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Is there anything to do in the allotment this weekend except harvesting?

Posted by Guy Barter on 21 Aug 2010 at 06:42 PM

Recent showery weather and associated watering have given the plot new life, with stalled growth suddenly resuming often with rather lush foliage as the crops can suddenly access plant nutrients that have been beyond their reach for weeks. Whether this will translate into higher yields remains to be seen, but the signs are good.

  • After harvesting two rows of potatoes (Anya and Charlotte) and gathering the lowest yield of potatoes I have every grown, the remaining spuds are in full growth. This will bulk up the tubers (blight permitting) but at the cost of dollies (tubers with odd shapes and bumps due to stop-start growing). These are a big deal for the supermarkets and processors but don't much affect home use. The row now being lifted is Amorosa, one of the few red earlies, with a creamy texture and fine flavour. The tubers are, for the first time this year, baker sized. This cultivar will move higher up my list of spuds for next year, to replace the disappointing Accord.

  • As it looks like the forecast heavy rain is off, with only showers likely, watering resumes. Watering is nothing like the task it was. Now that nights are cooler, the sun lower and days shorter the water demand of the crops is about 40 percent less than it was in July.

  • Advantage was taken of the slack in watering demand to soak the blackcurrants. Nearby trees tend to keep the rain off, and they showed signs of stress. They lost all their leaves in last summer's late dry spell and cropping suffered this year. Three 15L buckets were given to each plant to really soak the soil. That should be enough for 2010.

  • The tomatoes have priority for water as the beefsteaks are suffering badly from blossom end rot. We are now moving swiftly into the annual tomato glut territory, where the garlic and onions (long since lifted and stored by the way) will be used to process the glut into tomato sauce to be frozen.

  • This is more acute this year now that I seem to have got the knack of salvaging a useful crop from the blight, and felt able to increase the planted area. All the same blight protection cannot be neglected. However with all plants protected and a 14 day spray interval there is no need to apply this weekend.

  • Newly planted salads and fennel also need watering until they get going.

  • Courgettes and cucumbers keep pouring into the kitchen. Cucumber pickle making is under way with a colander of salted sliced cucumbers, oozing brine, ready to be processed.

  • There is no shortage of peppers either and the first aubergines are ready to cut. French beans are abundant and runner beans (sown later) are beginning. Gherkins sown late and planted at the end of June to follow over-wintered broad beans are being cut too. These crops are the best they have been for some years due to the hot weather earlier in the summer. Aphids and mildew are plaguing them however, and contact materials such as 2 in1 spraying oil is used every week to hold these in check with no limitation on how long treated crops have to be left before gathering.

  • Cabbage mealy aphid is now present in force in the brassicas and these need urgent treatment with natural pyrethrins.

  • Autumn crops, turnips and calabrese for example, are being top-dressed with nitrogen rich fertiliser to boost growth, but in other crops there is no need to feed as there is plenty of nutrient present, but until the rains returned the crops were unable to use it

  • There is virtually no free space to do more planting and sowing until more crops have been cleared. The penultimate crop of broad beans, grown through black plastic, is being pulled up and module raised French bean plants inserted and watered in for an October crop (frost permitting).

  • It is time to sow salad onions for next spring. As the allotments are full of neglected onions shedding spores of downy mildew and sustaining a vicious population of leek moth, bean seed flies and onion flies these will be done in modules in the back garden under cover, for setting out in September when the risk of contagion is lower.

  • Spring cabbage, a most useful crop, is also sown now in modules for late September. Like spring onions it is well suited to this region and my light well-drained soils, and very valuable as greens from February and hearted cabbage from April, until June, after which it is consigned to the compost and replaced with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

  • Because I intend to sow lettuces and spinach next month to over-winter I am not going to sow spinach beet or chard for April cropping now, as these are crops I am not very keen on. However the many Italian growers on the plot will sow some. As they leave their plants to set seed, I often find volunteer plants on my plot which I leave where I can, as it seems ungrateful and likely to provoke fate to discard something so willing.

  • Weeds took off too in the rainy period, but the worst of these have been pulled up and destroyed. Some weed cover is useful in the school holidays to hide crops from mischievous eyes, but once schools go back serious weed control will resume.




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