A touch of the exotic in the garden

The pepino (solanum muricatum), Spanish for cucumber, is a native of South America, also known as the melon pear or melon shrub.

It grows quickly, and in one season will produce many mango-sized fruit with a flavour resembling musk melon or rock melon with a hint of pineapple.

As the fruit ripens, it changes from pale green to bright yellow, and often develops purple stripes.

Bees are among the most valuable insects in our garden, pollinating a huge range of plants.

Bees are among the most valuable insects in our garden, pollinating a huge range of plants.

It grows as a dwarf bush, up to a metre high, often spreading to a metre-and-a-half across.

It belongs to the same family as the potato, tomato and eggplant.

Pepino is a perennial, said to be long-lived, but because it is frost-tender you might lose it in the first winter.

On the other hand, like the tamarillo, it might come back again after being apparently killed by frost.

You can ensure that you have plants for next year by striking cuttings from it in autumn and keeping them under glass until next spring.

Or you can fix a hessian covering over it as winter approaches.

Frost-damaged plants can be cut back in spring and will possibly produce new fruiting wood.

Pepinos need regular watering and should not be allowed to dry out at any stage.

EXOTIC: The pepino is a relative of the potato and eggplant, and produces melons that combine flavours of rockmelon and a touch of pineapple.

EXOTIC: The pepino is a relative of the potato and eggplant, and produces melons that combine flavours of rockmelon and a touch of pineapple.

The plant develops quite rapidly and so needs fertile soil. Manure and/or compost should be dug in first, plus a little dolomite. Pepinos have few or no seeds so propagation has to be by cuttings.

Plants that are raised from seed have been very variable in production and the fruit can be bitter and unpleasant.

We can be sure that the plants being marketed in nurseries here have been developed to be high-yielding and suited to our conditions.

Wait until the fruit is fully ripe before you pick it, and handle carefully, because at this stage it bruises easily.

Garlic booster

A garlic spray is good for killing insect pests and generally protecting plants.

Use about 90 grams of garlic bulbs. Chop up and mix with two teaspoons of liquid paraffin or kerosene.

Soak for 48 hours, then add 600ml (one pint) of warm water and 15 grams of good, oil-base soap.

Store in a bottle and use about two-and-a-half per cent in water.

Your house plants will be healthier and happier if you mist them every night before going to bed. They love it.

Add about four drops of seaweed fertiliser to each half-litre of water.

Gardening good guys

When we wage war against insect pests in our gardens it’s easy to forget that we are killing many beneficial insects along with the baddies.

Bees for a start. We need them to pollinate our plants.

Ladybirds may look sweet but they are an aphid's very worst nightmare.

Ladybirds may look sweet but they are an aphid's very worst nightmare.

Ladybirds are mortal enemies of aphids, mealybugs, whitefly and scale insects.

There seems to be far fewer of them about than years ago. Is this because poisonous sprays have done their damage?

The praying mantis is a godsend in the garden. It will gobble up any insect that crosses its path.

So will the hoverfly on the wing.

Ants have a beneficial place in the garden. We should only destroy them when they come into the house.

In the garden I let them get on with their work, unless they are jackjumpers or inchmen. 

Centipedes are useful because they eat slugs and grubs while earwigs eat scale, flies and insects.

Unfortunately they also chew buds, petals and the soft stems of seedlings.

To catch them, put a piece of screwed up newspaper near your plants. They will hide in it, so simply burn it.

The praying mantis is very helpful in that it eats almost any insect that crosses its path.

The praying mantis is very helpful in that it eats almost any insect that crosses its path.

Lacewing and its larvae feed on aphids, mites, scale, caterpillars and whitefly.

So what do you do when aphids swarm on your rose buds, or black aphids on your young cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, broad beans and many other plants?

Pyrethrum sprays are not poisonous, neither are garlic and clensel.