Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fight the Blight.................

I went down to the plot today to dig up some more new potatoes, and noticed that the second row of earlies, and the main crop are both just about to start flowering. This is the time then to start piling on the water. So I did.

I read on someone else's blog the other day that "you should never water onions & potatoes" which seems strange, but I can't find the entry now. Potatoes need lots of water to yield a good crop, and the time to start is when the very first flowers appear. Dr Hessayon says "Water liberally in dry weather - This is most important once tubers have started to form." Commercial growers usually work to the rate of 2 gallons per square yard, and will apply this regularly in hot conditions.

One of the reasons why some folk are cautious about watering their 'taters, is that the prime watering time of mid June to mid August, is also the dreaded potato blight season, and this most devastating disease thrives in hot humid conditions.

The best way to avoid blight is by knowing how it is spread. The following is good practice, and was explained by Stefan Buczacki on his Garden Questions program on one of the cable channels today....( See - daytime TV can be good for you!)

1. Contrary to many people's belief, blight does not live in the soil. It is a fungal strain, who spores are borne on the wind over long distances.

2. The spores lands on the leaves, and will remain there in very dry weather. They cannot "travel" through the plant, but require rain (or watering) to wash them down the stems into the soil, where they attack the tubers. Therefore hot rainy summers will almost always result in various degrees of blight on intensively cultivated allotments. New potatoes will probably harvested by then, but main and late crops can be ruined if left unchecked. Although you can now get quite a few good blight resistant varieties.

3. Now you know how the spores reach the spuds, make sure that when you water, you keep the hose or watering can nozzle right down at the base of the stems, at ground level, and water each plant individually. This way you will avoid washing spores down the plant as much as possible. If using a hose, take the pressure jet off the end to eliminate too much spray.

4. If you do get an attack of blight, as soon as you see the leaves turning a sickly yellow and black, (this is very rapid as opposed to natural dying off) immediately cutting the helms right down to ground level may well save the crop underneath. Burn any infected material, or bag it up for disposal off the site.

5. Although it can't live in open soil, blight will remain in any stray tubers, so make sure when lifting the crop, that you remove every last little one....And don't throw them on the dump....take them off site and bin them. Re-infection from last year's compost heap is one of the most common sources of the disease.

But certainly don't let the fear of blight stop you from watering your spuds....(Sounds like a euphemism for something rude... Ed.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dawn Harvest..............

Awake and restless again at 4.30am this morning (early summer sunrises are the curse of the insomniac) so down to the allotment by 5.30am, just for the sake of a walk really.

Very cool quiet and peaceful at that time of day.

Picked some veg whilst I was there, and brought back this lot for dinner tonight.

Just add sausages!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bad Jokes & Artichokes....

An uncharacteristically diligent and productive week thus far.

Peter the "Plot Boss" is recovering from an operation, and so I was asked to cover for him and open the trading shed this coming Saturday. As well as selling stock, I shall be the "Mower Monitor" & the "Strimmer Supervisor" for a whole two hours!

Having collected the keys this morning I took advantage of helping myself to all the aforementioned communal equipment, plus the rotavator, today, in order to have free time to run round after everyone else on Saturday. This is just as well as "Plot Judging Day" for the six local allotment sites is on Sunday, and although I don't stand a chance of winning anything individually, parts of mine did need a serious going over, so as not to the the RC side down.

The climbing french beans are starting to climb their wigwam, although the jury is still out on the efficiency of the "buried bucket method" of irrigation, as their roots are not that deep yet. I'm assuming from the name "Blue Lake" that they will have blue flowers, which will look a bit odd, but doubtless interesting.

The Atlantic Giant pumpkins that I expressed concerns about previously, look like fulfilling my fears. They have both bolted off in a beeline for the nearest path, and have had to have the tips of their runners chopped off with a spade. I'm hoping this will encourage them to sprout in other directions, although they are not yet a fraction of the potential final size.

The peas are nearly ready, and I have watered them copiously to assist nature with the business of pod swelling. Next to them, where I had some lettuces that are now finished, I'm going to direct sow some more peas for a late crop. I think I'm just in time to get something from them before the summer's end, and have chosen Kelvedon Wonder this time as they seem to indicate a slightly longer season on the packet blurb.

Whilst digging over the ground for this, I was visited by one of our many tame blackbirds, who will come right up to the fork as you turn the soil. This one is indentifiable by the white patches on his body, and has been around all year. Although he'll peck worms from almost right under your feet, he won't take them from hand at all.

I am also in hope that Al, or Petunia will be able to give me a decent Globe Artichoke recipe. Mine are all going to waste at the moment as I have not the first clue what to do with them. I know I have had them served with butter in restaraunts, where you are supposed to scrape the flesh off the leaves with your teeth, but this seems like too much work for so little return. Perhaps someone can advise of a soup or somesuch similar.

Currently the only use I know of is in shocking bad jokes like the one below for which I apologise in advance...............

Bob has worked for SafeSave Supermarkets for ages, but doesn't
get on with his boss. One day he learns that the promotion he has strived hard for all year has been given to the Boss's son. Angry and frustrated he goes to the pub after work to drown his sorrows, where his pal Arthur sees him looking glum. On being asked what the matter is, Bob explains his troubles to Arthur over a beer. The evening wears on, one better turns into several, and Bob is now getting really maudlin. He tells Arthur that he thinks the only way he will
ever get ahead at work is to do away with the boss and his lickspittle son. Arthur is now pretty drunk too, and declares that Bob is his "Besssht Mate" and he'll not stand by and see him treated like this. Filled with misplaced zeal, he swears to bump off the pair of them, for the price the change in Bob's pockets.

Next day the headlines read....." Arty chokes two for a pound at SafeSave"


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An eye for the Broads....

Not a great deal to report on the allotment front this week as I was away for the weekend in Edinburgh. Before I left on Saturday morning though, I got up early to cycle down to RC about 7am, and chuck enough water about to last over the weekend. It was quickly apparent however that I was going to have to walk down, as some b*****d had broken into my garage overnight and nicked my mountain bike!

Anyway, when I returned on Tuesday, everything was still growing fine, and it looks as though someone has done some watering for me whilst I was away - Thanks Pete! It would have needed it too - It was around 30 degrees here all weekend apparently. Thank god it's rained hard yesterday and today.

I started to pick the broad beans whilst I was down there, and soon filled a black sack, which I then had to lug home again. They made a rather daunting pile on my lounge floor, and it took me the entire duration of Korea 'v' Togo to "shell" them all. In the end they 2/3rds filled my big stock pot.

During the tedium of France 'v' Switzerland I set some aside to make a cold bean salad with, then blanched the rest in batches, and bagged them up for freezing. In a few days, all the rest that I left on the plants as too small will also be ready.

I must get around to getting that second hand freezer!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Around the ground..........

One of the things I like about our site at RC, is that it is relatively unspoilt. Some other sites I see on the web, and out of car windows, sometimes look a bit like industrial installations, with galvanised iron sheeting, wooden pallet fences and barbed wired all over the place. I know they are very tidy and productive, and their plotholders love them, but I still prefer the "green garden" style of allotment.

I guess we are just lucky that ours is an open plan site, and all the sheds were provided by the council at the same time so it all looks tidy and uniform. We are surrounded on all sides by housing so security is good, and despite being in the middle of town it remains a very leafy oasis. One that many locals don't even realise exists, as you can't see it from the road anywhere.

Anyway, whatever the reasons, the whole site is looking pretty good just now, so I thought I'd post a few views.

(Click on the pics to enlarge)

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Sun it Shineth Every Day....

Three days of proper weather have allowed me to rack up a good few hours at the site over the weekend, and things are now in good order. I have reasserted my evolutionary superiority over the Kingdom of Weeds, and am now master of my own plot again. This has included putting down some black plastic on the one area that I am leaving fallow. I'm not overly keen on how it looks, but given the absolute refusal of any green manure cover crops to germinate there I don't have much choice.

I've just started pulling the first lettuces from the raised bed, and very nice they are too. They have grown good crisp hearts, and seem to be completely free from pest damage. OK, so I have about 18 of them ready all at the same time, but that's a minor quibble.

The broad beans have come on leaps and bounds since I pinched the tips out. I picked a few pods to try on Saturday, but the beans inside are not quite large enough yet. They need about another week or so I'm guessing.

The peas are also climbing up their wigwams nicely, and the runner beans have survived the cold, windy spell admirably. They just need tying in again to persuade them to leave their neighbours alone and climb the lofty path to righteousness.

My Delvdad shallots are going great guns this year, and look like being the best crop yet. The only thing I did differently this year was work a lot of soot into the ground before planting, so maybe this has helped.

And after clearing the weeds away all three rows of potatoes look promising. This picture shows quite nicely the different stages of development between the very early planted ones on the right, the second earlies about 3 weeks later and the maincrop which although planted at the same time are naturally slower growing.

The weeding has also freed up ground to transplant out the cabbages that I grew from seed, in the raised bed. One row of Hispi, and one row of Kalibos which are a red variety. The netting was a bargain at a £1 a roll from a stall at the local garden show, but it's a bugger to stretch out and needs sticks every few feet. It will be a pain each time I have to remove it to hoe, but that's life. We are surrounded by mature trees at the site, and any uncovered brassicas get torn to shreds by pigeons in a matter of hours.

Overall, things are working out pretty good. I still have a few more bits and pieces to plant out, but apart from that I'm now really at the stage where all that's needed will be a hoeing and watering session a few times a week. Once the pumpkins, courgettes and brassicas start to fill out and cover the ground the plot will be quite full.....Until the harvesting starts!