It was the first meeting of the new year for our district association last night. We were lucky enough to get Dave Hampsey to give us a talk. He’s very knowledgeable and funny as well. Always starts his talks by explaining he hasn’t a clue what he’s going to talk about, but once he gets going you can’t shut him up! Not that anyone wanted to.
He welcomes questions from the floor, which starts the talk down different paths. A couple of topical things came up that I found interesting.
First was the thorny question of removing shoots from chitting potatoes. There are times when it makes sense to remove some of these, bring them down to 2 or 3 but it depends on the variety and why you’re growing.
Sometimes ‘experts’ like to show off their knowledge but they give out information that is really well beyond the novice who lacks the necessary breadth of knowledge to make correct use of the bit of information from the expert.
There’s an old saying that ‘a bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’ and it really seems true with gardening.
The next question highlighted something else. David was asked about what causes sprouts to blow. He’d seen an answer to this question in one of the national gardening papers that was the opposite of the truth. The chap in the paper reckoned too much nitrogen was the cause.
Blowing sprouts are actually caused by not enough nutrition getting to the plant, mainly nitrogen. If they’re not firmly planted then the plant rocks in the wind, breaking the tiny root hairs that actually take in the food from the soil. Of course, even if the plant hasn’t got windrock it could just be a lack of available nitrogen.
If you have sprouts blowing, then remove those from the stem and water with a high nitrogen feed or sprinkle sulphate of ammonia or dried blood around the stem. This will cure the problem half the time.
Sometimes though you just can’t pin down the reason why one plant is fine but the one next door isn’t. Even in a distance of a couple of feet soil conditions can vary. Perhaps one had a lump of manure but next door didn’t – who knows?
We discussed clubroot. The problem with clubroot is that it is so easily spread. Once it is on an allotment site, it won’t be long before every plot has it. All it takes is to walk across the plot, pick the spores up on your boots and onto infect the next plot. David’s method of coping is similar to the one I cover in coping with clubroot but he also dibs a hole four weeks before he intends to plant out and fills the hole with armillatox at a dilution of 150:1 to help sterilise the soil. You have to do it four weeks beforehand or it will be too strong in the soil for the plants.
White rot, the bane of the onion grower, was raised and he’s got some information on this that he’s going to email me. I’ll pass it on as soon as I have it.
All in all, it was a great meeting and really enjoyable as well as informative. Even if it’s too frozen or wet for the plot, it’s nice to be able to talk about it.