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Tomatoes, leeks, potatoes and cabbage

Posted by Guy Barter on 21 Aug 2007 at 09:33 PM

More rain, more spraying but the blight seems to be held in check for now.  The ‘Ferline' tomatoes are ripening and I picked the first ripe tomato from the allotment.  I am still puzzled by the lack of growth and suspect that potato cyst nematode, always common on allotments, might be involved.  To help overcome it I have drawn earth around the stems of some tomatoes to see if that will grow more roots.  The ‘earthing-up' also helps deal with weeds. 

There is no sign of the late summer slowdown of growth yet and weeds are still growing vigorously.  A hoeing and weeding session cleaned up the plot on Saturday morning.  With more rain forecast hoed-up weeds were laboriously picked up and removed to the compost pits to prevent recovery in subsequent wet spells. But all the bending made my back twinge so I was glad that we had visitors for the rest of the weekend so I could have a break.   

Fertiliser, double-strength growmore, was applied where a light top-dressing seems necessary to keep young crops growing; beetroot, courgettes (late sowings), cucumbers, fennel, French beans (sowings made after mid-July), salads and tomatoes (last resort for poor crops). 

Paths were mown again and the edges are now ready for trimming straight.  The strawberries were mown over as well to remove old foliage and allow access to weeds. 

Leeks are growing fantastically on the allotment site with some magnificent crops on many people's plots.  My early F1 hybrid leeks are ready to use already and none have run to seed. Leeks planted more recently will be in good condition for winter.  Leek moth appears to have been halted by heavy application of derris.  Rust is at bearable levels despite the mild wet weather.  However nearby oriental salad onions have been attacked.  These onions are a different species to the western salad onions and seem more susceptible to leek rust.  It does not matter as the affected leaves are discarded and the long white stems consumed. 

Some more potatoes were dug; ‘Mayan Gold', this new cultivar from a novel inter-species cross is susceptible to blight, but it cropped very well and the flavour is good - almost nutty. I also lifted a sample of ‘Ambo' that produced such huge tubers last year.  Tuber size is slightly more moderate this year and more rounded in shape.  In fact, all the signs are that they will be a better crop of ‘bakers' than last year with the yield almost as good as in 2006. 

Potato lifting time is nearly here with the crop hardening its skin in drying soil under the black polythene sheeting.  I would like to get the whole lot up by mid-September so the rainy weather on Sunday was a good opportunity, after my duties as host were over, to start preparing the potato store.

Last year I did much work trying to get melons and aubergines to grow in the allotment, but they took up a lot of space and time and then succumbed to verticillium wilt (common where potatoes have been frequently grown).   This year the slugs ate the melons and the aubergines are grown in the back garden in pots. Fortunately, given the weather, this year I decided to put more faith in sturdy brassicas.  As the wet summer progressed I changed the emphasis on planting to more brassias and fewer tender crops.  The early cabbage ‘Hispi' were good, but now, somewhat later ‘Duchy' are a revelation in sweet flavoursome cabbages that are delightful when stir fried.  To my surprise some weary calabrese suddenly burst into growth and produced a useful crop - not unrelated to recent fertiliser dressings I suspect.  Purple cauliflower ‘Graffiti' has also surprised me by sudden heading.  I rather hoped it would crop later and perhaps the remainder will.  It is a most attractive and unusual plant. 

The last few onions were lifted and stored - ‘Kamal', a red cultivar that has done rather poorly although given the weather and heavy attacks of downy mildew perhaps it has potential in better years.  I won't try it again from seed, but I think the sets have potential.  I now have enough onions in store for the next eight months.

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