September 2017 Allotment News

Cup winner 2017

and the winner is…

Congratulations to Jackie and Brian Nix of Margaret Road field who have won the cup this year. The runner-up who came in a very close second place is Pat Mullins. The final decision was so close that the judges had to re-visit both plots to make their final decision.

Further congratulations also go to Greta & Philip Liley for the Best Newcomer – a fabulous start to allotment gardening and likewise Highly Commended to Mandy McQueenie also a new allotment member in 2017.

Composting

September is an ideal time of year to start or add to a compost heap.

Composting is the original recycling and gardeners have been doing this for hundreds of years. Every allotment should have a compost heap (or two). This will help in two ways; firstly getting rid of waste and secondly turning that waste into valuable soil improver and plant “food”.

Evidence of composting is also one of the criteria that our judges use when awarding the Bridgstock Cup.

There are many ways to compost your garden waste and most gardening textbooks have a chapter on how to. Sometimes this can seem quite technical, but if you are new to it, don’t worry. You can choose the method(s) that best suit your circumstances, but if you are unsure, please ask for advice. Fortunately we have experienced allotment members who are happy share their wisdom. We even have a Master Composter on our committee who can give you the benefit of his expertise.

For some of us composting is such a fascinating subject we can get really technical and excited. For example there is the Carbon:Nitrogen ratio and how to balance the “green” waste with the “brown” waste. Many allotment gardeners even have a small patch of comfrey plants so their leaves can improve our compost.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=444

Why not try a horizontal compost heap?

Let the worms do the hard work as your compost also keeps the weeds away!

First put a layer of thick cardboard on the soil. No need to remove annual weeds, the card will kill these by blocking out the light. On the cardboard add a layer about 4 inches deep (10cm) of crop residue or pulled-out weeds. The cardboard should be completely covered and not visible. For a finishing touch add a layer of grass cuttings or other shredded material, if available.

The layers rot and decay, the worms do the digging for you and the weeds die. In a few months you will have enriched topsoil without having to fill a compost bin, turn it and then empty it.

Blight on potatoes and tomatoes

Blight is a devastating disease of potatoes and tomatoes. It is caused by a microorganism called Phytophthora infestans and was the cause of a terrible famine in Ireland in the 1840s. Blight is worst in warm and humid conditions and is very common in September when we have dew in the mornings. If you see signs of blight on your potatoes or tomatoes you need to act quickly, or your crop will be a complete failure. Here is a photo of blight on a tomato leaf…leaf blight

The photo below shows a more advanced infection – in a few days the entire crop will be ruined…

blight

For potatoes – cut off all of the foliage and compost them; then leave the potatoes in the ground for two weeks. After the 2 week wait you can dig them up. The blight spores start infecting from the leaves and only later spread to the tubers, so removing the leaves stops the infection spreading. Consider growing a blight-resistant variety next year (Sarpo mira is really good). See below for potatoes with all foliage removed, safe from blight…

haulm

For tomatoes – ideally before blight starts, remove the leaves in mid-August. It is too late for this year, but meanwhile remove every leaf as shown in the photo below…

cordon

Time to plant Garlic

September  is a good time to plant garlic (although October is also fine). If you have grown some this year, you can simply get a bulb, separate the individual cloves and plant these. Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow, so if you have never tried before, why not give it a go?

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