growing Tips

Visit the National Collection of Crocosmia in Caister

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Fruit Tree Training and Styles

Wall trained
Espalier trained fruit trees can make the best of a south facing wall. In this style of training peaches, nectarines and apricots can be grown.
Large areas can be covered by just one plant.The branches are tied in the horizontal position and pruned to stay in formation.

Space is saved in comparison to a round tree with a central leader by having only a narrow width away from the wall.

Cordon trained

Training against a wall or on strong wires using cordons is often a good method for growing Apples.

Chose your variety and root stock with cordons in mind.

Cordon gooseberry

This Gooseberry is trained as an upright.  This is often called a leg and is used to make picking easier. You can also get more plants into a smaller area. The style and method is the similar to that used for growing a standard.

Cordon training

I wonder how this V shaped cordon is growing on 2 seasons later. You can just see the second branch starting to grow on the left.

Fan train
Continue Reading →

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Plant Pots Tips

Pots for mini Hosta
‘Plant pot for dwarf Hostas to keep slugs at bay.’

Pots and Weather

  • Use clay feet to keep pots off the ground so they do not get frozen causing the bottom fall out.
  • To protect root balls in pots you can wrap them in bubble wrap or several layers of hessian.
  • Use frost proof pots if they are to stay outside through winter.
  • Use a saucer, dish or tray to catch excess water. This saves good fertilized water from running away.
  • Do not put pots in windy spots. Tall plants will blow over quite easily as the wind acts like a lever and fulcrum.

Watering and Feeding

  • Peat is hard to re-wet so use a wetting agent or add moisture retaining granules.
  • I add granular feed to compost if the plant is to remain potted for more than 3 months. They also need a liquid feed when plants are in growth.
  • Use John Innes No 3 for fruit trees grown in pots and other robust shrubs etc.

Broken pots

Pests and Problems

  • Lily beetle can be stopped by picking off the red adults and squashing them. Use an insecticide as eggs will be in the compost and a new generation will arrive next spring.
  • Insects that sting can be a problem on pot plants near your outdoor seating. If you suffer avoid being too close to lilies that attract most insects.
  • Read about getting Potbound
  • Vine weavill can’t swim. Keep compost wet or construct a moat by using a tray or saucer.
  • Slugs can climb up pots. Put a copper ring or Vaseline around the pot top.
  • Steralise pots with Jeyes fluid after they have been used but before they are put away or replanted.

General Pot Tips

  • Crock the bottom of the pot with bit of broken terracotta pot to help drainage.
  • Terracotta pots dry out quicker particularly in sun or windy sites.
  • Anchor valuable pots if they are likely to be stolen.
  • Freshen up the top soil in the pot with John Innes if the plants are heavy feeders.
  • Groups of pots or large individual pots look more attractive than a clutch of smaller plastic pots.

Fucshia pot

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