Well, not only have our FOTA plots been struggling with the so-called Irish summer, we’ve also had an extra 'baaaah' factor thrown in! I'm not sure if sheep are as stupid as everyone thinks as our opportunistic ovine neighbours timed an uprising just as we went off air! By the middle of May, I was faced with lots of 'grazed beds', broken herb pots and an empty salad trough. Thankfully some plants are more resilient than others and even if all my leafy greens and edible hedge got completely scoffed, my rhubarb and a few other cut and come again plants actually look better now, so all was not lost! One has to look at the bigger picture in times of crisis and all I can say is, thank god it wasn't the bisons that broke in!
The Growing Season So Far
Every growing season presents it's own challenges and this year cold and windy weather has hindered things. The fine dry early Spring tricked us all into getting everyting into the ground early but then followed a wet, cold and windy May and June with the cold nights and touches of frost in places doing the most damage. Courgettes, pumpkins and runner beans have been very slow to take off but thankfully the old reliables like onions, potatoes and lettuce have been fine.
Broadbeans and Blackfly
Last week I spotted some large colonies of black fly on my broad beans. In between catching ladybirds and putting them on the affected plants, I have pinched out the growing tips (this is where they congregate in clusters) and blasted a fair few off with the hose. This does no damage to the plant and will allow the plant to put it’s energy into swelling the beans. Keep an eye on your plants, as early detection is vital and spray with soapy water if infestation continues. For next season, you could try growing poached egg plants nearby because these attract hoverflies which will eat these black, bean loving aphids
Water, Water, Water
Once plants are growing you need to keep a maternal eye on them and that includes ensuring they have sufficient water, even in our Irish climate. My advice is to water gently and THOROUGHLY rather than little and often. A good soaking encourages plants to put down deep roots and find the water they need. Also, WATER THE SOIL NOT THE PLANT, as water is taken in by the roots and evaporated by the leaves. Old fashioned watering cans and hoses work well but there are loads of sprinkler systems, drip hoses fitted with timers and other gadgets on the market so choose one to suit your own needs. The golden rule is not to water in the heat of the day as most of it will evaporate off the surface. If you can, water early in the mornings or in the late evening. If you go for the evening option, ensure there is enough time for the plants’ leaves to dry and bewarned, slugs love wet ground and are predominatly creatures of the night! Different plants have different water needs, so it's good to grow plants with similar needs together. Some crops, eg tomatoes and all plants in containers need a lot of water in the heat of the summer. A good way to get water to their roots is to bury an inverted plastic bottle with holes pierced in it near to their roots. Water conservation is a key issue so it makes sense to ensure that water is not just evaporating and is getting directly to the roots where the plant can access it. Rain water is the best water for plants. It doesn't contain any of the chemicals or additions of drinking water. With talks of water rates on the horizon, if you invest in a good rainwater-harvesting butt, all your garden water will be plant loving and free!
In July you might get carried away with your bountiful harvests and forget there is still crops that you can still sow and plant. This week I transplanted some red and green oak leaf lettuce to ensure I have fresh salads to keep me going right through the bbq season. In July you can still sow: lettuce, scallions, white turnip, radish and florence fennel. If you want some leafy greens to keep you going through the winter, you could transplant kale, swiss chard and perpetual spinach. I put in some kale in my brassica bed and the golden rule for summer transplanting is, TRANSPLANT IN DULL WEATHER OR IN THE EVENING. Transplanting slightly stresses plants, so make sure to give them a good watering to help their roots settle.
Blight could be in the air so I'm planning to make a homemade recipe to keep the blight at bay.