Thursday, 1 October 2009

October chill-i !

A Pepper grown on my plot, outdoors, unprotected. It is a chilli plant that I bought as a seedling along with a few of its siblings. Those perished early on but this fella persisted and now bears not one but two fair sized fruits.
It has been relatively quiet at the site recently but it is a good time to sit back and review the last few months, to reflect on the successes and failures, to decide which to grow more of, which to grow less of and which of this years experiments will never grace your soil again!
I have failed with a number of my crops sadly. I can put some of those unsuccessful attempts down to the usual suspects of disease and pests but I must admit to some mistakes by my own hand.
I tried to grow too much in a small space. I set up a trellis pyramid to train squash and legumes up, whilst salads and herbs grew beneath. The mistake was not packing as much goodness into the soil as possible before planting and for making the area too small. The squash failed to put on much growth,stalling shortly after a pest attack almost wiped it out. The beans never took off, making no more than two feet of growth before the maincrop had finished cropping. The peas which grew up one face of the pyramid gave a crop but it was sickly and short.
In the other beds, the potatoes were passable, not entirely plentiful but flavoursome and I avoided the dreaded blight that many on the same site lost entire crops to.
Likewise, many people saw their tomato plants hit by the tell-tale brown streaks of tomato blight. As I advised one plotholder, the safest way to deal with those plants is to burn them. Putting them, or any diseased plant material,on a compost heap is just asking for more trouble when you spread that compost. Rarely do allotment heaps reach a high enough inner temperature to kill disease spores so the heap acts as an overwintering host for the disease to grow and strengthen before hitting out next year when you spread it all over your plot.
Now is the time to start clearing your beds and as much as possible should be composted but all diseased or very tough material such as brassica stems can be burnt now that the summer ban period is over.
As one plotholder I spoke to this afternoon observed,"You should've seen it here this morning, it was like a warzone. There were fires everywhere.." and he chuckled as he said it. The green lobby may want to stop gardeners from lighting fires but we know some things have to be burnt to make the soil clean and to maintain that greener, environmentally sound lifestyle. The alternative is an increase in pests and diseases leading to more over use of chemicals to counteract them. A fire which burns at a very high temperature also burns cleaner, producing much less smoke,with dry material producing much less smoke than damp.
So, pile your heap high but burn your bonfire hot and fast if you want to save the Polar Bears!

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