Friday, 31 August 2012

Dig for Victory over volunteer spuds

Nettles, stray comfrey, nasturtiums and weeds!
Yesterday evening was just beautiful.There was something Autumnal in the air, the dropping temperatures, easing daylight, and lengthening shadows that got me motivated to clear the second early bed for a nice crop of winter leaf beet.Now that I'm a "no dig" advocate it might seem a bit cracked to suggest digging but if you are going to give any bed a bit of a going over it really should be an empty potato bed because no matter how thorough you think you have been in clearing it out-you haven't. There are spuds lurking there waiting to become next years volunteer crop, and holding inside whatever diseases we had this year. Since Ireland and the UK seem to be awash with blight you don't need me to tell you that keeping it in the ground over winter is a bad idea!

I was also secretly hoping that I had missed some Charlotte's as Manie who is a superb cook is coming for a BBQ on Saturday and I really want to make her that delicious potato salad we had a few weeks ago)plus I'm dying for more too)!!

beautiful gang of Charlotte's
First I had to pull up the still flowering nasturtiums that are rapidly setting seed. These guys are so useful in the garden, insects love them, they are tough and spread rapidly giving great ground cover, you can eat the peppery leaves and they flower from early summer to the first frosts. They had grown around the potatoes taking off after I cut the potato stalks down when we first got blight. I moved some of them to different parts of the garden to help pollinate other crops, including the pumpkins in the next bed. And even if I felt a little sad to be clearing them out it's now the turn of a green manure to help preserve fertility for the winter. This can be sown after the leaf beet gets underway to prevent them competing with each other . Next year this will be a Pea and Bean bed so when I put in the green manure I'm putting in the compost from the heap too-a tactic Tanguy told me he uses in his no dig management system each autumn. But don't worry about the bees, there are plenty of nasturtiums still flowering in other areas of the garden and plenty of seeds scattered in this bed to get the next generation going next spring.

After the nasturtiums were cleared I started digging. Not only was I rewarded by a lovely cache of Charlotte's but I got a lovely crop of British Queens too and found several mounds with Catriona's underneath that have not been dug at all yet! woo hoo! better than finding gold in the Rio grande.

leaf beet ready for its new home

It was late evening by now but in went the leaf beet, all of which are nice sized plants, some even a little root bound. I gave them some pelleted chicken and a little cal-sea-feed to get the roots going and a god watering to settle them in. Looking out this morning I realised I need not have worried, lots of soft rain was falling in fits and starts. But the first two weeks are crucial, so if it dries out, even for a day or two I will have to water them. I will need to do a bit of slug patrolling too. Baby green plants like chard are very popular after they first arrive.

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