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Good week for biodiversity.

Posted by Guy Barter on 25 Aug 2008 at 03:35 PM

It has been a good week for biodiversity.  While cleaning and sorting onions into those for late winter storage, ones to use before December and the rest to use as soon as possible, I saw, through the corner of my eye, a rather dirty onion get up and walk off.  On inspection this unusual onion was a toad which had made a home in the cold frame where the onions are ripening. It crawled off into the herbaceous borders.

Then when lifting the mulching sheet as the last of the broad beans were cleared a slow worm slipped quietly from beneath the sheet into the adjacent strawberry bed. In fact there now appear to be slow worms under all my many mulching sheets - I have seen more slow worms this week than ever before.

On the other hand my endeavours to limit biodiversity by eliminating the rats in the shed and squirrels making a swath through my fruit have only been partially successful with the squirrels still at large.

So far the squirrels have left the sweetcorn alone and this is now being gathered.  The rain has inhibited my party trick of barbequeing freshly plucked sweetcorn to amaze guests unfamiliar with the flavour of very fresh corn.

Rain has also promoted blight with any unsprayed crops of potatoes and tomatoes on the allotment site being defoliated in just three days.  Wise gardeners who have kept their plants protected with Dithane or copper are so far staying ahead of the disease.

On the other hand the wet has kept pumpkins and squashes growing well and, with the help of ample sulphur dust, standing up to the mildew.  It is getting hard to negotiate the plot now with vigorous ‘serpents’ of the cucurbit vines spreading several inches a day.  These make weeding very difficult and weeds are now rampant because of the wet weather.

It is vital that no weeds set seeds and the crops are patrolled, with any flowering weeds showing their heads pulled out with gloved hand and consigned to the ‘burning pile’. 

Weeds also flourish in the potatoes. As the haulms, to use the technical term for foliage, dies back weeds can grow – with luck the flowering of the weeds corresponds with the senescence of the foliage and both weeds and haulm can be removed leaving the potatoes ready to harvest when the tuber skins are tough enough.  Happily blight is absent due to careful application of Dithane.   In the meantime the potato store is cleaned and readied for what ought to be a heavy crop – mild wet summers suit potatoes very well.

Wet, cool weather has suppressed aphids and red spider mite normally common on beans in this district, but caterpillars on the brassica crops are now numerous. The brassicas were treated with the rather ineffective derris a few weeks ago and that gave some respite but now the one and only bifenthrin application permitted each year is called for.  Too early and later caterpillar plagues will be hard to control and if too late the caterpillars will consume or spoil much crop before they meet their richly deserved doom.

Even though the weather is moist, crops are still short of water as their needs are not quite met by rain.  However the drought stress is low and leisurely use of the watering cans is a good opportunity to gloat over the late summer abundance of crops.


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on 10 May 2009 at 05:17 PM