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What to do in the allotment now it is truly autumnal

Posted by Guy Barter on 24 Sep 2010 at 02:03 PM

Despite rain the soil has dried under the influence of breezy days and plenty of sunshine, so that watering has had to be resumed.  The soil remains quite dry and it is unlikely that the current rain will restore moisture sufficiently for many crops to finish their growing for this year.  With plenty of light for the season and mild nights growth has been good where soil moisture is adequate.


• Water will continue to be given to cabbages, calabrese, cauliflowers, celery, celeriac, beetroot, fennel, kohl rabi, leeks, romanesco broccoli, runner beans, swedes, tomatoes and turnips, but this will be the last watering of 2010 as the allotment water supply is turned off and drained down at the end of September.


• No fertiliser is now needed as the recent top-dressing has kicked in with good green growth where needed.


• Potatoes continue to be lifted and the bulk should be safely in store this weekend, but some late maturing kinds are started growing again and even to flower (and require spraying against blight).  This will cease as nights cool and the crops lifted when this happens.


• A strip of land, formerly beneath spuds, is now clear for the over-wintered onion sets.  These will be planted this weekend through black landscape fabric to keep them weed free.  But first every remaining salad onion will be consumed or buried to ensure there is no carry-over of downy mildew fungal disease.


• Squash and pumpkins continue to ripen with drying foliage and hard skinned fully coloured fruits that ring hollow when lightly tapped showing they are fit for storage.  The crop is very good this year and the butternuts are being used up as they do not store as well as the blue/grey squashes or red pumpkins.


•   Cucumbers are now over, but courgettes continue to yield enormously but with slower development it is more feasible to pick them as soon as the flower falls to ensure quality and reduce bulk.


• Tomatoes still require blight spraying but continue to ripen very well outdoors with no urgent need to gather the crop and bring it under cover to ripen.


• Dwarf French beans,  courgettes and peppers will require a fleece covering this weekend to protect against any light frosts and to maintain cropping as autumn weather sets in.


• Whitefly and caterpillars have again built up in the brassica crops and will require further treatment with natural pyrethrins.


• Carrot fly is still on the wing and the carrots will retain their insect-proof mesh covering for several weeks yet.  Mice and voles can be active under nets so mouse traps have been set


• Spring cabbage seedlings are beneath fleece as the cabbage root fly is still active.


• Weeds grow more slowly now, but more need to be pulled up and burnt.  Hoeing and glyphosate treatment in recent dry spells have greatly reduced the weed population, but many will only be eliminated as maturing crops are cleared.


• Of course rainy weather is likely from now on, and there are plenty of shed jobs such as storing fertilisers and pesticides for use next year, washing out and draining sprayers and putting away summer tools such as Dutch hoe and onion hoe and getting out winter tools such as dung fork and long handled digging spade from the back of the shed.


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