Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A constant battle

Don't ever let anyone persuade you that veg-gardening is easy. It isn't. Veg-growing is a never-ending battle, and in battles there are inevitably some casualties. More of my brassicas have been killed off. This time it is the red cabbages at the Courtmoor plot that are under attack, not by pigeons, but by something soil-borne.

This one is currently healthy and looking strong.

Cabbage "Red Drumhead"

But this one has suddenly collapsed. Something has no doubt chewed through its stem or roots, below the level of the soil. Even if the leaves were not droopy, you would certainly notice the colour difference. The dying one has gone a much deeper purple colour.

I planted 5 red cabbages, but two of them already seem to be Goners. I just hope the other three will survive.

As if losing some of the cabbages were not enough, the Broad Beans have suddenly become infested with Blackfly, which arrive in droves and multiply very rapidly.

Next time I visit the plot I will take with me a spray bottle filled with diluted washing-up liquid, and see if I can reduce the problem. Pods are forming on the Broad Bean plants now, and it would be a shame to lose them at this stage.

Over and above the problems with insect pests, I have a big problem with weeds. Of course this is partly self-inflicted, because I dug over the whole plot during the Winter, which effectively equates to sowing a mass of Annual Weed seeds! The rain we had last Wednesday and Thursday brought the weeds on very rapidly and some of my smaller veg (e.g. onions and shallots) were in danger of being swamped.

Weed-removal in progress

I have been using an Onion Hoe, which is a short, light and manoeuvrable implement, held with one hand, which allows you to easily remove even weeds that are growing very close to the onions.

Here is a clump of the "Long Red Florence" onions, after being liberated from their annoying weeds. You can see that they are just starting to swell.

It's not just the onions that needed weeding - it was the whole plot.

On my next visit I will take my long-handled Dutch hoe and have a go at some of the weeds elsewhere, for instance around the potato plants, and try to dispose of them before they get big. This is a job that will need to be done quite frequently, I think!


  1. Hi Mark, have you considered introducing ladybirds to help deal with the blackfly issue? You can buy larvae or adult ladybirds online

    1. I have noticed lots of Ladybirds on the Broad Beans already. I don't think I would ever consider buying any. After all, how would I know which ones were mine?? :) :)

  2. I always snicker at people who decide to become vegetarians or vegans so they don't have to harm animals. Well let me tell you they'd better be eating food grown hydroponically in a closed environment because growing plants for food in any sort of natural environment involves almost more killing than I'm ready to participate in! It's certainly a battle. Survival of the fittest.

    1. This did make me chuckle. Its a violent business this gardening, isn't it?

  3. Hi Mark,
    Have you considered weed matting for next year? I bought a 100 metre roll for less than 30 pounds, and providing you cut it with a soldering iron to seal the edges and take it up and clean it before storing for the winter it will last many years. I use it for onions, brassicas, French beans, courgettes, squashes, sweetcorn, strawberries, fruit bushes and paths between permanent fruit beds. It cuts down enormously on the amount of wedding I have to do on my allotment.
    Pat Williams

  4. How long have vegetables been grown on the site? Allotment holders are used to this battle because even if they eradicate pests (be it through good practice or chemicals) the pests will thrive on neighbouring plots. One more thing: If you don't go down the fabric route do invest in an oscillating hoe. There's nothing as effective for working along rows quickly.

  5. Oh, this is so comforting - I'm not alone...
    This is your first summer at Courtmoor plot so there's going to be not so nice surprices. But even this is your first summer on tht plot, it looks so much better maintained than mine ;-) And I have been working on mine for three (or four? can't remember!) years.

    I haven't had any blackfly invasions yet, a good thing about living in almost an arctic area. I do have less pests here.
    This is also first summer I'm trying to grow cabbages, I don't have high hopes. This morning they were all alive, which was nice.

    I do my weeding battle, but I also use grass cuttings etc to cover the bare ground around plants. It helps a lot with clay, because covering the soil helps to keep moisture (so less watering and also it protects plants and soil from heavy rains) and also it prevents weeds. At least it keeps some of the weeds off. And my clay needs organic matter or otherwise I wouldn't get any crop at all no matter how I fertilize my plot.

    Of course it doesn't look pretty, but neither do I.

  6. The pests just keep on coming don”t they?

  7. Have you thought about getting a SpeedHoe? It works on both the forward and backward stroke effectively cutting the hoeing time in half. Worth looking into https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/speedhoe


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