This year we are growing a collection of plants in the Solanaceae family – mostly in the colourful large raised beds beyond the lower greenhouse. The Solanaceae, or nightshade family, includes a number of common species, many of which are edible including tomatoes, potatoes, chillis and aubergines. Members of the Solanaceae family are found throughout the world, but the majority are found in the tropical regions of Latin America. The most well-known genera of this family include: Lycopersicon (tomato), Capsicum (peppers and chillies), Physalis (tomatillo), Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco) and Solanum (potato and aubergine.)

In the spring we started off our aubergine seeds in our heated propagators. The variety of aubergine we are growing is called ‘Bonica’ and it is an early cropper that should produce good sized fruits from late August onwards. These are ready to harvest when the fruit are a glossy black colour.

The aubergine seedlings have grown well and become large plants so last week we moved them to their new home in the passive greenhouse. The passive greenhouse is the smallest of our greenhouses. It is a lean-to design with its back resting on the tall brick wall that surrounds the lower garden. South facing walls like this are useful in vegetable gardens because they absorb the heat from the sun during the day and retain this warmth long into the evening.

Aubergines need a lot of warmth and sun to crop well, so this is an ideal location for them.

Aubergines are big chunky plants that may need support as they can grow tall and top heavy. When the plants are around 30cm high, (which they are now) we will carefully remove the growing tip by pinching it out (using finger and thumb.) This is a way of encouraging the plants to produce more side shoots, and on these side shoots we hope to get more flowers. Pinching out the growing tip also encourages them to develop a more bushy growth habit.

Our plants have just began to produce their first flower buds so it is time to start feeding them on a weekly high potassium liquid seaweed feed which will support the development of flowering and fruiting.

These plants are watered through the overhead misting system we have installed, and this not only waters the plants regularly but by keeping the leaves moist the misting system also helps reduce the risk of the plants being attacked by pests ….more of which below.

We will check our plants regularly and once they have five or six fruits forming, we will remove any extra flowers so the plants can focus their energy on producing good fruits.

A word on Common greenhouse pests: – The red spider mite, sometime also know as the two spotted mite is a small red mite, less that 1 mm long which feeds on the sap of the plants. Typical signs of the presence of the red spider mites (which like siders have eight legs, biting mouth parts, and produce webs), are signs of mottled, pale leaves covered in webbing, upon which the mites can be clearly seen. Once the leaves have become mottled they drop prematurely.

The remedy? Red spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions, so by misting the plants regularly we can bring down the temperature and increase moisture levels thereby making the environmental conditions less congenial for them.

If these environmental controls are insufficient to curb the red spider mites we may need to use a bio control, also know as a natural predator. It is possible to buy predatory mites, bred specifically for the control of greenhouse pests. Phytoseiulus Persimilis works well for larger infestations and Amblyseius Andersoni is designed to deal with smaller outbreaks.

Other garden jobs this week: – The elder trees are coming into flower so our cook team will begin to harvest elderflowers to make our delicious elder flower cordial to complement our lemon balm and rosemary cordial which we are also making this week.

And, if you haven’t seen the live feed in the garden take a look at a clip from our nest cam in the Sycamore here.

And in other news, Carrie who lives in West Norwood has plenty of top soil for people to pick up if you are in need of it in your garden. This is following building work she has had done.  If interested, email