This week’s readers’ letters and e-mails
Q: Can you tell me what has been eating my runner bean leaves (sample enclosed)? MG, Fareham.
A: Snails have been eating the leaves at night. Go out with a torch after dark. Pick them off and give them a smart size eight on a smooth paving stone.
Q: I had club root on my allotment where the sprouts were growing. A friend tells me you light a gas flame to kill this disease. Can you tell me what I have to do to prevent the disease this year? HF, Portchester.
A: After digging the area where the sprouts are to be planted, use canes 2.5ft apart exactly where each Brussels sprout is to be planted. Remove the soil alongside each cane and use a gas weed wand and sterilise the soil in each position by concentrating the flame in every station for one minute. Very unorthodox but it works on my allotment. Effective chemicals were withdrawn many years ago.
Q: Just one of my potato plants collapsed and I can see thousands of ants are making an ant hill where this potato is dying. What can I do? HV, Emsworth.
A: Buy a packet of Ant Stop. Follow the instructions and the ants will die in about a week. This potato will probably recover but the new potatoes will be pitted badly. Once the ants have gone, give the potatoes a good feed. Hoe through the rows, scatter 4oz of blood, fish and bone manure on the soil and give them another earthing up. Potato plants love water so water well afterwards.
Q: I have just been allocated an allotment. I only wanted a very small plot as I am on my one and intend to use raised beds. I thought of using scaffold planks but they are far too expensive. What would you suggest? The ground at the allotment is brown clay. NV, Cosham.
A: Use 4in-wide treated timber. You will find this in packs of six or eight pieces, four inches wide for about £11 per pack. Use inch square pegs banged into the soil on each side of the planks to keep the wood in place. A good idea if the ground you are trying to cultivate is difficult to work as you can grow on top of the dreadful soil. I would suggest you make one bed and use cheap compost over the clay and grow salad crops which will grow quickly. Lettuce, spring onions, radish and beetroot to give yourself a bit of encouragement.
JOBS FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
Stop cutting asparagus. The stem now needs to grow so the ferny leaves can send down nutrients to the roots. This encourages next year’s crop. Give the plants a feed of blood, fish and bonemeal and fork this into the soil and water afterwards.
Sow seeds of calceolaria pot plants in the greenhouse. This is a job often forgotten. The beautiful balloon-like flowers will bloom next spring in a frost-free greenhouse.
Enjoy eating strawberries from the garden, but get into the habit of taking a bucket with you so weeds can be put into the bucket. Strawberries quickly become smothered in weeds.
Keep removing side shoots on tomatoes. This needs to be done regularly. If the bunches of fruits are heavy, use twist ties to support the trusses on the tomato canes.
Spray outdoor tomatoes and potatoes with copper mixture to prevent blight. You will find this in green drums at your garden centre.
Start thinning grapes. Wear a hat so your hair does not get in contact with the fruit. Hair spoils the ‘bloom’ on the skins.
Spray the foliage of fruit trees with plain water in the late evening to prevent red spider mite.
Cut back every third runner bean vine so those cut back will shoot lower on the vines. This will prolong the crop. It’s a good idea if you are short of space. If there are no flowers on the vines and they are up to the top, remove
half the leaves, give them just 1oz of sulphate of potash, along every three yards of the row. Gently fork this in and water afterwards. The reason for non-flowering is that too much manure was put into the ground, but this little trick will bring in the flowers.
This is your last chance to sow peas. If planted after June the plants are killed off by pea mildew.
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