As the plot breathes a sigh of relief after the summer’s heat, Barry Cuff shares how his plants fared though the drought, and the impact on his harvest
We picked our first sweetcorn cobs (Swift) on the 25th August. They were on the plate with lashings of butter within four hours of harvesting! The drought has meant shorter plants and we do not expect to gather more than 50 cobs from the 40 plants. In a normal year we would expect to have 60 to 65.
Throughout the heat, our plot was watered daily, mostly early mornings around 6am. Taking turns with another plotholder to pump from the well, we have been able to keep the 1,500 litre tanks and troughs filled. We have seven tanks on the allotments, all of which supply troughs fitted with ballcock valves. To date our 14 foot well has not run dry and checking daily water levels we have had about eight foot of water consistently.
The heat has had different effects on our crops:
- Both mangetout and shelling gave up producing much earlier than usual, and a second sowing of mangetouts (Purple Magnolia and Carouby De Maussane) performed badly.
- Carrots and beetroot
- Successional sowings of both did well. A last sowing of Early Nantes was made on the 14th.
- Celery and celeriac
- With copious amounts of water both are making good growth
- Runner and French beans Again with plenty of water both are producing well now temperatures are lower. Both stopped producing pods on the hottest days.
- Our Musselburgh were planted out in mid-July. They are doing well as they have received plenty of water. A few had leek moth damage but appear to have overcome it.
- We only grow Little Gem and sow once a month in plug trays, planting out when large enough. These have been watered twice daily on the days the thermometer hovered around 30º.
- All have been well watered. All plants have waxed up giving them a bluish tinge – this helps them conserve moisture. Despite the fact they have not been protected from the cabbage white butterfly, there is little or no damage. I wonder if the waxing acts as a deterrent? It has certainly not deterred whitefly which is very bad at the moment.
- We picked two very small curds of Cheesy cauliflower on the 26th. Normally these are not ready for at least another month. Under stress from the drought the plants are wanting to produce seed early.
- Courgettes and winter squash
- Courgettes have been slightly less productive than a normal year. Among the forest of squash leaves, however, we can see some very large fruits forming of both Crown Prince and Butterfly butternut.
We have also kept our flowers well watered as they attract the bumblebees, moths, butterflies and hoverflies. Some of their favourites are tithonia, cosmos, Spanish flag (Mina lobata), Grandpa Ott (Ipomoea purpurea) and larkspur.
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