Tuesday 24 February 2015

A day in the veg garden

Spring is coming so it looks like I might be spending more time in the veg garden.

Today we did some clearing of spent crops (chicory and chard), covering beds so the soil warms up and new crop can be grown earlier and tidying up leeks.

Chicory 'Charlotte'The bed after clearing

The reason for tidying the leeks was that some leaves were infected with rust (Puccinia allii, causing orange lesions on the leaves, which in this case were affected to a smaller extent) and white tip (Phytophthora porri causing white leasions, soft rot and wilted tips) which are both fungi whose spores are airborne and/or scattered by rain splashes.

White tip symptoms on leek leaves

A bed covered for warming the soil; leeks were tidied up
As I was working on leeks, and they are a rather popular crop, several visitors asked me how we protect our crops from the leek moth (Acrolepiopsis assectella) and allium leaf miner (Phytomyza gymnostoma), which this year has made it to the top horticultural pests reported by members to the RHS advisory services. Both the white caterpillar of the leek moth, with its brown head and small legs, and the white headless and legless maggot larvae of the leaf miner tunnel into the stems of leeks, damaging them and making them susceptible to secondary infections.

Horticultural fleece (better still enviromesh/very fine netting, which allows better airflow around the plants and allows for more water penetration) protects the leeks from attack, which however are sprayed here (as chemicals are available for professional growers).

Visitors also asked when the leeks had been planted. The early ones, for planting out mid-April, can be sown indoors Jan-Feb. But the ones that overwinter are sown in April, ready to be transplanted June/July for cropping November and onwards. More info is available on the RHS Grow Your Own website.

As I had not been in the veg garden for a while, I had a look at the bed we dug back in November, and the difference between the one I dug that was rougher and the one that was done by someone with years of experience, which was smoother, is still quite apparent - my colleague was not joking when he said it will need raking before the new crops go in!

Expertly dug bed (left), my first attempt (right)

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