Saintbridge Allotment Gardens Association

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1 Saintbridge Allotment Gardens Association July 2015 newsletter In July the allotment looks at its best with a wide range of crops coming ready for harvest including; courgettes, cucumber, runner beans, dwarf french beans, cauliflower, calabrese, new potatoes and harvests from succession sowings of salad crops. When harvesting runner beans it is important to keep picking them every two or three days otherwise they will set seed and stop flowering. Later in the month shallots will also be ready for harvesting, drying and storing. The most important thing to do this month on your plot is to take some time out to sit down, observe and enjoy the allotment and its surroundings. Why not take a walk around the site to look at the wildflower meadow, hazel coppice and beehives and see what other plotholders are doing. Although the bulk of sowing and planting is finished there are still things to sow and plant out. Continue succession sowing of salad crops and towards the end of the month make sowings of endive, chicory, Chinese cabbage and other autumn salad crops. Plant out leeks and the last of the winter brassica crops. Weeding Keep up regular hoeing of weed seedlings between the rows of your crops. As the crops are harvested it is worth considering growing a green manure crop rather than leave the soil bare to grow weeds. Last year SAGA piloted a bulk buying scheme for green manure seeds to pass on huge savings to members. We hope to run the scheme again if there is enough interest, so please contact the SAGA secretary by the 20 th of August if you want to buy any seeds. There are two types available for sowing in early September and one for sowing in October. Each seed packet will cover an area of 25 square meters so let us know how many packets of each type you require. Mustard (sow in September)

2 Advantages Very good weed control when planted in September Mustard is a brassica and should not be followed by other brassica crops Mustard is a good autumn smother crop and should be sown in September to control weeds. The crop grows so fast it smoothers out the weeds as it forms a green living carpet. It protects the soil in autumn and winter until it is killed off by heavy frost, and by then it is too cold for the weeds to grow much. If it flowers in a mild winter it will not set seed as there are no pollinators around to pollinate the flowers. The stems and leaves can be dug into the ground or cut and put in the compost bin. So forget the black plastic and weed control fabric (and of course household carpets which are banned for environmental reasons). Why not grow a carpet of mustard instead. Red Clover (sow by mid September) Advantages Builds soil fertility and the roots help break up the soil The land is taken out of production This is a long-term fertility builder that can be left in the ground for one to three years. It is planted in spring or summer up to mid September. Sow it in rows and hoe between the rows until the plants are big enough to cover the ground. Mow or cut it every four to six weeks in the summer and use the cut leaves for mulch or put them in your compost bin. When you dig it in bury the green leaves, it doesn t matter if you leave roots sticking up the plant will die and the roots rot down to feed your soil. If you find your plot is too big for you why not plant some of it with Red Clover. Then you can rotate your cropping so part of the plot is always building the fertility back up.

3 Rye and Vetch (sow late September to early November) Advantages Can be sown later then other green manure crops and does not affect crop rotation Should leave six weeks after digging in before sowing seeds This mixture is popular because it can be planted later in the year and is best sown in October. Sow it in rows and hoe once between the rows. The crop then grows through the winter smothering out weeds and it produces good amounts of organic matter to be dug in later in the spring. Chemicals in the Rye help stop seeds germinating so when it is dug in you can immediately plant potatoes, onion sets and transplanted seedlings and not have as much weeding to do. But, if you are going to plant seeds you need to leave it six weeks after digging in, otherwise your seeds will not germinate well. Potato blight Late blight is a destructive fungal disease caused by spores of Phytophthora infestans which are spread on the wind and may also contaminate potato tubers in the soil. It is often called potato blight or tomato blight but it is the same fungal disease. Late blight usually appears in July and can spread rapidly in warm humid weather. Brown/black blotches appear on the leaves and stems that can look water soaked or have yellow borders.

4 Often the blotches start at the leaf tip where dew and rainwater collect to make a more humid environment. In wet weather white fungal spores develop around the lesions on the undersides of the leaves, and further lesions develop on the stems. Leaves and stems rapidly blacken and rot. The spores are released on the wind and quickly spread to infect neighbouring plants. Things you can do to help control blight The fungal spores of late blight overwinter in old potatoes that remain in the ground or on the compost heap. Therefore, it is very important to take all unwanted or diseased potatoes home and put them in your food bin, and remove any plants that come up the following season from old potatoes left in the ground as they can spread blight. Practice crop rotation to help prevent a the build up of disease. This avoids infected plants springing up undetected in your potato crop from potatoes missed during last year s harvest. Only plant seed potatoes from a reputable supplier and choose potato varieties that are somewhat blight resistant. Plant early so the crop has developed tubers before the blight appears. Fleece will be required to protect these early planted crops from frost. Leave sufficient space between plants to give good airflow, this allows the leaves to dry quickly after rainfall and therefore slows the spread of blight between plants. Don t over water potatoes, if you water them apply the water to the soil not the leaves. If plants show signs of blight after they have formed potatoes, cut off the stems and leaves and remove them. Put them in your green bin if you have one or seal them up in black bin liners and leave to rot down before disposing of them. Leave the soil undisturbed for two weeks to kill off any lingering spores so that they don t infect the crop when it is lifted.

5 Sometimes it is difficult to know if the crop is experiencing natural dieback, potato blight or both. If in doubt, treat it as if it is potato blight and follow the instructions above. Three rows of potatoes with the tops cut and removed. The row on the right is Sarpo Mira, a somewhat blight tolerant variety. Yield of potatoes planted in early March with the tops cut and removed in early July. It is possible to spray potato crops with a protective fungicide such as Bordeaux Mixture. This must be done before signs of blight appear. Start spraying from early June, and repeat after 10 to 14 days to protect any new growth. If conditions are wet, weekly spraying is required and this can be expensive. You may want to consider spraying from early June to mid July, just long enough for the crop to form some potatoes and then cut the tops off (as described earlier) if blight comes in later in the season. IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE TO NEXT MONTHS NEWSLETTER OR WOULD LIKE INFORMATION ON A PARTICULAR TOPIC PLEASE CONTACT SAGA SECRETARY

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