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Rough Weather, Blight, Scab, Cool Compost

The weather is frightful, the spuds have blight and scab, the compost won’t heat up and to cap it off the solar panel arrived and is bigger than expected. Chin up!

Charlotte & Arran Pilot Potatoes

Charlotte & Arran Pilot Potatoes Harvested

The weather has turned quite nasty – rain and strong winds. Not the weather to be outside if you can avoid it. So I’m staying under cover until things improve.

Outside I’ve got the hatches battened down, so to speak. The Vitavia greenhouse doors are held shut with spring clamps. Plastic chairs stacked in a sheltered corner. Polytunnel secure. That’s about all I can do now apart from keep my fingers crossed.

At least this gives me a chance to test out the windbreak fence before the new Eden greenhouse gets built. It would be the final straw if the wind blew the windbreak into the new greenhouse.

Potato Blight

Potato Blight

Potato Blighted Estima & Orla – Sarpo behind still OK

Before the weather changed I managed to harvest my late planted early potatoes fro a raised bed. A pretty good yield of Arran Pilot and Charlotte. I’d guess 30 Kg in total. Apart from being ready, they needed to come up quickly as blight has struck.

My non-Sarpo potatoes in the walled veg garden have gone down too. Estima and Orla. I planned to cut the haulm off at least but ran out of time. I’m not surprised as I’ve had lots of blight warnings.

You can get free personalised notifications when blight is likely (a Hutton Period ). I think the site is aimed at farmers who can rush out with all those lovely sprays us gardeners aren’t allowed to buy before the blight strikes. But, they’ll send the warning to home growers so thank you! Blightwatch

Tomato Blight Too!

Tomato Blight

Inca plum tomatoes in polytunnel struck down with blight

My bush plum tomatoes that were doing so well in the polytunnel have also come down with the blight. I expect the spores blew in through the open door. They were just starting to ripen. We’ve had 5 tomatoes and may be able to ripen some of the unaffected green ones inside.

I need to put my thinking cap on if we’re ever going to get a decent crop of plum tomatoes here. The cordon varieties in the greenhouse are OK so far.. touch wood.

Potato Scab

Potato Scab

Charlotte Potato Scab

My Charlotte potatoes are quite badly scabbed. It doesn’t make them inedible but it does make them look unappetising. The pH is right but I may have used too much fertiliser. Hopefully next year I’ll have enough compost to just grow in that and maybe it will stop. Common Potato Scab

Onions

I hurriedly harvested the onions before the weather change. It’s pointless setting up the drying rack outside if they’re going to get soaked with rain so I’ll settle for getting them in to the big shed for now.

New Compost Bin Trial

I topped up my new compost bin that I’m trialling for Soilfixer with a mixture of grass clippings and bark peelings that had been in the chicken run and some torn up cardboard. To further push things along, added compost activator and some raw biochar. The problem with grass clippings is their tendency to clump into an impenetrable mat that doesn’t rot down.

Mixing with the bark peelings from the chicken run keeps the clippings loose, adds balancing carbon along with the cardboard and manure to really kickstart it. The biochar helps keep it loose as well. This mix should, therefore, enable it to heat up and compost quickly.

The temperature stubbornly refuses to rise above 45ºC I want 55ºC as a minimum and preferably 60ºC for a week. The bark peelings have kept the mixture loose and there’s a lot of fungal mycelium which is good. The only reason I can think of is lack of oxygen to fuel the aerobic bacteria.

The insulation the bin has should certainly be sufficient to hold the heat and get the heap heating up even in cold weather. I’ve discussed this with Tony Callaghan from Soilfixer and I’m going to add some additional ventilation using corrugated drainage pipe I’ve got in channels at the base. (Demonstrating the benefits of never throwing anything away in case it becomes useful one day!)

Not looking forward to emptying the bin and rebuilding the heap. 1,000 litres is quite a large amount to shift. But, if this works it will enable me to make large quantities of top quality compost quickly.

Solar Cooling System

The fans arrived last week, two 12V, 120 watt 12 inch fans. I think they’ll be enough to keep the polytunnel temperature below 30ºC when it’s sunny and hot. The existing 80 watt fan will move to the other end of the tunnel to push air in. In theory  the airflow down the tunnel will increase, further helping the cooling.

The 260 watt solar panel has now arrived. It’s actually a lot bigger than I expected – I should have thought.. or at least asked! As it’s 1 metre by 1.65 metres,  I’ll need to build a larger support frame than I thought, but it shouldn’t be an insurmountable problem.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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