Reflections on the Summer, and how it has set up the Autumn…
Many gardeners have been discouraged by the lack of sun and warmth this Spring and Summer. Whatever happened to you, there is still time to sow those salads for Winter, and get some vegetables going for next Spring.
In my gardens the undug beds of clay soil have drained superbly through some spells of torrential rain. The good soil structure, helped by some compost on top, has allowed high quality growth - especially of salads, beetroot, peas, broad beans, onions, carrots, leeks and many brassicas. Interestingly it is the traditional British vegetables which are in fact doing well, harking back to times before the recent run of warmer summers.
Warmth loving plants such as french beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, and all cucurbits including cucumber, squash and courgette, have struggled in soil that, until August, was rarely warm enough for them. Unfortunately some of these vegetables may run out of time to mature, or may already be diseased - as with blight on outdoor tomatoes for example. If you grow mostly these summer vegetables, it’s worth slotting in a few of the other British vegetables too, to set yourselves up for Autumn, Winter and Spring. With the weather now so uncertain, we all have to accept that there are some losses every year, and plan ahead to improve our year-round yield.
The cause of total destruction in some cases, especially of seedlings and newly planted vegetables, you simply have to be prepared for slugs! You need some clear ideas for both lessening their numbers, and growing stronger plants which can resist them, so here are some handy tips:
• Keep the soil bare around all of your plants i.e. no weeds, and no overgrown areas nearby
• Grow strong plants to set out, rather than sowing seeds direct into soil
• Patrols at dusk with a torch and knife reduce their numbers. Pay particular attention to grassy edges, bed edges and plant pots, and large leaved plants or stone walls
• Avoid using mulches of unrotted material such as grass and straw. These give perfect cover for slugs to live under by day, and then sneak out and eat your plants by night
Unrotted mulches and green manures can cause problems, both when growing and when rotting in, so I do not use them, preferring compost instead. I find that using reasonably well rotted compost on the surface is a discouragement to slugs. They appear to cause less damage in beds covered like that, compared with beds where I have dug the compost in. To read more about this, please visit my website. I do have some slugs on my undug beds, but have achieved wonderful harvests this year considering the weather; my courgettes and winter squash have done well outdoors (helped by fleece covering when the plants were young).
To read what you should be doing for the coming months, click here.