harvest

Gardening Update: Some You Win, Some You Lose

As harvesting continues and the growing season in the vegetable and fruit garden winds down, it’s time for reflection and a gardening update on the year.
The foliage from the potatoes has been completely cleared now and the tatties are resting in the ground for a couple of weeks until the threat of contamination from the blight has passed. Only then will we know if the potatoes themselves have escaped unscathed.
Meanwhile, the first blight showed on the tomatoes yesterday and this morning I finished removing all the foliage from the plants. This won’t halt the progress of the blight, but might slow it enough to give the fruit a chance to ripen. As it is, this year’s crop has been poor – a combo of indifferent weather and my lack of attention due to The Broken Leg. Still, what there are might make a few jars of green chutney.
The squash have done remarkably well given the conditions, and the courgettes have fruited better this year than last.
Blight has been a theme for the last three years. I can’t do anything about it with the potatoes outdoors, but I am going to try some tomatoes in the greenhouse next year along with garlic, which consistently fails or is rusted outside. I’ve also noticed that the stray tomato plant growing tucked away in another part of the garden has yet to feel the fingers of blight, so that is worth keeping in mind for next year.
In other garden news, the magnificent crop of plums has been discovered by squirrels. Millie and Thegn guard the tree when they can, but it’s a thankless task. Last year wasn’t such a problem, but perhaps that is because the pesky creatures were busy stripping the walnut tree instead. We have a device usually used to deter herons from the pond – a motion-sensor spray attached to a hose – which we are considering giving a go in the orchard. It will need a very long hose, but if it works, is something we can deploy for other fruit trees.
The onions have been curing and are almost ready for stringing. We still have three from last year so are delighted that we can grow enough to keep us in onions from harvest to harvest. Like many gardeners, some you win, some you don’t. That’s the nature of the ever changing game.

A Blight On All Their Houses – Spotting Potato Blight

I spotted the first signs of blight on the potatoes today. Not many leaves, so it was a matter of cutting off affected foliage and burning it. But it will be back. When a third of the leaves show the tell-tale brown splotches followed by the rapid collapse of the plant, I’ll remove all the leaves and stalks because there is nothing to be done to halt the spread once it starts and I won’t use chemical sprays. The dying leaves have done their job of growing the spuds and will serve no purpose other than to harbour the problem. Better to get rid of the foliage sooner rather than later in the hope that the tomatoes on the other side of the garden escape infection.

 

There are two schools of thought about harvesting potatoes from a blighted patch: dig them up immediately or leave them in the ground for at least two weeks to protect them from spores. I’m inclined to the latter – except, you might recall – we have a problem with wireworm, and leaving the tatties in the ground is asking for trouble. Still, the blight was late this year and I’m trusting the crop will have benefitted from the few extra weeks in the ground and the copious amount of rain we’ve had over the last month. Time, as they say, will tell.

Spudlicious: A new way to grow potatoes reviewed

I’ve waited all summer for this. Since it is a fine, breezy day I risked taking a look at the potato crop. After last year’s disaster, where we lost 2/3 of the harvest to eelworm, blight and scab, I changed tack. Instead of digging deep trenches, I planted shallower, covering the Maris Piper spuds with about four inches of soil. As the foliage came through, I earthed up using a mineralized straw (Strulch produces it https://www.strulch.co.uk). It was a bit of a risk as we had an exceptionally dry summer and spuds like a good amount of rain. Still, today was the day that I found out whether the ruse to defeat the evil worm worked.

The result? Numerous smaller potatoes, even-skinned, dry, despite yesterday’s deluge, and almost free of scab. Best of all, despite a hearty spud having been nibbled – possibly by a mouse – there has, so far, been no sign of eelworm or slugs. I expected smaller spuds, but we have also had some decent sized ones that are perfect for baking. The thick layer of Strulch kept the soil evenly moist, protected the soil from the heavy rain in spring and the deprivations of the dryest weather (we did water at this time). It acted as a superb mulch, kept weeds and pests down and, to top it all, will be dug into the bed as a soil improver once the rest of the spuds have been lifted. All in all, I’d say it’s been a success and I’ll be using the same approach again next year.