Heavy rain has restored the allotment soil to full moisture. Winkling out spent winter crops revealed bone-dry powdery sand beneath, so it is certain that flowering broad beans and peas were suffering and would set fewer pods and potatoes would not initiate their full cropping potential. All that has now been remedied by some most excellent rain.
Brussels sprouts, autumn and winter cabbages and other brassica transplants, raised in small pots to get a head start on clubroot disease, were set out in the perfect planting weather. The last of the root crops were sown in the newly moist soil; swedes, long beetroot for winter use and a very few (who needs more?) scorzonera and Belgian chicory. Both, roots and brassicas are potentially very heavy yielding indeed so relatively small areas are needed. What with adding plenty of lime to planting holes to keep down clubroot disease and placing mats to exclude cabbage root fly around each plant, it is slow work setting out brassica plants. At least heavy watering has not been needed.
On the downside disease is present after the wet weather; onion downy mildew has entered the over-wintered crop, rust is infecting garlic, gooseberries have American mildew and weather conditions are perfect for potato blight. Although onions and garlic must take their chances (which are slim unless there is an outbreak of dry weather), Dithane (mancozeb) has been applied to tomatoes and potatoes and Systhane Fungus Fighter (Myclobutanil) to the gooseberries. October-sown mange-tout pea ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ has developed both foot rots and foliage and pod spots. A fungus that rejoices in the name of Mycosphaerella causes both, but there is no remedy available to the gardener. I don’t think I am growing a good selection of this pea, but for this autumn I have seed from a different supplier that might prove more robust. The crop is mostly mature and to harvest the pods I am just pulling up the plants and gathering all that I can.
Weeds have responded to the sudden moisture and recent rises in temperatures by germinating in abundance. The dreaded Galinsoga or Kew Weed, very common on allotments with light soil is the main culprit and will require a very great deal of hand weeding to get it out of the carrots and from around salad crops. However, the potatoes and parsnip foliage are about to meet over the rows and this weed won’t thrive in shade.
Elsewhere the ground has been got ready for warm-season crops such as peppers, sweet potatoes and courgettes by covering with strips of paper and plastic mulching sheet. These are not cheap but will keep the ground moist and weed free before and during the life of the crop, the planting of which is the next big job.
Birds, especially jays, are being very destructive and careful netting has been needed to protect young brassica, legume and salad plants and especially the ripening peas and beans. The stakes to hold the netting up also carry strings to support the crop – fortunately very little crop has been beaten to the ground by the recent rains.
At last peas and broad beans are ready for picking and the first few carrots, beetroot, potatoes and turnips are almost usable too.
Summer is almost here; one last effort to get the final transplants set out and to run the hoe through the crops and I can relax and start enjoying the results of nine months work.