Monday, 1 October 2012

AUTUMN IS ARRIVING



I THINK AUTUMN IS ARRIVING

The sweet corn has been harvested, the onions are drying off and the pumpkins are beginning to colour up so all the signs are in place that autumn is just round the corner. Just like everyone else I am still waiting on summer to arrive, but it is getting a bit late now. I should never have joked to a guest from Italy way back in March while enjoying an unbelievable warm sunny spell lasting the whole month. I said I hoped they enjoyed the early Scottish summer, as that would probably be it, reasoning that by tradition, any period of three or more days of constant sunshine constituted a Scottish summer. I was just joking, but fate kicked in to make my humour come true.
We won’t forget this year. Everyone has a tale to tell and most of them concern water logging and the year of the slug and snail.

Harvesting of crops is well under way, the freezer is bulging, and our healthy lifestyle with fresh supplies of fruit and veg. every day has become routine.

Vegetables

Cabbage, kale, lettuce, radish, spring onions and Swiss chard continue to give us plenty of fresh produce, but French beans have been miserable this year. However courgettes just love the moist weather so we have had ample supplies to ensure we have plenty courgette soup.
Beetroot have been brilliant though we have many reports of other folk with very poor beetroot crops.
The wet weather has given clubroot a field day and a double row of January King cabbages got devastated, reducing the plants to four miserable specimens.
I have just purchased some Perlka which contains calcium cyanamide. It is a nitrogenous slow release fertiliser with a 50% lime content and claimed to help to strengthen cell walls in the roots making it less likely to attack from clubroot disease. All my brassicas, turnips, Swedes, wallflower and radish will now get a dressing to see if I can get my clubroot under control.
Sweet corn has now been harvested with a good crop of cobs though a wee bit smaller than previous years.

Fruit

Autumn Bliss raspberries are giving good crops, but lack of sunshine reduces sweetness in the berries. Cape gooseberries are growing strongly on a south facing fence protected with some double glazed window frames. Figs are plentiful, but will need some sunshine and warmth to ripen up outdoors. We keep trying these exotics. My peach tree gave me six fruits, but had a great potential early on, only to be reduced by rotting due to the wet weather. However those few fruits made the effort very worth while.
Blueberries continue to ripen up and give us good crops.
Under glass the first Black Hamburg grapes are now ready and Perlette, my white seedless grapes only need a few more days of decent sunshine and we will be sampling them. Poor summer weather with cool temperatures and too much rain means we have to be vigilant of botrytis rots in the bunches and immediately remove any berries showing signs of rotting before it spreads.

Green manures

Broad beans, onions and spring cabbage have been harvested and cleared so the land can be dug over and sown with a green manure. I am using clover as this does not get affected with clubroot disease. Previously mustard was my choice as it is excellent as a green manure crop having bulky foliage and good roots. It is also easy to kill for digging in and does not regrow. Clover also grows thickly but not so tall as mustard and the fibrous roots have nitrogen fixing nodules so improve fertility. It is easier to bury than mustard and also dies out when dug in.
Let it grow strong till it begins to flower then trample it down and dig it in.


Plant of the week

Eucryphia rostrevor has been in flower for a few weeks now. It is a small columner shaped evergreen tree growing to about 20 to 30 feet tall. It grows naturally in the temperate rain forests of Australia, Chile and Argentina. As it prefers mild winters, cool summers and plenty rainfall it is perfect in our climate, and you can see a fine specimen in Camperdown Park at the side of the first fairway to the west of the big house. My tree is about six years old and only six foot tall, but gets covered in large white scented flowers.

END

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