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What to do on the allotment in early autumn

Posted by Guy Barter on 01 Oct 2010 at 02:09 PM

Mild rainy weather will promote more leaf disease but with crops coming to an end it is not serious, and in any case there are few remedies open to gardeners.  At some stage cold weather will arrive bringing all the tender crops to an end and finally closing the allotment cycle for 2010. In the meantime, little remains to do but gather crops and clear land to prepare for next year.  


• Cucumbers and pumpkins have already been uprooted and raked into rows of vegetation to dry out before composting.  Other crops of sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, courgettes, gourds, sweet potatoes will meet the same fate as the foliage dies back.


• Nasty little toothy marks area appearing on squashes and they have been hustled into storage and safety.


• Weeds left behind as the crops are scrapped are uprooted with a heavy hoe and raked up too – these will be consigned to the bonfire as they dry out.  As ever there are numerous small ones and a glyphosate/diquat mixture (Westland Resolva 24Hr Action) will be applied – diquat works well in damp cool weather and is potent enough to kill small weeds.


• The bare ground left behind may well sprout a crop of cold resistant nettles and chickweed with will be dug in or sprayed out later, before they flower, as a kind of green manure.


• Potatoes must be gathered now and in theory any with foliage remaining should be prepared for lifting by destroying their foliage.  The tubers should then be left for two weeks for the skins to harden. In fact I think I will leave them to bulk up a bit more.  Tubers deteriorate if left in the soil after mid-October but I am happy to take that chance.  In any case the potato store needs re-organising as the crop is a little heavier than anticipated.


•  I was rather surprised to see quite large, lanky plants set out in the Wisley trials.  I would expect such plants to mature too early, be damaged by frost or be so wind-rocked as to fail.  My plants are the opposite – rather too small for full confidence.   They are growing slowly in module trays and rather than feed them it is best to put them out soon, small thought they are, protected by slug controls and fleece.  Once in the soil they will, I hope, put on a spurt of growth before winter.


• Weeding continues with nettles becoming troublesome in the leeks, and as soon as the soil dries all remaining crops will be hoed – this will greatly hold weeds back.


• The allotment water supply is turned off on Saturday and drained down for winter.  The soil is still dry at depth with dusty conditions in the centre of the potato ridges for example, but this no longer matters as the cool days and longer nights limit plant water requirements.


• Carrot fly is still on the wing and the carrots must remain covered as a third generation of this pest will appear in the autumn.  Although it is said to be of no significance in commerce, I feel it is actually quite damaging in an allotment situation.


• Some crops are still yielding and are worth covering with fleece – French beans and peppers for example.  Some are already covered and need picking over to remove rots. 


• Produce is being gathered into the store shed with all the pumpkins, and most the squash not retrieved. Red cabbage is next, but the white storing cabbage bolted in June and replacement plants do not look as if they are going to come to anything.







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