October 25 - 31, 2020: Issue 471


Perfect Tomatoes, Capsicums and Spring Onions - Summer Salad Staples + what to plant now

With a wetter than average Spring forecast late October is the perfect time to plant out those Summer Salad basics that you know will go through the roof, price wise, by Christmas. There's nothing nicer then picking the components of a great Summer salad from your own garden; it doesn't get any fresher, with enough rain forecast, it's not going to cost you too much, and, if you follow a few tips from the experts, gathered here for your enjoyment, you will be growing vegetables/fruits with the kind of taste and quality you only find on deep rich soil farms far from the big smoke.

What to plant now (Sydney Coastal - Temperate)

Vegetables: beans (dwarf and climbing), beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, chilli, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, endive, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, okra, parsnip, potato (tubers), radish, rhubarb (crowns), shallots, silver beet, spring onion, sweet corn, sweet potato, tomato and zucchini.

Herbs: basil, chives, coriander, fennel, gotu kola, heliotrope, lovage, mint, parsley and tarragon.

Perfect Summer Tomatoes

Few vegetables that are prone to more problems than tomatoes and yet they remain the first choice of many for growing at home. The best way to grow great-tasting tomatoes is to choose the best varieties, start the plants off right, and control problems before they happen.

Choosing Which Tomatoes to Grow

Depending on your tastes, whether you will grow them in a pot on your apartment balcony or garden bed and soil types there are a great variety of tomatoes available to grow at home now - Heirloom varieties such as the large and fleshy beefsteak tomato, the Italian staple San Marzano tomato or the cherry tomato will all do well in Pittwater. You also need to think about when you want to harvest your crop - some varieties will be ready earlier while others bear fruit later in Summer.

Those that do well in Sydney are:

Smaller Varieties

Cherry Cocktail:  an early maturing variety that produces large clusters of sweet, bite-sized cocktail fruit.

Cherry Fountain: a small vine variety that's  great for pots and hanging baskets. Will produce an abundance of super-juicy cherry-sized tomatoes.

Grape: a heavy yielding variety that produces long clusters of sweet fruit.

Ruby Truss: abundant trusses of small, oval-shaped fruit that's bright red in colour and very juicy.

Sugar Gloss: a tall and vigorous vine that produces small fruit that's juicy and very sweet.

Sugar Snack:  small, cherry sized fruit with a sweet full flavour.

Sweet Bite: although smaller than traditional cherry varieties, this early maturing variety produces hundreds of juicy, bite-size fruit.

Tiny Tim: sweet cherry sized fruit on a dwarf bush – perfect for pots and perfect for balconies with lots of sun.

Tommy Toe: very sweet, bit- sized balls of fruit that produces hundreds of slightly larger sized tomatoes.

Medium to Larger Varieties

Apollo: this variety has high yields of full flavoured, round, red fruit early in the season.

Black Krim: an heirloom Russian variety from the 19th century with a full flavoured, slightly flattened fruit.

Grosse Lisse:  a classic medium to large deep red fruit from mid to late in the season.

Patio Supreme: this early to mature variety is full flavoured and has bright red, flat fruit on a compact, dwarf bush – perfect for pots.

Roma: another classic with red medium to large egg-shaped, full flavoured fruit mid to late in the season.

Totem:  classic delicious truss bush variety with medium sized red fruit, perfect for pots.

Truss:  these tomatoes are sweet, juicy and easy to roast. They can be grown in-ground or in a large pot and will need a stake to climb.

Don't Crowd seedlings

If you are starting tomatoes from seed, give the seedlings plenty of room to grow. This means thinning the seedlings to one strong plant per cell or small pot. Snip the weaker, smaller seedlings in favour of the best growers. Crowding will inhibit their growth, which stresses them and leads to disease later on. Transplant tomato seedlings into their own 4-inch pots shortly after they get their first set of true leaves.

Lots of Light please

Tomato seedlings need strong, direct light. Choose a sheltered position you know will get sun all day long, a windowsill if necessary, and keep them out of cool winds for the first few weeks. When you're ready to plant them outside, choose the sunniest part of your vegetable garden as their location.

Some Breeze to Please

Tomato plants need to move and sway in the breeze to develop strong stems. That happens naturally outdoors, but if you start your seedlings inside, you need to provide some type of air circulation. Create a breeze by turning a fan on them for five to 10 minutes, twice a day. That small amount of time will make a big difference later on in the season. If that seems a little too 'high maintenance', gently ruffle the tomato plants by rubbing your hand back and forth across their tops for a few minutes, several times a day. This may be a bit more effort, but their wonderful tomato scent will rub off on you as a bonus. Eau De Tomato Cologne - don't you smell nice!

Warm Enriched Soil to start

Tomatoes need heat. They won't really start to grow until both the soil and air temperatures remain warm. You can speed things up in the soil by covering the planting area with black or red plastic a couple of weeks before you intend to plant. These extra degrees of soil warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes. Tomatoes grow best in full sun (8 hours daily) and well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Make sure you put some compost or decomposed manure into the upper 12 cm of soil prior to planting.

Stem deep

Plant your tomato plants deeper than they come in the pot, all the way up to the top few leaves. When planted this way, tomatoes are able to develop roots all along their stems, more roots mean a stronger plant. You can either dig a deep hole or simply dig a shallow trench and lay the plant sideways. It will quickly straighten itself up and grow toward the sun. Just be careful not to drive your tomato stake into the buried stem when it's time to give them a little help to stand tall.

Mulch those Babies

If you are not going to leave plastic on the soil, hold off on putting down mulch until after the ground has had a chance to warm up. Although mulching conserves water and prevents the soil and soil borne diseases from splashing up on the plants, if you put it down too early, it will also shade and cool the soil. Because tomatoes love heat, allow the sun to warm the soil in the Spring. After temperatures remain warm, both during the day and at night, you can add a layer of mulch to retain moisture.

Remove lower leaves

After your tomato plants reach about 3 feet tall, remove the leaves from the bottom foot of the stem. These are the oldest leaves, and they are usually the first leaves to develop fungus problems. As the plants fill out, the bottom leaves will get the least amount of sun and airflow. Because these leaves sit close to the ground, soil borne pathogens can easily splash up onto them. Removing them helps prevent fungal diseases from taking hold. Spraying weekly with a compost tea also seems to be effective at warding off fungal diseases.

Pinch and Prune for Abundance

Pinch and remove suckers that develop in the crotch joint of two branches. They won’t bear fruit and will take energy away from the rest of the plant. Go easy on pruning the rest of the plant though. You can thin out a few leaves to allow the sun to reach the ripening fruit, but it's the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating the sugars that give flavour to your tomatoes. Fewer leaves will mean fewer sweet tomatoes.

Water, water, water

Water deeply and regularly while the fruits are developing. Irregular watering—missing a week and trying to make up for it—leads to blossom end rot (a calcium deficiency) and cracking and splitting. The rule of thumb is to ensure your plants get at least 1 inch of water per week, but during hot, dry spells, they may need more. If your plants start to look wilted for most of the day, give them a drink.

After the fruit begins to ripen, you can ease up on the watering. Lessening the water will coax the plant into concentrating its sugars, for better flavour. Use your judgment. Don’t withhold water so much that the plants continually wilt and become stressed or they will drop their blossoms and possibly their fruit.


Tomatoes' ripening can be at the mercy of the weather, but sometimes you can help things along. Pinching off the tips of the main stems in early Summer will encourage indeterminate tomatoes (those with fruit available continuously) to start putting their energy into flowering. Indeterminate tomatoes like to grow tall before they start setting fruits, so don't worry if your tomato plants aren't flowering for their first month or two. Pinching is also a handy trick toward the end of the Summer when you want the last tomatoes to hurry up and ripen. It shouldn't be a problem getting determinate tomatoes (those that ripen all at once) to set fruit unless weather conditions are unfavourable and cause a condition aptly named "blossom drop."

Growing Perfect Capsicums

These will practically grow without too much trouble, even from seeds. As they experience similar problems to tomatoes, a few tips to ensure this Summer staple features on your table.

Location, Location, Location

Select a place that gets full sun but protection from winds that can break stems. Capsicums grow best in fertile free-draining soil so enrich the soil beforehand with aged manure, compost and/or a certified organic fertiliser. Boost calcium levels in the soil to help prevent blossom end rot later in the season by watering in dolomite or lime and keep an eye on the soil pH to ensure it remains acidic (dolomite and lime increase pH). If your soil pH is already in the right zone then apply gypsum instead which adds calcium but without altering the pH.

Warm Here too

Capsicums are commonly grown from seed or seedlings and you’ll also see small plants available at the nursery if you want to ski[p ahead and have a warm s[pot or pot in the sun ready to go. Sow seeds in a tray or punnet first and plant out when they are about 10cm tall. Capsicums like to be planted into warm soil too. Water in new plants with seaweed booster to help them settle in faster and then mulch around them.

Water and Feed

It's important to maintain regular, deep waterings throughout the growing period, especially during hot dry periods. Every 2-3 weeks apply a mix of seaweed to strengthen plants, encourage growth and build natural resistance to pest and disease attack. Don't use fertilisers that are very high in nitrogen as this causes the plants to produce an abundance of leaves with little fruit.

Halfway through the growing season reapply dolomite, lime or gypsum to ensure calcium levels in the soil are plentiful. Capsicums love calcium!


Capsicums are slow to develop fruit and will take up to 3 months depending on the variety chosen and your climate. All capsicums are green to start with before developing their full colour (red, yellow, orange or purple). They can be picked early when green but the longer you wait the sweeter they will be.  Be careful when harvesting fruit as the branches can be easily broken. Cut the stem with a knife or secateurs and leave a small stalk on the fruit. Pick regularly to encourage more fruiting.

Pests and Diseases of Capsicums

Being in the same family as tomatoes, capsicums suffer from the same pest and disease problems so watch out for  the following:

Aphids, mites and whitefly – look out for these pests and spray an eco-oil at the first sign. Their numbers can multiply quickly and early control is important so they don’t get the chance to damage plants and spread diseases.

Caterpillars – there are some caterpillars that will attack the foliage and developing fruit. Pick off those you can see.

Root knot nematodes – roots that have been attacked by these tiny pests will swell and develop multiple bumps or ‘knots’. Once damaged the roots are unable to efficiently take up moisture and nutrients causing stunted plant growth, reduced yields, regular wilting and early plant death. Prevent nematode build up by incorporating organic matter (compost and manures) when preparing your soil and practicing crop rotation.

Blossom end rot – premature rotting of fruit, from the base, is due to a lack of calcium. This can be because there isn’t enough in the soil to start with (capsicums use up a lot) or the soil frequently dries out preventing the roots from being able to take it up. Boost calcium levels with the liquid dolomite, lime or gypsum. Mulch plants to conserve water and adjust your watering regime to maintain moist soils.

Powdery mildew – this common fungal disease grows as a white or light grey coating over the foliage.  Act quickly to prevent its spreading by spraying with a fungicide - there are many on the market now that are eco-freindly and mean you will still be harvesting organic fruit.

Wilts and other diseases – there are quite a few other diseases (bacterial, fungal and viral) which can attack capsicums and are difficult or impossible to control once present. They can cause distorted and stunted growth and fruit, mottled leaves, wilting and plant death. Prevent these problems by controlling sap sucking pests (which can transmit some diseases) and practicing crop rotation (so diseases don’t build up in the soil). Avoid planting capsicums, chillies, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant in the same spot year after year.

Perfect Spring Onions

These easy-to-grow vegetables that are ready to harvest in just eight weeks make spring onions a firm favourite. Perfect for use as a "filler crop" between rows of slower growing vegetables, and a must-have in a salad or stir-fry, this Summer staple can be grown in a pot or soil and will keep growing as long as you harvest stems from the outside to the in.

In the subtropics, like Sydney, they can be planted pretty much all year round. They grow equally well in containers as in the garden. You can even grow them from your leftover harvested crop; simply slice off the ends of the bulbs, leaving roots attached, stand the bulbs root-end down in a small jar, set on a windowsill and keep the roots moist. After a few days, green shoots will emerge from the tops of the bulbs. Plant them out for a new crop!

If you're growing them in a pot or soil, good food for that soil is important - they like a bit of sun too but don't need the full 8 hours tomatoes and capsicums thrive under, but will still do better with more sun.

Water your vegetables/salad staples an hour after sunup or sundown to prevent leaf or plant scalding or fungus development.

Photos by A J Guesdon.

Some Gardening Specials From Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 For Springing Into Action (Available Until Tuesday November 3rd, 2020) Read It Online Here

Searle's Superior Garden Soil Mix 30L; $9.95
Organic garden soil with added organic fertilizers. Ideal for vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruit, trees & lawns.

Seasol Fertiliser Concentrate 2L: $18.00
Stimulates strong root growth and beneficial soil micro-organisms. Promotes vigorous flowering and fruiting and overall garden health. Helps plants cope with all kinds of stress, such as heat, drought and frost.  Gives plants better resistance to sucking insects and fungal attack.

Gardenmaster Plastic D Handle Spade or Fork: $26.00 each
A general purpose spade or fork suitable for most gardening needs, including digging and turning soils. Strong hardwood handle. Short handle for close work. Reinforced neck assembly. 100% tempered steel blade. 10 year guarantee. 

Gardenmaster Steel Fan Rake: $15.00 
465mm head width. 1570mm hardwood handle. Strong, high grade plated steel head and tapered socket.

Neta Black Gold Fitted Hose 30m x 12mm: $89.00
12mm x 30m. Quality brass fittings. 9/10 Kink Rating. 25 Year Guarantee.

Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 Update: Shop Online Options

Intending to keep our customers and staff safe, we present some additional ways for both our retail and trade customers to do business with us.

Trade and Retail Pick Up

Express Pick up Mona Vale

- Call Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Mona Vale, and we will pick & pack your order and have it ready for you to pick up in 2 hours. (Stocked Lines Only)

- Drive into our undercover Trade Drive-Thru area at 73 Bassett St Mona Vale, and your order will be ready for pick-up.

- Our team members will help you with your load and finalise payment/paperwork

Express Pick up Avalon

- Call Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Avalon, and we will pick & pack your order and have it ready for you to pick up in 2 hours. (Stocked Lines Only)

- Drive into our back lane off Bellevue Avenue, and your order will be ready for pick-up.

- Our team members will help you with your load and finalise payment/paperwork

Online Retail Stores Go Live

We’ve launched two eCommerce sites offering 2hr pick up in-store and flat rate delivery options on the northern beaches*.

Jbhmv.com.au (Mona Vale)

Jbhav.com.au (Avalon)

With the ability to leave the product on your doorstep, this provides an option of an entirely contactless transaction.

*Flat rate delivery is not available to trade sales, building supplies and trade quantities

** The stock availability is updated nightly, which may mean the stock is unavailable when the order is placed

Trade Delivery to Site

Maybe not new, but certainly worth a mention again!

We can get almost anything delivered quickly onto site!

As always ring the trade desk direct on 9999 0333 and let them know what you need!

Final Thought

Like everyone, we have found ourselves in a new and uncertain environment, but we’re setting up (and digging in) for the long haul!

We want to acknowledge that the decision to retain over 120 staff and meet any future challenges head-on, could not have happened without the continued support you provide us as customers.

Thank you and stay safe,

The Johnson Family

Green Life Garden Centre at Johnson Brothers Mona Vale has a great stock of seedlings, native and other plants and all you need to get gardening in brilliant Autumn weather

Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 Trade Centre at Mona Vale - everything you need under one roof.

Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 New Store
73 Bassett Street
Mona Vale - Online Store: Jbhmv.Com.Au

Products advice is available from the trained friendly staff at Narrabeen, Mona Vale and Avalon Johnson Brothers Mitre 10. 

Click on logo to visit Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 website

Johnson Bros Mitre 10 - Avalon            (02) 9918 3315

Johnson Bros Mitre 10 - Mona Vale     (02) 9999 3340

JBH Timber & Building Supplies          (02) 9999 0333

JBH Fencing & Landscape Supplies    (02) 9970 6333

www.johnsonbros.com.au Online store: jbhmv.com.au

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John and Bob Johnson - The Johnson Brothers Profile  John William Alfred Johnson - The Eulogies for those who could not attend Mass

Australia's Prime Minister Visits Mackellar - Informal Afternoon Tea with Hon. Malcolm Turnbull October 2016

JBH Win Awards August 2018 Trifecta - 2018 Free Trade Day supporters, Mitre 10 Heritage Advert features JBH Mona Vale Store, Hardware Australia’s 2018 NSW Hardware Store of the Year over 2500sqm.

Front Page Issue 294: 2018 Winners Of National Hardware Store Of The Year - Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Mona Vale !!!

National Garden Week's 2019 Focus Is On Children(Oct 13-19): School Holiday Garden Ideas (to get started on) & Congratulations Award Winning Johnson Brothers Mitre10 At Mona Vale - 2019 NSW Store Of the Year2019 NSW Trade Centre Of the Year and 2019 Village Garden Centre of the Year

Johnson Bros Mitre 10 were awarded as the best Trade Store in the country: February 2020

Family Hardware Store Wins Best In Australia: Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Mona Vale Crowned ‘National Trade Store Of The Year’ - Celebrating 65th Year in 2020

Anzac Day In Pittwater 2020: Candles, Crosses and Online Commemorative Services: Johnson Brothers Family Donates 20 Thousand Candles to Community Light Up The Dawn Initiativ

Front Page Issue 447ANZAC DAY 2020

All information and tips in this publication are of a general nature only and neither Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 or Pittwater Online News does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of the information and tips in this publication. This publication is not intended to be a substitute for expert advice. Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 advises you to always consult an experienced and qualified person when undertaking jobs of this kind (including consulting a qualified tradesperson such as an electrician or plumber where relevant expert services are required). 

You should also consider any safety precautions that may be necessary when undertaking the work described in this publication (including wearing any necessary safety equipment such as safety glasses, goggles or ear protectors or hard hats). The information and tips in this publication are provided on the basis that Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 and Pittwater Online News excludes all liability for any loss or damage which is suffered or incurred (including, but not limited to, indirect and consequential loss or damage and whether or not such loss or damage could have been foreseen) for any personal injury or damage to property whatsoever resulting from the use of the information and tips in this publication. 

Pittwater Online News and Johnson Brothers Mitre 10 also advises there may be laws, regulations or by-laws with which you must comply when undertaking the work described in this publication. You should obtain all necessary permissions and permits from council and/or any other relevant statutory body or authority before carrying out any work. Major projects published in this publication always list these and/orlinks to where you may research what your own project requires to meet regulations.