Slater's Organics Update - September October 2013
September proved to be mainly dry with above average temperatures; there was some rain, but not enough to satisfy a grumpy vegetable grower who is convinced that the weather always conspires to do the opposite of what is required!
Regular readers may remember the problem we had with our leek seeds, which turned out to be incorrectly packaged onion seeds. However, the replacement seeds germinated well and were planted out mid-September. As the soil was very dry, we had to water them on a regular basis; but they appear to be thriving, and we should get a good – if rather belated - crop from them.
Our brassicas have done extremely well despite the dry summer. Caterpillars threatened to become a problem, but the plants only suffered in two or three areas, and are now recovering and looking healthy.
The other problem at this time of year is aphids, which generally colonise the weaker plants; they reproduce at such a rate that they soon kill off the host plant and move on to their next victim. Bob checks regularly along the rows, removing badly damaged plants and breaking off infected foliage on otherwise healthy ones. Healthy organic plants are not attractive to aphids, and Bob finds that careful management and not over-reacting to small infestations is the best way to deal with these pests.
As the summer progressed our squash plants started their rampage across their bed; if they are allowed to cover the whole bed, weeding becomes almost impossible, and it is very difficult to find the fruits as they become lost in a tangle of squash foliage and unrestrained weeds. Bob's strategy this year was to train the quick-growing tendrils to develop along the rows instead of across the bed. The space between the rows can then be mown to keep the weeds in check; and I have spent many a happy afternoon pulling out the weeds which strike up in the rows. They have to grow tall in order to compete with the large leaves of the squashes, and are consequently easy to remove; but Bob says it requires a huge amount of skill to do the job correctly. Before I become too conceited about my gardening capabilities, I refer to Bob's notes and see that he has added the following – I put that bit in to save Jane having to do it herself. So much for praise and encouragement from the boss!
Bob tries to cut the squashes before they become too large to fit in the boxes, and so far none have eluded his eagle eye. The courgettes have not been as cooperative, and many an oversized 'lurker' has been consigned to the compost heap.
The beginning of October brought the Beverley Food Festival and our annual Soil Association inspection. We had a lovely day at the former – the weather was perfect, the event was well organised as usual, and it was good to talk to customers old and new about our produce and the Walled Garden. The inspection went off without a hitch, and the inspector was once again complimentary about Bob's paperwork and general organisation – at least that's what it says in his notes!
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