Enjoying the end of summer, yield, tomatoes, skirrets and compost


Enjoying the end of summer, yield, tomatoes, skirrets and compost

I’m feeling upbeat about the garden, probably because the summer is ending and if I don’t start enjoying the garden now it’ll be too late. The mornings are definitely autumn, the leaves on the trees are going brown, but the days are still fine and nice. So the stress of trying to grow dozens of kilos of veggies is fading as I pull myself together and realise that life is too short to stress out over a hobby. Of course it doesn’t help that Dan from allotment-diary.co.uk has grown one marrow that is double the weight of everything I’ve grown in my small backyard added together, or that Michael Guerre, a permaculturist with a similar size urban garden produced 10 times as much as me in his first year of experimentation. But Dan uses a witches brew of fertilisers, manures and composts, plus some phenomenal skills to get his results and Michael imports a ton of horse manure – big imports!. It reminds me that there is an easier way and that I’d better be sure that the restricted import system I am using is worth it.

But I have been munching away on my own veggies, 24 kilos so far this year. It is not a glut, but the tomatoes and pears are nearly so. Growing tomatoes has been so much fun this year: gardeners delight has worked well, tumbler not well. Tumbler was grown in a cold frame, I figured that the heat would bring on an earlier yield but it really only brought on a sustained slug attack. Foliage and fruits on the ground are an easy target for the dreaded mollusc. The gardeners delight I staked up and removed all foliage near the ground so there was very little slug attacks. Blight did strike in the last couple of weeks but spreads much slower on tomatoes (*touch wood!*), the fruits are still ripening and only a couple have been ruined by brown patches. At this time of year the fruits have been ripening practically in front of my eyes. I picked some tomatoes this morning leaving some half ripe ones on the plant to find they had ripened by the afternoon!

I staked them up so that they stood tall but didn’t remove all the sideshoots, but did remove most of them. As the season developed I removed any new sideshoots and also about 20% of the leaves, which meant I was able to see some of the fruit hidden amongst the foliage as well as allowing air to get in to the mass. I also avoided watering the leaves this year and this I feel has helped keep the blight at bay, as wisdom would have it.

I have also had enough of the skirret, it has been an untidy mess for about a month, but previously was a really big umbellifer that I enjoyed looking at. Unfortunately I suspected, and I believe I was proved right, that allowing it to flower would reduce the root yield, the bit you eat. As well as a couple of 2 year old skirrets I had four cuttings I took in May and which over the summer didn’t grow very big, foliage wise. However the roots were thicker than the 2 year old big umbellifers which makes them a better vegetable in my book. Whether the better yield was due to it being a young cutting or it not putting up many flowers I can’t tell, but I do know the cutting, flower preventing route is better than just letting the plant do its own thing.

Like many brassicas, watercress just doesn’t like summer weather but I know it doesn’t mind autumn, so I have selected some straggling plants that haven’t been sat in stagnant water (like many of mine), and not soaking up bad bacteria. I have repotted, not overcrowding the pots unlike last time and look forward to a burst of salad growth in the next couple of months. Once freezing weather hits I will put them under a cloche and up against a protective wall. Watercress is a perennial salad leaf and doesn’t need a chalk stream as many people suggest. It does need plenty of water however, but can be neglected if you don’t mind not having much to harvest. Water it everyday and feed it though, and this attractive, posh vegetation will reward you. In summer it will go to seed but will come alive again in the autumn. Frost can kill it but I have kept watercress alive with just fleece draped over it.

I am making quite large amounts of compost now, getting ready for next spring. I have filled the dalek fit to burst a couple of times this season only to find two weeks later that the level has dropped by a fifth. This indicates that the compost is rotting nicely. I still have lots of compost material to add  to the heap, the squash vines, the grape and cherry leaves and my hedges need trimming again. As I need this all properly rotted by next spring I am now only putting fresh green growth in the dalek and all the more mature, woodier, material is going into a separate pile that I hope will be ready by the middle of next june, when I have noticed two years running that my garden sulks at this time.

Anyway ‘that’s about it folks, see thee later’.



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