The Idunn Project – Part Four

| July 28, 2009 | 0 Comments

It’s a while since I have brought you news of the Idunn Project, and instead of concentrating on something specific I thought I would provide a general over view of what difficulties I have faced over the last few months, what successes and failures I have had, and what future plans I hope to bring to fruition.

To be honest, the season so far has been something of a mixed bag and, I would say, has probably been less productive than my first year. This is perfectly normal and you have to accept that you will have bad years, it’s also not been aided by the quality of the land I took over in my new plot as well as some bad choices of crop on my part. To start with the land I acquired had been barren for five years as it was infested with a particularly virulent weed known as mare or horse tail. This weed looks like a tiny Christmas tree and has roots, I am told, which can reach down to ten feet below the ground. I have heard of a number of different remedies to control it, from chemical weed killers such as round up, to rubbing washing up liquid on the stem of the plant. Personally I have opted to just use vigorous weeding in an effort to control it’s spread; the perceptive reader will note I wrote controlled, for I know of no one who has succeeded in eradicating the problem out right. The association had covered the ground in old carpets for five years in an effort to deprive it of sunlight, but after five years it was still there. It is one of the oldest plants on earth, I’m sure that it is not phased by the attempts of recently arrived talking carbon bags to exterminate it! As it is, this is a problem I will have to learn to live with.

Another problem I have had this year is my potato crop. Like most allotment owners who have the room, I wanted to keep myself in spuds the year round. Unfortunately this hasn’t materialised, as my early crops were hammered by the twin problems of blight and slugs. I was particularly annoyed by blight as earlies are supposedly less susceptible to it. Blight is largely caused by planting potatoes in the same place season after season, planting them too close together so that moisture is trapped allowing fungus to develop. It’s also spread quite easily if others have diseased crops. Mine were infected probably via another source; my neighbours potatoes have largely been obliterated by blight and walking around the allotments I noticed others had blight as well. For those that don’t know the signs, blight leads to either black or white patches on the leaves of the plant, especially underneath; in advanced stages it rots the stems of the plant and the tubers. Some of my plants got to that stage and I have probably never smelt anything as foul as blight rotted potatoes. What to do? I wanted a chemical free garden as far as possible but when blight takes a hold there really isn’t any other option that to use an anti-fungal spray like dithane. Using it, I managed to save the majority of my crop just in time for the slugs to start munching on them…..

Slugs have been an absolute pain in the proverbial this season; they have managed to munch through potatoes, cabbages, peppers, cauliflowers and lettuces. I have had mixed results with organic methods like egg shells, and I’m afraid to say I had to resort to slug pellets in order to save what few cabbage plants I had left. I don’t like slug pellets both because of their chemical content but also because they are a danger to animals that will roam around the allotment, hedgehogs are particularly prone to eating pellets, which is a shame as they are great for controlling slugs. Unfortunately, though, I really had to resort to my last option as my cabbage crop was being stripped and the egg shells just didn’t appear to be working (if anyone knows of an alternative organic method please let me know!). The slugs had also been merrily munching through my potato crop (I’m frankly amazed that humans have managed to survive via agriculture given the amount of creatures that will happily eat everything you grow!) However my choice of crop, Rocket and Arran piper, were likely the majority reason I was having trouble – more seasoned gardeners were quick to point out they are notorious for slugs, and they recommended varieties such as Foremost, something I will have to bear in mind for the new season.

Well I guess that has been depressing enough for any would be gardeners, but it hasn’t been all bad news.

Amongst my successes have been the cauliflowers – apparently it takes some effort to get a hard closed centred cauli, and I have managed to produce several of them. After a slow start in my green house, the tomato and cucumber plants are starting to produce. My tomato varieties are Stoner and Brandywine, the Brandywine are the segmented looking fruit and they have grown particularly large, a rich diet of manure and compost as well as daily watering seems to have done the trick. Diana (the cucumber crop) have also started to produce a fine looking crop (remember to pinch out male flowers off cucumbers in order to prevent the crop turning bitter, male flowers are those without a cucumber behind them). I also have a few melons starting to grow and peppers (despite the slugs eating out one of them). My beetroot and turnip crops have both done especially well, although I am at a loss for what to do with beetroot other than to pickle it. A trick with parsnips I recently learned was to deprive them of water, as it forces the roots to push downward in search of water and stops them branching out, a problem I had last year.

My ongoing project of building beds on both plots continues, and I am currently building beds on my first plot now I have started to harvest what few potatoes I can from that ground. Brussel Sprouts will be grown here (I’m not fond of sprouts personally but my father is), as sprouts benefit, like most brassicas, from well limed soil. I have recently come to enjoy eating broad beans; this crop has done well and I was surprised by how rich tasting they are, which goes to show how sterile supermarket food is. Maybe I’ll come to enjoy sprouts the same as I have broad beans……

My father built a bird house for the allotment, and another insect box; I want to encourage wild life as much as possible. Although you do get the inevitable pests like slugs, cabbage white butterflies, black/white fly, you also have many friends such as lady birds and other beetles that eat the more harmful bugs.

That’s pretty much it for the time being, I hope to post some more pictures on the OR forum soon and, as usual, if anyone has any comments or criticisms please feel free to contact me either on the OR forum, Odinist.net or by e mail (Liffrea@gmail.com).

Kris AOR

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  1. Jim AOR says:

    Thanks for another great installment. Have you heard of putting a border of ashes around the crop? Some claim this deters slugs. I fortunately have not had a major slug problem, so I can’t speak from experience on that.

  2. rory h says:

    Heil Kris

    Re the slug situation (although its been awhile since you posted this hopefully you are trying again next season) coffee grounds seem to have an effect as also do beer traps, the advantage of the traps is that if you have a few chickens you can give them a nice snack.

    Otherwise, i’m afraid that without using chemicals your only option is dawn and dusk patrols with a flashlight to police up the little buggers!

    The only thing that i have ever had any success with, with the control of horsetail is to crush the stem just below the soil surface as you weed, for some reason this seems effective.

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