Get the zing from growing your own citrus plant

Citrus plants are easy to grow and they are originally from humid Southeast Asia. The most commonly known are lemons, oranges, grapefruit and limes. As well as their fruits the leaves can be used for flavouring in rice, pasta and drinks. Citrus plants are typically non-hardy and in frost prone areas they need winter protection in a heated greenhouse or conservatory. There is nothing better than being able to pick your own lime for your gin and tonic fresh from the garden. If regularly fed, potted on and protected over winter they can reach a height of about 2 metres. They should be watered when the top of the soil becomes dry – however, never let the roots stand in water. They are hungry plants and need regular feeding during the growing season. A citrus will bloom in Spring but some species can bloom throughout the year. They are self-fertile and can produce fruit without fertilisation. You can grow them from seed but it can take many years to reach maturity and produce fruits. They are polyembryonic which means one seed can produce several seedlings. They require a soil type of low acid to neutral pH.

Grow juicy melons this summer

 There is nothing better than biting into a home grown melon with its succulent taste and sweet aroma.  Melons are in the Cucurbitaceae plant family which contains cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes and courgettes. Despite being closely related melons will not cross pollinate with the above. Melons prefer a hot sunny location with fertile well drained soil. They may in certain areas need glasshouse or polytunnel protection to ensure a good plentiful crop. Melon seeds are best sown in March and then transplanted to the growing area when they have 2 -3 true leaves. Be careful when transplanting as they can be sensitive to root disturbance. It is advisable to mulch plants with well-rotted manure as this will feed the plant, supress weeds, and warm the soil temperature plus retain moisture levels in the soil. Melons need regular watering so if possible use a drip feed irrigation system. Watering in the last two weeks of growth is essential. However on the other hand excessive water can cause the fruit to split. A typical Cantaloupe melon can take 35 – 45 days to mature depending on environmental temperature and growing conditions. At full ripeness and ultimate flavour the stem will break away from the melon. Many commercial growers harvest before this maturity point to avoid damage for exporting around the world. In many cases a net is used to support the fruit as it develops. It is best advised to grow powdery mildew resistant varieties. Melons have separate male and female flowers. Hand pollination can help chances of fruit setting. Poorly pollinated flowers will abort or produce misshapen fruit. Healthy high quality melons are produced by avoiding stress during the growing season. The plant will become stressed from disease, pests, weeds, poor nutrition and excessive or lack of water.