Friday, 25 November 2011

Preparations for Next Year's Harvest

Posted by Rosie

The last 2 years have seen only mediocre veg harvests for me (although excellent fruit crops!). A few things have cropped well, others much less so and some have failed completely (don't mention the onion crop please). In part that has been due to the weather, namely a very dry summer 2 years ago and then a very dry spring with hot days, cold nights and frost at the end of May this year. However, I cannot lay the blame solely at the feet of Mother Nature (especially when others around have had good crops). No, she may not have helped but the main reason for my poor harvests has been a lack of compost or manure in the soil. I have always added some but I know never enough and so with reserves low, the plants have less nutrients to help them grow and the soil has had a reduced water retaining capacity.  

Next year I don't intend having poor crops, well at least not because of a lack of manure/compost in the soil so I have been working like mad over the last few weeks to rectify this.  This time I have been helped by the weather: we have had a very dry and often warm Autumn allowing me to get on in the veg patch when in other years the rain has been lashing down making this impossible. The result, I have dug and weeded far more than I have normally been able to do. With the weeds gone I have then spread manure and compost and even seaweed in one section, before covering the soil with weed suppressing fabric and leaving the soil fauna to get on and work their magic over Winter.  A friend wondered why I cover the soil, especially as the fabric isn't cheap, but I need to, otherwise the weeds just regrow before I am ready to sow in Spring. It also helps kill off any weeds I have missed and warms the soil quicker in the spring. I think it is an expense that will repay itself pretty quickly. (Well I hope so).
 
I took this photo a few days ago. Since then I have cleared the patch of old sweetcorn and the area to the left of the polytunnel (including the asparagus bed) but the flowers are still there as so many are still in bloom. Both patches have been manured and covered although the asparagus is waiting for a dollop of seaweed before I add the manure.  Asparagus is a salt march plant so benefits from the salty seaweed both in terms of it's salt and nutrients. The salt also helps to reduce non salt loving weeds as you are not supposed to dig down to weed in an asparagus bed (this damages the crowns).

I am certainly much further ahead than I have ever been in all the years I have had a vegetable patch. However, I still have much of bed 4, next to the polytunnel to clear and the half of bed 3 that isn't growing fruit, not forgetting weeding round the fruit bushes themselves. And the weather may well be against me now with rain forecast. All in all though I am really pleased with what I have achieved and I may well just manure and cover those areas I have not dug which will at least kill some weeds and prevent others growing. It's been hard work but a heck of a lot easier than Spring digging and hopefully the fruits of my endeavours will be evident in magnificent crops in 2012. Maybe I'll even get a decent onion crop next year!!

4 comments :

  1. Good for you Rosie! I have been a bit lax about getting compost etc on to the garden this year. Will be using liquid comfrey fertiliser instead. Has been very windy and hot here consequently most of the wee veg plants are struggling to thrive! I need it to rain so I can get some mulch on to the beds! Ah well, next year I'll be more organised..

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  2. "Ah well, next year I'll be more organised.."

    That's my mantra too - hopefully it'll be true this year. I use nettle liquid fertiliser which is great but the soil really does need the organic matter for moisture retention and to give the plants a good growing base. Is it usual for you to be so dry at this time of year? Whilst our dry Autumn has been a boon for gardening and I have loved not having mud we really do need the rain to top up the groundwater levels or next year the well will run dry all too soon.

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  3. Hi again
    I think it's because we are experiencing the 'La Nina' weather pattern at the moment. We need some rain as we rely on tank water - either off the roof or we have to get it delivered by truck!

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  4. At least we have the mains to fall back on if the well runs dry but I rather object to paying for water. I'll do a little rain dance for you if you like :-)

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