Monday, 8 August 2011
What to plant after pea plants have been taken out.
As soon as all the peas have been taken, I take the pea plants out and dismantle the supports. This leaves a large area of bare soil.
Bare soil is not really what is wanted in a garden. Although roughly dug bare soil was left in the olden days to be broken down by the frosts in the winter and gave an area that birds could pick over and remove any pests such as slugs and snails, it also meant nutrients would be leached out of the soil and erosion could occur.
The idea nowadays is to make sure that the soil is covered throughout the year. There are several ways of doing this. You can cover the area with black plastic sheets or tarpaulin. This is fine but it does protect slugs and snails that like the damp habitat beneath the plastic. You have to keep this in mind when you are removing the black plastic and collect all the slugs and snails up and remove them from the soil before planting or you will loose all your plants.
The second way that the ground can be covered is with a green manure. This year I think that I am going to use clovers, tares and grazing rye. In the past I have used ordinary lawn rye grass but this seems to be much slower to germinate and does not put on as much growth as grazing rye. All of these green manures can be planted now and left to their own devices over the winter. I plant the green manure in lines so that I can weed in between them. While the weeds could be used as green manure, if they are allowed to seed they make weeding harder next year. So I weed between the rows of green manure. I am ordering green manure now, although it might have been more opportune to have ordered them in July.
The third way of covering the soil is to plant another crop. The problem with this is that you have to be careful not to plant something that will disrupt your rotation plan. I like to keep all the brassicas together on one bed so that I can control club root. This year I got club root in the turnips and the summer cauliflowers. I'm not sure where this came from because the allotment has been club root free for about 20 years now and I gave the bed a liberal dose of lime. So, I would rather not put winter brassicas on the pea bed.
I could put leeks or winter onions on the bed but I don't really want to. There will be space on the onion bed when the lettuce and cucumbers are taken out and the leeks will be planted there. I am not really in the mood to plant winter onions because of the onion miner fly Phytomyza gymnostoma. It is endemic throughout the allotment site and especially on my allotment. It does affect the leeks too but I will protect them with fleece or enviromesh. Phytomyza gymnostoma has a second generation of egg laying flies around about the end of September and October. This means that all the onions and leeks need to be covered by that time. I would rather plant onion seed in January or February than risk planting sets in October.
The only alternative that would not cause the rotation problems was to plant more peas on the bed. Now the whole philosophy of rotation is to move plants so they are not growing in the same area as they were last year. This is to make sure that they do not deplete nutrients and increase the number of pests in the soil. However, the pea plants that I have just taken out and dug into the soil were very healthy and more or less pest free. Peas can form a symbiotic relationship with rhizobium bacteria and fix nitrogen from the air, therefore lack of this nutrient would not be a problem. So, I thought that I would risk putting in another four rows of peas in. This time of year you need a quick growing variety and I chose Kelvedon Wonder. I have not grown it on my allotment before so this is a bit of an experiment. Also I have never grown peas at this time of the year before.
Will the peas survive healthily and will they produce a crop of peas?
Tried the peas and they did not work. They were very weak and grew poorly. I will not try this again but look for an alternative crop such as rocket, american land cress and lambs lettuce.