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Potatoes, Weeds & Aminopyralid

The weather has continued to be lovely for the most part and that’s meant plenty of time outside on the plot and in the garden. I made a start on the greenhouse floor and we’ve a row of heavy slabs laid on sand running up the east side.

They’re supporting the staging which is now repaired and in position. The staging was damaged in the old greenhouse when the storm brought it down so the legs needed repair. I’d bought some angled aluminium from TwoWests and just needed to cut to length and drill holes for the bolts before re-assembling.

Down the centre there will be a double row of 18” thin slabs, which are far easier to handle, but I’ve had to order another ton of sand to lay them on. To the west side there will be a deep border which will be useful for forcing some carrots and saladings.


Happy to say the bulk of the potatoes are looking really good and flowering which is a sign with earlies that the tubers are near if not fully developed. It will be nice to be eating our own potatoes again, last year’s stocks went some weeks ago.

I’m suffering a bit of insomnia at the moment, waking up far too early feeling full of beans and then crashing an hour or two later. So I’ve found myself listening to Farming Today on the radio at some very unearthly hour. It’s aimed at farmers but some of the items are interesting and informative for all growers and those interested in what we eat.

In an interview with a potato grower, a mystery that’s puzzled me was solved. Why is Scotland good for growing potatoes? I knew that the reason we get a lot of our seed potatoes there is that the climate isn’t good for aphids which spread a lot of disease but that doesn’t answer the question fully.

It turns out that yield is very related to the amount of daylight and Scotland gets more daylight in the summer (less in the winter). Mystery solved! It also explains why they grow a lot of potatoes in south-west Norway which is even further north.

Weeds & Weeding

One of the problems we face like all gardeners is lack of time. You clear a patch of land and move on only to find a new crop of weeds has grown up behind you. The solution on a veg plot is to hoe, hoe, hoe even if you can’t see a weed. It kills them off before they get established.

Around the fruit beds though this is pretty time consuming and because of the spacings between things like currant bushes meaning there is so much to keep clear it isn’t going to realistically get done. My answer is mulching with grass cuttings something we’ve no shortage of.

However, be careful. If you’ve used a ‘weed and feed’ product containing a selective weedkiller your crops will be at risk. Even compost made with contaminated grass cuttings is likely to be poisonous to crops. All this brings me neatly to the subject of aminopyralid.


Aminopyralid is a really effective selective weedkiller for pasture, killing out thistles and nettles etc leaving the pasture clean for grazing. The problem with it is that cows or horses eat the grass which breaks down releasing the weedkiller and the animal excretes it. We use the manure and wonder why our crops react as if sprayed with weedkiller.

When this effect first became apparent, I’m very proud to say this website was instrumental in bringing the problem to the public attention and a campaign to stop it developed. The weedkiller was banned for a while but re-licensed following promises of better labelling by the manufacturers.

In theory the problem should have gone away by 2013 but sadly I’m still seeing postings about the problem this year popping up on old posts. See:

Aminopyralid Herbicide Residue in Manure Killing Crops

What to do if you have Aminopyralid Contaminated Manure

and: help identifying the effects of aminopyralid

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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