Friday, 23 September 2011

Autumn Sunshine

Autumn has finally arrived to the garden here in South London, the squash leaves are looking tired, the sunflowers are starting to look a little sad with their bowed heads, lots of leaves to clear up off the patio and pots to spruce up.  Time for the autumnal tidy up!
Zapallito de Toscana (Cucurbita Maxima)

I love all these new gardening jobs as the summer season moves on to the next chapter of autumn.  The new light levels, the warm sunshine, spaces made where the summer crops have finished doing their thing, the garden is starting to look a lot less congested!  Whilst I absolutely love the jungle look that summer brings in our garden thanks to all the squash plants I like to grow I also love the new space that we get as autumn moves in.

Aubergine "de Barbentane" (Solanum Melongena)
And in the new spaces I've been busy sowing!  Winter radish, variety of turnip greens, peas for peashoots, tree onion bulbils (a perennial onion), onions from seed, Kai Lan and various winter salads.  I'm determined to keep the patio awake with edibles feeding us right through those cold winter months and into the hungry gap.

Against the south facing wall I have new spaces so have moved the sunloving herbs like rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, marjoram and camomile which really seem to be enjoying their new home.

Citrus Lime (Citrus Latifolia Tahiti)
That's the beauty of the container garden, you can just keep moving your pots around through the seasons.

Another event in the garden is the migration of the heat lovers back inside the flat (chillies, peppers, the lime tree, the aloes...).  I keep an eye on their leaves and as long as they are not yet showing any sign of stress am letting them stay outside to make the most of any sunshine available.  However, I am keeping an eagle eye on the forecast and a daily check of these plants to make sure they are still happy outside.  Whilst we had a rather disappointing summer, we do seem to be blessed by a warm and gentle September.  As soon as those temps start to go towards 10 degrees C or below, I will find homes for the tender ones inside the flat.  I have a feeling that it might be a bit crowded indoors this winter!

Looking in my seedbox, the only month I can't find anything to sow is December.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Sowing in September

September is an interesting month in the garden.  Its harvest time with all the summer crops providing their bounty and there's lots to do in the kitchen if you like preserving all those summer goodies. 

September is also a good month to think about planning your way through the next season and there are a few things that can be sown now to help you through the sparse winter months.  Good planning and sowing now can also help make that hungry gap (between February - May) a little bit more bountiful.

Here's a few September sowing suggestions:

Cabbages (for spring hungry gap)
Corn Salad
Kai Lan
Kale (if you sow in the next week or so)
Kohl rabi
Land Cress
Leaf Chicory
Onions (from seed or bulbs)

Blighted Tomatoes

Everywhere I look there's a tomato blight epidemic in London.  The weather we've been having this summer has presented the ideal conditions of warmth and wet.  The fungus is transmitted with water and especially when there's been intense rainfall leaving droplets of water on the leaves and the stems.

The first place I found an attack was at the Bramford Community Garden last Thursday evening.  I quickly removed all the tomatoes and there really weren't too many salvageable fruit to harvest red or even green.  Just the chore of pulling all the plants up and disposing of them.

The next day I was volunteering at Capital Growth's Regent Park Allotment garden and the same situation again.  Again, the majority of the tomatoes were blighted.  We managed to save a lot of the fruit and I was kindly given 3kg of green tomatoes for my efforts in tomato plant disposal.

Monday morning I went for my usual volunteering duties at the Ricard's Lodge High School Gardening Club and.... yep you've guessed it... blight attack!

The only place that seems to be unscathed is my own back garden.  There have been a few suspect branches but I removed them very swiftly and it doesn't seem to be spreading so far, fingers and toes crossed!  But it's plain to see that this year is a blight year and I am guessing that London is not alone.

So here's what I've been doing when discovering attacks:

1.  It spreads so fast that the first thing to do is remove any infected plants and harvest any salvageable fruit.
2.  Disinfect any containers, tools, gardening gloves, canes, my clothes, my footwear, myself ...!
3.  If there are any salvageable fruit wash them in soapy water
4.  Hit the recipe books for some good green tomato recipes

Going forward the big issue is the soil they've been growing in which will now be contaminated with the fungus.  There are differing opinions of how long to wait before planting solanaceae crops (e.g. tomatoes, potatoes, aubergines) in the soil.  I think the best method is to follow a four year crop rotation plan which will provide a break of 4 years before the next planting of solanaceae.

If you have lots of green tomatoes, here's a few recipes:
Green Tomato Chutney
Tomato Ketchup

Have you suffered from a tomato blight attack recently?