Weeding & Clearing the Plots

Well I went from the dizzy heights of the NVS show at Harrogate back to reality with a bump. Because of work and weather, I’ve ignored the plots badly for a few weeks and they show it. When I got down on Saturday, I said to Larry I didn’t know where to start. I was a bit surprised how quiet the site was generally. You’d have thought that a decent weekend would fill the site, but it was near empty. Sunday was, if anything, quieter.

One thing I was told in a kind email was that I should hide my failures as it could put people off buying my book. I take the point but there is no gardener who wins with everything every year. We all have losses, bad weather, pests, demands on our time. I’m no different and I think telling the truth and admitting my mistakes helps more growers than pretending to be some perfect grower.

It must be nice to have under-gardeners who ensure the plot looks perfect before the TV crew arrives for a shoot. I’ve got weeds. Lots of them.

One good thing, when I first took on the plots, the soil was tough. It was either concrete or sticky, muddy clay and weeding was hard. The hoe would hardly go through the top and that was with a lot of effort. Now it glides along, just under the surface and the pressure is used to cut weed stems rather than push clay.

Well plot 5 looked the worst by far, so start there. The Sarpo had gone down, foliage looking blighted, which is unusual for them to say the least. Strangely, the travellers that have grown in the compost heaps on plot 29 look fine!

Cut the haulm off the Sarpo, four rows so it took a little while, and then to the weeds at the top of the plot. The pumpkins were almost swamped and they’d gone over. The leaves were mainly yellow or dead so took up the three Jack O’Lanterns and put them onto the table in the hope some sunshine will harden and colour them up.

Next it was time to hoe. Sharpened it up and away I went. It only took a couple of hours, but a hard couple of hours, including a few breaks. I’ve now got a large pile of potato haulm and weeds to get built into a compost heap.

Back over to plot 29 and started taking up some of the sweetcorn plants. I cut the stems into short lengths before adding to the heap. Must admit to wishing for a petrol-powered shredder. With one of those on the plot, I’d have them rotted down in days rather than months. There are no power points on the site so the only way to run my electric shredder would be to buy a generator. Despite my convincing arguments about needing a back up generator for the computers and freezers, Val is not moved.

Cleared the weeds off a raised bed and hoed down on the large bed on plot 29 and then started on the strawberry beds. Potted up about 8 runners that will fill gaps and snipping off runners not required. I still have the rest of the bed and the barrel to do, but it will wait until next time.

One chap on the site asked me about his greenhouse tomatoes. They were, like my outdoor ones, completely blighted. He’d happily been watering, spraying it everywhere and the atmosphere was pretty humid and warm. Perfect for blight. If you just water gently at the base or better still into bottles at the base of each plant keeping the border top dry and the atmosphere dry, you have a much better chance of avoiding blight.

Larry waters through bottles sunk into the border soil in his greenhouse so the surface is dry as is the atmosphere. It really seems to work for him, keeping blights and rots away. The other benefit he tells me, is that the weeds don’t grow in the border.

The weekend finished, it’s back to the grind. The weatherman says we’ll have a couple of dull days and then it will brighten up. Maybe even a late Indian summer. That would be nice.

Photo below: 3 not very orange pumpkins.



Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
8 comments on “Weeding & Clearing the Plots
  1. Phil Moores says:

    We haven’t cut our pumpkins yet, planning on having at least another 3 or 4 weeks before we’re likely to get a strong enough frost to damage the fruit. Should I have harvested them already?

    We also have a greenhouse full of green tomatoes. Not a single fruit has so far shown any inclination to turn red (or even orange). Looks like we’ll be making a lot of chutney.

    This year’s bane has been caterpillars. First year we’ve grown brassicas and we were so paranoid about the pigeons we were told would massacre them, we forgot about caterpillars and butterflies until it was too late. Next year, we’ll be covering everything in fine netting as soon as the first brassica seedlings go into the ground.

    By the way – I agree with you that knowing that even gardeners as experienced as you don’t have perfect plots and results is far more encouraging than believing you’re a failure because you aren’t growing rows of ginormous carrots.

  2. Maggie Hale says:

    It is really good to hear that even those who know what they are doing have problems. Definately don’t cover up failures. Our whole allotment plot has been decimated by blight on the tomatoes. Cabbage caterpillas are also the worst we have ever had. They are even eating our comfry and honesty leaves. Last year we covered our cabbage plants with fleece until late summer and it really helped. Made batches of Pumkin and also Celeriac soups at the weekend. Recipes available upon request:)It sounds like you soil is the same as ours. After 8 year of hard graft we can now just about use a hoe on our weeds too! Fingers crossed for a better year next year. We may have to invest in a poly tunnel though if we have another year the same as this.

  3. John says:

    Phil – I harvested mine because the foliage was mostly dead so no benefit to leaving them on the ground.

    Don’t worry about green tomatoes in a greenhouse, there’s time yet. If they don’t ripen, put them in a drawer with a ripe banana and they’ll go red pretty quickly for you.

    Glad to hear it doesn’t put you off, my not being perfect! Recipes are always welcome – just use the form on the recipes section and it goes to Val

  4. Ted says:

    Iv’e had an allotment for 45 years now and have grown many sorts and varieties of vegtables, but in your weeding and clearing bit you mention ‘Sarpo.’ what is that? it’s new to me.

  5. John says:

    Hi Ted – Sarpo are a blight resistant variety of potato. Just a tip for you, pop Sarpo into the search box on the top left and it will bring up all the references on this web site.

  6. Renata says:

    We also have tomatoes in a veg patch in the back garden … this is the first year we have the veg patch!

    Most of them are still green with a few orange. We are in Sussex … from experience, what is the likelihood they will ripen outside (not in a greenhouse) and when will I need to pick them before they get completely spoilt?

  7. Alan says:

    We’ve lost all outdoor tomatoes on our plot through blight. One of our plot elders is now saying that to clear the blight spores from the soil, we should “wash it” with jayes fluid.Not to keen on disinfecting the soil in this way, preferring to let nature and rotation take there course. Any views on how to do it,should we or is this just another old tale??

  8. John says:

    Renata – I’d say a good chance but who can predict the weather?

    Alan – what nonsense!! For a start you’d spend a fortune on Jeyes to destroy the blight in the soil, not to mention the worms, microbes and everything else that makes soil what it is rather than a ‘sterile growing medium’

    Secondly, blight is airborne. The spores float on the wind and your site can be completely free at the start of a season but a tiny spore can float in from miles away.

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