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Allotment things to do at the end of summer

Posted by Guy Barter on 11 Sep 2010 at 09:16 AM

Rain has wetted the top soil enough for good growth while nights remain warm and days sunny.  It won’t last of course, and very soon growth will fall away to very low levels.  Already the flood of summer veg has slowed and it is now or never for many crops.


Early sweetcorn is being harvested, but it is not at all certain that the follow on crops delayed by cold soil in late spring and drought in mid-summer will ripen before October cold makes it inedible.  There is nothing to be done except wait for sun.


The autumn brassicas on the other hand and the winter leeks have benefited from a  dressing of nitrogen rich fertiliser, applied just before this week’s downpour and already boosting growth.


Squash and pumpkins have done exceptionally well - they went into fairly well manured ground and got off to a very good start under fleece with ample watering in June.  The foliage is dying back and they will have to be gathered soon.  They are still acquiring bulk but the moment the declining foliage reveals them to thieving eyes or the rats and squirrels start tunneling into them they will be brought home. 


The early sowings of courgettes still crop unusually well and are not yet ready for the compost pit.  As the second sowing is now in full production, courgettes are very numerous and the potential glut is being dealt with by picking at the less than 15cm stage.  Ornamental gourds were planted late as  catch crop after early potatoes and onions, and despite the lateness of the season are setting numerous fruits.  Being ornamental these are easy to treat with systemic fungicides to suppress mildew, that are not allowed for edible crops.


The heavy rain showers have also give a boost to the winter brassica crops that still need to do a little more growing to get them ready for winter.


Rain is also keeping maincrop potatoes green and leafy, protected as they are by fungicide sprays against blight, and this must surely bulk up the tubers.  The early maincrop ‘Robinta are losing their leaves fast and the haulm and weeds are being pulled and destroyed, so that the crop, my main potato supply, can be conveyed to the storage bin for use until April.  This drought resistant heavy yielding Desiree type potato should yield a good crop and a high proportion of bakers - it will be interesting to see how it has responded to the early season drought.


French beans have a discoloration on pod and stem that I think is a stress reaction, but might be a bacterial rot brought on by wet weather  - there is nothing to be done but salvage what can be saved and consign the plants to the bonfire (they are also infested with sclerotinia and rust).


The next lot of French beans are in flower and ready for another weeding.  Chickweed, nettles and galinsoga have germinated mightily in the wet.  As soon as the crop is gathered the plot will be smothered in a big sheet of black polythene that will keep weeds down until winter halts weed activity.


Strawberry plants have arrived and the bold potted plants are ready to plant out as soon as space has been cleared.  September planted strawberries can be allowed to crop next year, but those planted later are best not allowed to crop and get established in the first year.  I have gone for Honeoye for early cropping - it is good quality, robust and early, Pegasus for mid-season as it resists the many diseases found in allotment soils and Symphony for late crops which is also robust.


Pests have gone quiet and all that is now needed is a further deltamethrin treatment to keep leeks free of leek moth for the autumn.  There is surprisingly little cabbage whitefly or caterpillars although this often changes fast in early autumn. 


Onions, shallots and garlic are drying off well in shallow trays and these are being cleaned up, rotting ones discarded, doubtful ones used for pickles and chutneys, with the remaining best put in shallow seed trays for the winter, freeing up the larger trays for apple harvest.


With so little to do on the allotment the home garden is being cleaned up with lawn mowings, lawn edgings, spent plants, weeds and hedge prunings being added to the compost pits on the allotment.   The pit filled in the spring will soon be emptied to be spread and incorporated into land destined for over wintering crops.


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