July 2015 Summer vegetable growing
Summer catch up, plant care, some trials results, undercover growing, interplants, weeding, new garden after a Homeacres course
The spring was much windier than usual. Combined with many cold nights, growth up to mid June was a little behind, now is catching up mostly. Potatoes were checked by late frosts but look good now, need water if anything and certainly there is no risk of blight in the dry air.
Climbing beans looked pale and unhappy until ten days ago, when the wind eased and temperatures rose: they need warmth, its as simple as that.
Peas are happy in cool conditions. I have Alderman and Tall Sugar supported by posts and string, which have been side on to a lot of powerful gusts, yet are healthy and bearing many pods – and need watering!
Homeacres in late June
Despite the weather (how often one says that) growth is mostly good at Homeacres. Problems always stand out, such as aphids this spring, but in contrast there are almost no slugs at all. no lettuce mildew and generally healthy growth, in the dry air and good light levels.
Blackfly have appeared in many places but are not rampant, if I can water plants that usually lessens the aphids, and I have cut off a few very infested stems of broad beans.
I have watered more than usual and face a large bill! Every two days in tunnel and greenhouse during sunny weather, twice a week on lettuce beds, a good dose when planting out.
Hharvests become more frequent, there are some interesting differences appearing. Carrots are larger and longer where I spread rockdust in December 2013, from remin ag in Scotland. Its not cheap and I spread 2kg per square metre on the surface, its reckoned you can use perhaps a quarter that.
On the dig, no dig trials there is not a huge difference although climbing beans and squash are more hesitant on dug beds. Harvests to date in the main experiment are over 35kg from each bed of 5×16 feet.
Unusuals, and bed filling
I am trying mashua for the first time, hoping it will climb up one of my Taunton kale trees. But I suspect it needs plenty of moisture so am watering it, because the kale sucks a lot of moisture. Under cloches I have two sweet potato and a variety of outdoor pepper Roter Augsburger, shall remove the cloches now.
There is a big difference in growth between oca and yacon on a bed filled 30 months ago with compost, and one filled with topsoil, see the photo.
Questions of pest and disease
In the trials I do here, its often hard to spot a pattern, or a precise causal effect if plants grow particularly well or badly. I look for enough clues at least to form an opinion. So if asking a forum question about some difficulty you are having, and where relevant, do please add details such as your location, previous weather, soil type, compost used.
Just on potatoes, Stringfellow asked about mysterious die-back on his Charlotte plants but helpfully he mentioned that the other varieties nearby are alright. So immediately one can rule out weather, soil, compost etc, and it looks like virus-infected seed. I had a bit here with both Charlotte and Estima, one out of 12 in each case, there is nothing one can do about it.
I include a photo of aminopyralid damage, just in case anyone has those curling leaves and wonders what it is. Mostly from horse manure if the grass for hay had been sprayed, luckily its not common and farmers are not supposed to sell anything sprayed with it…. I had some in compost from adding my neighbour’s horse manure. The weedkiller finally breaks down in a few months after it is in contact with soil organisms.
And onion mildew, oh dear! This horrible disease has arrived on my onion leaves after a damp weekend. It had appeared first, three weeks ago, on shallots grown from my own seed, and I do not know a remedy.
In the greenhouse
Its warmer than the polytunnel and growth has been superb this spring. Sweetheart melons are already over 2m high, so I have pinched out their tops, with baby fruits now growing on sideshoots.
Cherry tomatoes are ripening and I am not feeding them, I rely on the compost which is two year old cow manure. The earliest tomatoes to ripen were on plants raised from sideshoots last October, but that takes a lot of time and care, for about a fortnight’s difference. Currently I water every two days because the air is so dry and the sun so bright.
Under the cucumbers I have a nice catch crop of dwarf French beans.
Polytunnel crops and no weeds, so easy
Its often claimed that animal manure brings too many weeds. Yes there are some seeds but really, they are not difficult to pull out or hoe. Also undercover where the surface is often dry, weeds germinate less and I spend almost no time on weeding in the tunnel and greenhouse, apart from removing some bindweed.
Cobra climbing beans gave their first pick on June 24th and look strong, just eight plants. Basil is for my salad bags, and I plan to store many tomatoes in autumn, using the dehydrator.
New plantings sowings now
I just planted the main batch of lettuce for summer – Maravilla di Verano, Red Batavian, Lollo Rossa and Bionda, Paris Island cos. Also beetroot and dwarf beans.
There is just time to sow more French beans, beetroot and carrots. Also purple sprouting broccoli and kale. Now is coming good to sow coriander, parsley and dill.
This is s neat way of getting plants established while another crop is finishing. I like to try new things and popped kale between two rows of onions, also the carrots between lettuce look strong, helped by the regular picking of leaves.
Weeding is important now!
Keep at those perennial weeds such as bindweed, you can weaken them if they are not allowed to reestablish. I show an example of what I remove in the way of couch grass roots. All are growing fast in the heat, but can also tire themselves out if you keep removing new shoots, with a trowel is best to extract the top few inches at least, usually not the original, deep root.
After coming on a day course here, and having never grown any plants, Mauricio decided to make a garden, starting in the second week of April by spreading a neighbour’s horse manure on weedy grass.
He already has some nice harvests and his daughter is enjoying finding some of the first early potatoes!