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Spud Grubber's Blog

Guy Barter

  • Date Joined: 15 Jan 2007

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Late summer things to do on the allotment:

Posted by Guy Barter on 05 Aug 2010 at 05:39 PM

Rain, at last.  Not enough to do much good, but by rushing round the plot with watering cans to top-up the dampened soil many crops have been well watered.  With few weeks of growing weather left with the sun getting lower, nights lengthening and lower night temperatures likely, crops are best kept growing - in September I can rest.


• Dwarf French beans have been coaxed out of the dusty ground and are at the two leaf stage ready to grow on for cropping in September.  Gaps were expected and are present, but spares raised in cell trays stand ready to fill in the blanks.  The cell tray ones were not particularly successful with rather a lot of empty cells – it is not clear why.


• It is really a tad too late for more French beans, but another batch will be sown now in 7cm pots this time with three seeds per pot, so that there should be at least one plant per pot.  These will go out in mid-August in hope.   They may need fleece in September to ensure they crop before the frosts.


• Runner beans sown in 7cm pots are ready to go out into ground from which the red onions have just been lifted.  Two wigwams need to be first set up.  September/October crops are aimed for.


• The gathering of the last onions leaves space for the many herb and salad crops in cell trays that await planting now; basil, chervil, chicory, Florence fennel, lettuce, parsley and also a late sowing of coriander and dill.  Fertiliser in the form of Growmore at 100g per square metre will be raked in first to ensure good growth.


• The first row of second-early potatoes (Anya) are now in storage leaving a strip of ground that it seems a pity to leave empty.  This patch, not being netted against deer, is unsuited to the crops listed above and the ground is too dry for green manures – I am certainly not going to water something that is not even edible!   Chinese cabbage and pak choi would be good choices but with the high levels of clubroot disease and the difficulty of keeping my sandy soil moist to prevent them running to seed they are not really practical. Instead oriental leaves will be sown.  I think of these as a form of turnip from a cultivation point of view and they are sown thinly for an autumn crop.  These leaves yield enormously for the amount of space used.  However as the plot is already full of calabrese, cauliflowers, kohl rabi, romanesco and turnips at that season there is risk of glut,  so two square metres should be plenty.  I use mixed packets as these are rather fun, sowing broadcast with one seed every 7cm or so.   Weeds are a problem but with plenty of plants losing a few when weeding thins them nicely and any that are not consumed are dug in as green manure (if free of clubroot).  A covering of insect-proof mesh is arranged to exclude deer, flea beetle, butterflies and above all cabbage root fly that can be very destructive in late summer (there are three generations per year in this warm southern district).  On the other hand slugs are few.


• The inadequate rain has provided a boost to those all-too-resillient weeds and hand-weeding tall weeds from crops is the next main task.  Carrots especially have a large number of galinsoga and potatoes are richly sprinkled with fat hen.  These weeds on the brink of flowering are consigned to the bonfire.


• Blight too might be encouraged by rain, so copper fungicide is misted over the tomatoes and potatoes when required.


• Red spider mite is becoming abundant around the plots.  Until nights begin to cool control will be required.  Blackfly is affecting beans and is often supporting a population of harlequin ladybirds that are however, insufficient to effect control.  My controls of choice are 'SB Plant Invigorator' or 'Vitax 2 in 1' spraying oil as these seem reasonably effective and are also claimed to have some effect on powdery mildew, another plague in hot dry weather, which is beginning to show up on the squashes.  Neither has any harvest interval between treating and gathering and are approved for any crops grown on the allotment.


• Caterpillar patrols on the other hand have come up with nothing, but constant vigilance is needed as cabbage butterflies are numerous and an adult tomato moth was spotted sunning itself on a celery leaf.


• There is a problem in the second sowing of the sweetcorn for the September crop.  It was sown in May at the right time and eventually germinated in the rather cold soil, was slightly damaged by late frosts and has not been greatly watered since.  It has male flowers, but female flowers are not yet visible.  They always come later, but this is alarmingly later.  Growth has been poor and with retrospect more high nitrogen fertiliser and more watering was required.  There is nothing to do but water thoroughly.  The first, transplanted, sowing for an August crop, is doing very well, but the third, June, sowing could be better and has been lavishly top-dressed with chicken pellet manure and watered for an October crop.  The water status of these crops will be checked this weekend.


• Now is also the time to examine squash and pumpkin crops for fruits.  Male flowers are always plentiful early in the season and female flowers tend to be later.  However if the crop is stressed, growth is poor or if the plants are overcrowded there may be few female flowers and fruiting will be delayed or absent.  This can often be remedied by training trailing shoots into wherever space can be found for them without compromising other crops, by watering and feeding and by removing some unfruitful plants.


miranda said:

I'm interested that you had poor bean germination in the cell trays, because we did too and are also not clear as to why that happened. New seed, fresh compost, clean pots - should have been successful, but we weren't.

on 08 Aug 2010 at 11:10 AM

Guy Barter said:

A subsequent sowing was done in the heated propagator where germination was very much better suggesting more warmth was needed.  This is surprising in late summer.  There seems to be a watering factor - the drier ones both outdoors and indoors did better than the wetter ones, so some overwatering might have been involved.  Again surprising in one of the driest summers for years. The trick generally is to water well and then leave alone until emergence, but they dried so fast outdoors that watering seemed necessary. However many of the outdoor seedlings showed pest damage, despite the cell trays being wrapped in a double layer of fleece to exclude insects, and this might have been a factor too.  The very last sowing is now under fleece in open ground - fingers crossed.

on 11 Aug 2010 at 09:54 AM