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Plant Care

Posted by Guy Barter on 04 Jul 2008 at 07:51 AM

Now that all but a few of the allotment crops are established, it is time to think of plant care.  It is very important that the leaf area expands quickly as July is a make or break month with long days and the sun high in the sky so that plants can do an enormous amount of growing this month.  August is not quite as good and by September things slow down markedly.

Weeds in rows have been kept down by the Dutch hoe up and down the rows, followed by the onion hoe between the plants.  Uncropped areas such as paths have been treated with the new weedkiller called ‘Resolva’ – it contains glyphosate that will kill all weeds and diquat.  Diquat will only kill annual weeds but within 24 hours you can see where you have been and don’t have to wait 10 days to see any missed plants as you do with ordinary glyphosate.

For widely spaced plants such as tomatoes and Brussels sprouts each plant is surrounded by a low, 5cm high earth bank and water poured into the ‘pond’.  The water is fortified with a couple of teaspoons equivalent of nitrogen fertiliser in every watering can.  Sulphate of ammonia is used for most crops, but for brassicas this acidifying fertiliser is unsuitable as it may promote clubroot.  Calcium nitrate is used for brassicas as it will help to reduce clubroot disease due to its basic or alkaline character.

More closely spaced crops are grown in shallow 7cm deep trenches and during weeding these get filled in.  With the onion hoe their banks are restored and again water and fertiliser added.

Although the soil is fundamentally fertile my judgement is that generous watering and feeding at this stage is very worthwhile.

Both the water and fertiliser are placed close to the plant allowing a big saving in both compared to wetting and feeding the whole width of the row, and as they are placed beneath the foliage, weeds are less likely to benefit from them.  In fact the fast growing plants should fill out quickly and suppress any weeds that survive the hoeing.

The windy, sunny weather is extremely drying and watering is needed every three days for newly planted crops and every week for other plants.  Expected rain, according to the forecasts, has so far failed to arrive.

With weeds controlled and plants provided with enough water and nutrients, the next job is to control pests and diseases.  Mealy cabbage aphid has begun to attack the brassicas.  These live inside the bud and beneath the leaves.  They are hard to control as there are no systemic insecticides available for use on vegetables.  However vegetable oil based insecticides will get some of them and with watering and feeding, the plants might well outgrow the pest.  Pea moth is on the wing and young pods have to be protected by an application of bifenthrin at the beginning of flowering and another two weeks later.  Potato blight is unlikely while the weather stays dry but in case rain sets in and the disease takes off, the foliage is treated every week with fungicide.

More planting has also been done: some leeks were planted out, winter savoys went in and some autumn cabbages, cauliflowers and calabrese were set out between where the sprouting broccoli will go in mid-July.  The purple sprouting brocc and a few kale plants are doing nicely in pots in the growing area. The pots are to give them a head start over the clubroot later.

Replacement squash plants were set out to replace those blown out of the ground by recent high winds.  Plants set out between the drying off onion crop were sheltered and unharmed but where the site was open after removing the previous bean crop the plants suffered.  Next year I will just remove alternate rows of beans and cut the others off at 25cm to shelter the replacement crop.

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