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A Little Knowledge

As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Worse than that is plain misinformation and sadly there’s a lot of that doing the rounds.

Chilli Peppers

Chilli Peppers – from left to right: Padron, Piri Piri, Tabasco.

Chilli Growing

I was recently contacted by a reader who had gone to a Chilli Festival. He was told that chilli plants benefited from a period of drought. Since this contradicted everything he knew about growing he decided to ask what I thought about this. It’s never a bad idea to double check things that seem out of the expected.

Well I’d not heard of this and my experience is that chilli peppers like most plants benefit from a constant level of moisture in the soil. That’s something my Chilligrow and Quadgrow planters provide. Certainly the results of constant moisture but not waterlogged are excellent.

Plants need water but waterlogging drowns them. The roots need the air in the soil to grow properly. And before anyone asks about hydroponics, they aerate the water to fulfil that need for air. However, peppers grow best in heat so perhaps they’ve evolved to need a period of drought.

Happily I’ve a pal who knows a lot about peppers so I asked him. He explained that if you stress the plant when it is fully fruited by drought and or removing about a third of the leaves the plant will react by producing more alkaloids to defend itself. So a period of drought – when the plant is fully fruited – will result in hotter chillis.

Useful if you’re going for a record hot chilli but otherwise not so useful. It’s always worth getting all the information before taking action.

Crop Rotation – Do you need it?

Crop rotation has been practised since Roman times in various forms, But do you need to?

The latest fad popping up on Youtube with click-bait titles is that crop rotation is some sort of unnecessary, old-fashioned idea that modern growers can and should ignore.

Crop rotation  has been around since Roman days although it got lost in dark ages for a while. But for the best part of the last 300 years 3 and 4 course crop rotations have been the basis of western agricultural practice. From agriculture it crossed to small scale vegetable growing and became the basis of good gardening practice.

There is sound reasoning behind crop rotation. It helps to prevent the build up of pests and disease, evens out the depletion of nutrients and, with the addition of lime, composts and manures enables sustainable volume production of nutrient dense vegetables from a small area of land.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule – asparagus, rhubarb and other permanent plants – but there risks in breaking the rules. Like any crime, you can get away with not rotating for a while – sometimes quite a few years – but eventually, inevitably the law of nature catches up.

Why are they saying this?

What I don’t understand is why this fad seems to be gaining popularity. I can’t see it even saves time. As a gardening friend said when we were talking about this, “It takes but an hour to work out his placings and rotation plan each year.

So why are the promoters of this fad pushing it? Well, new growers are faced with a huge learning curve. They look up crop rotation and find all sorts of complicated systems. After a bit it’s all too much to take on board, too complex to understand when you don’t even know your brassicas from your legumes yet.

So when someone says that you don’t need to know all this stuff – just stick the same things in the same place year after year and all will be well it really appeals. Hit that subscribe button and press that notification bell.

My Plan for Fame!

Maybe I should get in on this Youtube thing – I’ve a great idea to gain subscribers..

Make friends with your weeds. You’ll get huge crops if you let the weeds grow to support your crops.

Or maybe I’ll leave that one to publish on April Fools Day.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
2 comments on “A Little Knowledge
  1. Sean James Cameron says:

    Regarding YouTube I’ve noticed that same trend and have been shocked by some of the information being given out re: don’t crop rotate. We don’t get the hard winters like we did when I was a child in the 80s and therefore crop rotation has even more importance now to stop the build up of pests and diseases. I don’t know why they are actively pushing the wrong information other than gaining attention and views. If one YT channel gets a lots of views then others will copy that video just to gain the views.

    Around 10 years ago a man came on the gardening scene and gave out information that went against the norm. He has become very popular with his ‘new method’ of gardening but what viewers/creators may not know is that he did trials for over 20/30 years before preaching to the masses. A few YT gardeners have seen this and thought “ah, give out advice against tradition and I’ll be famous as well” – that’s the only reason I can think of.

    Back in the Spring I saw a video where a YT gardener completely lambasted a UK product he felt didn’t work because he had run a trial over 1 season. Trials should be over several years not just a year. The problem with YT is that viewers will take information as gospel without doing their own research. People seem to have forgotten how to research themselves.

    • John Harrison says:

      I really couldn’t agree more, Sean. Plus YT is global so people follow methods that may well work well in Texas but not in Scotland!
      As for research, well even some professional reporters seem to have forgotten how to fact check beyond wikipedia.

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