Monday 29 November 2010

Going back to blighty

This year, it wasn't too bad. The previous two years were quite bad. The year before that was awful. What is it? Tomato and potato blight - the scourge of veg growers.
OK, we have blight-resistant varieties - the Sarpos, for instance. But I like to grow the varieties I like to eat.
Years ago, when blight was bad, I was happy to spray plants with Dithane and the control was excellent. Then that got taken off the market and so this year I used Bayer Garden Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control with good results. Then horror of all horrors, I read in Which? Gardening that copper-based fungicides are being withdrawn. Cheshunt Compound (which contains copper sulphate) is no longer available to buy from November 30, 2010 and any existing tins must be used up by November 30, 2011 or disposed of safely. The report goes on to say: ”Other products containing copper sulphate, copper oxychloride...are also being withdrawn. Bordeaux mixture, which contains copper sulphate, is currently approved for use until the end of 2013." Bayer Garden Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control contains copper oxychloride. So, I did some checking around - including the PSD website - and also got this information: "Bayer is going to continue to support Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control and so it will go on beyond 2012/2013." So I'm happy.
There were some reports in the summer about genetically-modified resistance to potato blight and then I saw this today on the Horticulture Week website ( Researchers from the University of Dundee, the Scottish Crop Research Institute examined the behaviour of Phytophtora infestans and how it interacts with potato plants, and identifying the proteins secreted by the pathogen that play an essential role in infecting the plants. The researchers now know a lot more about how P. infestans gets round the potato plant's natural defences and what it takes for the plant to resist infection. They can now look at a potato plant's genetic make-up and say whether it will be sustainably resistant to late blight. All good news.
The other weapon in my blight arsenal is the Blight Watch website ( where you can put in your postcode and get a warning when blight is forecast in your area. All very clever.

Saturday 27 November 2010

The fall & rise of raised beds

Finally, after eight years, my raised vegetable beds have bitten the dust - literally. For the last year the wood has slowly started rotting away. Now the sides have given up the ghost and started to go awol.
Good time to replace them I thought. So I ordered four new beds - 2 x 2.4m long and 2 x 1.8m; the two old 4.8m long beds were too long - they bowed in the middle and took ages to walk round. Lazy? - me!
Last week I cleared away enough soil to put down one bed, with the intention of filling and moving the soil to get the others down and filled in a logical (kinda) manner. Yesterday the beds were delivered and I stood out in the freezing cold treating them with a wood preservative. Now, today, we've got 5cm of snow, the ground is frozen and everything is on hold.
Thank gawd for the conservatory. After clearing out enough rubbish to give me some room, I've started building the beds indoors. I just need to remember, like someone I knew who built a motorcycle in his attic and then couldn't get it out again without partially dismantling it, that I need to ensure I can get them out of the patio doors.
No doubt, despite my excitement to get them finished asap, we'll have another bad winter and I won't be able to start using the beds until May. Good job I've got some frames to start everything off from seed.