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Harvest time

Posted by Guy Barter on 04 Sep 2007 at 10:44 AM

Vegetables have been taking a backseat this week, while I deal with fruit.  Gathering apples, pears, raspberries and plums, collecting wild blackberries and cutting back strawberries and raspberries, and winkling bindweed out of currant and gooseberry plantations are very pleasant summer tasks. 

To be truthful, I have had enough of veg growing for a while and am happy to gather the abundant crops of courgettes, French and runner beans, peppers, sweetcorn and more modest crops of tomatoes and aubergines.  There are a few summer cabbages and a little salad remaining as well. 

Gluts are being turned processed - cucumbers have been tuned into bread and butter pickle and French beans frozen for winter soups and stews. 

With the continuing dry weather hoeing is easy and the July sown crops were cleaned up last week.  My herbicide campaign is showing effects now with many weedy areas cleaned up.  I accidentally sprayed one pumpkin with glyphosate, but fortunately it is a poorly performing one and its loss won't leave me short.  Herbicides are powerful tools and to be used carefully. 

Squashes are maturing now.  I like the blue ones, Crown Prince and Queensland Blue, and I appear to have the necessary six fruits, one per month from October to March.  The smaller squashes are still flowering and fruiting and I can reasonably expect the planned two per month to be gathered later this month. 

Celery, celeriac and late planted leeks and cabbages are still being watered and are growing very fast, but with the longer dewy nights they will need less and less drink. By the end of the month when the allotment water is turned off no watering will be needed. 

July sown runner beans are coming into flower.  These were watered with liquid fertiliser solution to boost flower set and growth. Already colder nights are affecting growth. 

At this time frost begins to come to mind.  In the worst case frost may strike in three weeks time and this would ruin many crops.  However, on average frost hits in six weeks time and most tender crops will have given of their best by then, so that is nothing to worry about really.  Sometimes it can be eight weeks before frosts or very cold nights finish tender crops, but by then tender crops are spent and it is no matter if it freezes. 

To boost crops and counter cold nights fleece is used to cover later sowings of French beans and courgettes.  Not only will this bring them along faster and counter chilly nights, even excluding early frosts, but deer and pigeons are kept off too.  Peppers are fleeced all summer, but a double layer of fleece is worth considering if nights are going to be cool.  More fleece may have to be deployed if very cold weather is forecast. 

At least cool nights keep disease down.  Potato blight is much less virulent and my continuing spraying keeps it in check.  Bean rust has broken out on runner beans, but the temperatures are low enough to make me hopeful that it will be a minor nuisance.  No pesticides are approved for use by gardeners to control this disease. 

I aim to grow three crops every two years and sowing/planting in autumn is a good way of doing this.  The first crop to go in will be onion sets, already bought from Wisley Plant Centre.  Ground will have to be cleared by lifting spuds to make a place for these.  Next June these onions will come out and late summer ‘turn-around' crops planted and sown.  Fortunately the warm dry weather has left the potato patch in perfect condition for lifting, and after a break looking after my fruit, I can fill my potato store.

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