Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Still digging over the potato bed.

I am still double digging the potato bed.  I am putting partly decomposed compost from the compost heap in the bottom trench.  This will decompose during the winter and hopefully provide a good water sponge for developing plants next year.  There will be some nutrient from the breakdown of the organic material but it will not be a lot.  There will also be better drainage.

The ground is very dry even at the depths that I am digging. I had to water the ground today so that my topsoil did not blow away.  Remarkably, there was a little rain today but the ground is already starting to dry.

When digging out the trenches for the double digging I like to make conical mounds of soil.  I learnt this when I was working in the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute mixing up large amounts of potting and seed composts.  We mixed the composts in large conical heaps because the soil will fall down the sides mixing remarkably well.

I decided to take out the pink fir apple potatoes and put the tops at the bottom of the trench.  There are two reasons why I don't usually do this. Primarily, the tops may be infected with blight and this must not be recycled back into the soil to infect another potato crop. The other reason is that if you miss any little potato tubers the potatoes will grow back between the next crops in the rotation.  They are a bind to get out usually requiring a deep hole to find the offending tuber.

Well, there has been no blight this year so there is little fear that I will be recycling disease.  To prevent the potatoes from regrowing on this bed I carefully inspected the roots to ensure that there were no little ones clinging on within the root mass. I am also hoping that the depth that I am burying the tops will also prevent any I miss from being able to reach the soil surface.

I measured one of the pink fir apple tops and it was about seven feet long.  I knew that the tops had nearly reached the height of the new raspberry canes but I did not realise that they grew quite so big.  As I keep saying to my neighbours it is not how big the tops are but how many big tubers grow beneath them.  I only got one or two pounds of potatoes even from the very biggest tops.  The kestrel was giving me 5-6lb of potatoes from each plant and their tops were not as big.

I am recycling two rows of strawberries by burying them in the digging trench.  This is an if I do this then I can do that kind of scenario.  I am putting the strawberries where the brassicas are now.  It is a fairly large bed and can accommodate the strawberries and the peas next year.  To plant the strawberries I need to clean part of the bed and bury any material that I can.  I do not usually bury any brassicas preferring to take any roots and stems home to put into the recycling bin.  This year I have had a little club root something that I have not seen on the allotment for over twenty years now.  I am not sure but I think that it came from the mega compost heap compost.  I am going to be very wary of having other peoples compost from now on, no matter how good it looks when you have sieved it.

The old cabbage tops that I have not been able to eat and have gone very slug eaten can go into the trench.  I am hoping that the trench is deep enough to prevent any club root from reaching the top soil.  The roots and stems will still go home and be put into the green bin.

I have put about 25 strawberry plant runner plants into pots with good bought compost and they have put down adventitious roots.  These will be my new plants to replace the ones that I will bury in the digging trench.

I will start to plant strawberries as soon as I clear the space for them.  If I transplant the strawberries now, they will be able to establish themselves before the winter.  I will plant them with the newly comfrey inoculated charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi.

A myth has grown up about the danger of growing potatoes next to raspberries.  Well if my potatoes grew seven feet of tops while growing right next to raspberries there cannot be much truth to the myth.

The potatoes were great this year and all to the thanks of comfrey inoculated charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi.

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