© Our Plot on Green Lane Allotments -
Archive for previous years' diaries dating from 2007 can be accessed by clicking here
It would have been a miracle if we had got away with it this year. Damp and windy weather provide ideal conditions for the spread of fungal spores so it was no surprise that blight paid us an unwelcome visit this week. Potato haulms are being cut down and removed in an attempt to prevent the potato tubers from being affected. The potatoes are a reasonable size for harvesting and so hopefully the crops will be OK. The Sarpo Mira variety has so far lived up to the claim of being extremely blight resistant but it’s early days. A Sarpo Mira root was dug up to check tuber size which was good, however we decided to leave the haulms for a little while longer to see whether they continued to withstand blight attack!
Most of our tomatoes are growing inside greenhouses this year. Last year the outdoor ones were devastated by blight and the ones in the plot greenhouse didn’t do much better. At the moment the plot greenhouse door is being kept shut and most of the bottom leaves of the tomato plants have been removed in an attempt to prevent infection. A few spare plants, planted outside have shown the first signs of succumbing. At the risk of tempting fate blight hasn’t been as much of a problem in the garden greenhouse. It seems that on the plot the problem has increased since our site became more cultivated. When there were few plots being gardened, blight wasn’t really an issue.
Our comfrey ‘still’ seems to be working well and has been topped up with fresh leaves of which there is a plentiful supply, with enough left to flower for the bees to visit. Happily I have now noticed that honey bees have joined in the foraging bumblebees on the buddleias. Concern for the honeybee has caused the Soil Association to launch a petition calling for support to try and halt the decline of these essential garden helpers. Later emerging species of butterflies have also arrived. Globe artichoke and cardoon flowers, always firm favourite nectar cafes for bees, are opening. Even the rootless cardoons on the compost heap that were devastated by the winds are flowering!
Red cabbage – Ruby Ball -
Plants that have finished cropping are being removed and the ground prepared for the next plantings some of which will be the spring cabbage – Pixie that have just been potted on.
The garden is now looking more colourful if rather soggy. Rain has diluted the pollen of the lilies painting a orange tinge on the pink petals.
The rain, however seems to have worked wonders on the fruit trees even the crab apples seem larger than usual.
Harvested this week:
Sweet Peas, dahlias and sunflowers have been picked for vases. Unfortunately as usual the sweet peas have some unwelcome residents so are kept in the bathroom where unwelcome greenfly or pollen beetles are easily spotted before they take a fancy to our houseplants.
Blight has continued to do its worst this week. Some outdoor tomato plants have been wiped out and there are signs of it having infiltrated the plot greenhouse. In an attempt to prevent the potato tubers from being affected we have cut back all the haulms. Although Sarpo Mira potatoes have some signs of blight they are still growing well as are a bed of Golden Wonder potatoes on our neighbours plot.
In the plot greenhouse any signs of blight that appears on the tomato plants are being cut out to attempt to keep the disease at bay and hopefully preserve the ripening fruits.
Some crops have completed their growing cycle and have been removed to the compost
heap. The vacated beds have been rotavated and prepared to receive their next crop.
The broad bean bed has already been planted with salad crops. Lettuce -
The bed that housed the winter onions has been made ready for winter brassicas.
Flat leaved parsley and sweet Williams that have been growing on in the cold frame have been planted out.
Straw has been removed from one of the strawberry beds to the compost heap, weeds have been removed and the old strawberry leaves have been cut back to allow new leaves to grow. Some gardeners use shears or even a strimmer to cut back the dead leaves but I prefer a more gentle touch to ensure that the newly emerging leaves are undamaged. It’s time consuming but will be worth it if we have a repeat of this year’s harvest.
Branches of the Oullins Gage tree are weighed down with these delicious plums so harvesting has begun. The race is now on to pick any ripe plums before the wasps move in. Some plums and apples have developed brown rot. Affected fruits are removed as soon as they are spotted in an attempt to control the spread; at least from those branches that can be reached. Gathering plums from the higher branches involves manipulating a long handled lopper and large fishing net!
There has been much to harvest this week:
A plentiful supply of dahlias, sunflowers and sweet peas is keeping our vases well stocked; to ensure a continuation it is now necessary to keep dead heading. A gentle task for a hot summer’s day!
Adding to the colour are butterflies. On the plot I have spotted about eight different species so far including the ubiquitous whites. No red admirals yet though!
One surprise insect encounter was the accidental entrapment of a large dragonfly.
The sound of flapping wings drew my attention to what I thought was a bird. Closer
inspection revealed a large dragonfly trapped by netting covering a cherry bush.
It eventually co-
A second encounter was with a large hawthorn shield bug that decided to explore my neck. The tickling gave it away but I must admit it was a bit of a shock when I saw who the tickler was! We both survived the experience.
The harvesting highlight of the week has been the Oullins gage plums, many of which have been turned into jam. A degree of caution has to be exerted when harvesting as the plummy aroma has aroused the taste buds of the wasps. The Victoria plums are now beginning to ripen.
The effect of blight has been variable; the Belle de Fontenay potatoes were a black,
oozy mess and consigned to the skip, whereas Anya, Charlotte and Juliette tubers
seem to have survived. The Sarpo Mira haulms though showing symptoms of blight are
still growing. The outdoor tomatoes are more or less a write-
Onions and shallots have now been lifted and, weather permitting, are drying off. The heat treated onion sets have almost been 100% successful in that only a couple sent up flower stalks. This year all three colours have been a success. Last year the white onions developed white rot, this year only one onion from the entire crop had this disease.
All three varieties of runner beans are also now prolific and providing plenty of beans for freezing.
Work continues on clearing spent crops and weeding. To ensure a continuation of cut flowers plants are being dead headed regularly.
Harvested this week:
In the garden, tattered banana leaves and a sad looking gunnera show that the winds continue to do their worst. The pond is now murky courtesy of the wind which blew over a tub of irises. The iris has now been removed; I think we will stick to low growing plants in the pond in future.
The garden greenhouse is providing us with lots of grapes and the monster Brandywine tomato is almost ready to harvest. Watch this space!
Harvesting has been the predominant activity this week. The second largest of our Brandywine tomatoes weighed in at 700g or 1½ lbs. It provided a thick slice of fruit -
Sarpo Mira potatoes are still growing in spite of being affected by blight. The roots that we have dug have produced a good crop of large red potatoes.
Mid week we visited Clumber Park and were comforted to note that even the professionals had potato crops which had been affected with blight and that they had done exactly as we had to try and prevent the disease reaching the tubers.
An abundance of fruit is still being harvested. Especially prolific has been the plum tree – Oullins Gage. Most of the remaining plums are now out of reach even of the fishing net and extended lopper method of cropping. We are now picking gages – Reine Claude and Mannings. The sweetness and colour of the fruit are seemingly at odds with one another.
Autumn Gold a yellow raspberry doesn’t last well on the canes. Joan J which bears red fruits also needs picking each day.
Our four varieties of blueberries fruit at slightly different times, however the fruits on each bush ripen over a long period so rather than providing a glut have provided a constant steady supply of berries.
Work continues on tidying the strawberry beds and removing runners. Flamenco is a perpetual fruiting variety and is still providing us with a few berries. Some runners are being planted up in pots and will later fill any gaps in the beds. I wanted to increase stocks of Flamenco and Florence, however Marshmello is producing by far the largest number of runners, Florence produced none at all and I haven’t tackled Flamenco yet.
Sweet peas are now looking rather shabby but still providing a few flowers albeit with much shorter stems. Dahlias and sunflowers are providing plenty of cut flowers and need very regular dead heading. Some of the chrysanthemums that we have planted in large pots to provide later flowers have defied us and are producing flowers now. The weather seems to have confused them too.
In the garden the John Downie crab apple also has a good crop of ripe fruits. The fig suddenly has begun producing fruit which seems to be growing at a surprising rate.
Harvested this week:
Fruit known as vegetables:
This week’s talking point has to be the harvesting of our largest tomato which weighed in at almost 1.1kg or 2½lbs.
It's another Brandywine beefsteak variety (or maybe buffalo steak in this case) which is known to produce huge fruits although I haven't come across one as large as this in my trawling of the Internet. General information says it regularly produces fruit of up to a 1lb in weight.
It was grown from seed in our garden greenhouse and planted in a large size grow
bag using a ring culture system. Must admit it was only really fed when we remembered
Below is a video of the event!
Tomato plants in the plot greenhouse that had been stripped of fruit have been removed and made way for the onions which were lifted earlier. If left outside they were more likely to rot than dry off.
Developing blisters on my arms was the low point of the week. They appeared the day after clearing a bed of spent broad beans and peas. The cause still hasn’t been identified but it was very sunny when I was working so I am assuming sap from one of the plants or accompanying weeds combined with the sunlight to cause a reaction.
Running the gauntlet of feeding wasps we harvested most of the gages – Reinne Claude & Mannings. Fruits at the top of the tree were left for the wasps as we didn’t fancy climbing a ladder and heading into the wasps’ party.
As beds are being cleared of their summer occupants, they are being rotavated and
replanted with crops that will hopefully provide a continuation into autumn and beyond.
One bed has been planted up with a selection of brassicas; broccoli -
Another bed is to be used as a nursery bed in which to grow on cuttings and young plants destined for the garden or flower borders. Wild primroses grown from the seed gathered from plants in the garden were the first to be planted out.
Harvested this week:
Fruit known as vegetables: