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Trying to avoid wilting in the July garden

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default Trying to avoid wilting in the July garden

Post by Chilli-head on 2nd July 2018, 8:03 am

So, the water butts are almost empty, but the sun continues unbroken, with the forecast showing no sign of change. Time to think of saving waste water for the garden, I've set up a bucket by the back door, every little helps.

A good time for hoing, in this sun anything damaged will struggle to regrow. And, according to one school of thought, tge loose surface layer creates a "dust mulch", which breaks the hydraulic coupling to the surface slowing evaporation.

Any other water conserving tips ?

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Post by Ploshkin on 3rd July 2018, 6:32 pm

We're so fortunate to be right by the river. There is always water available. We're on our second filling from the river of the water supply for the house. We've never had to fill more than on e before. I've also been able to refill the IBC that I use to water the polytunnel - it usually fills with rainwater from the sheep shed roof.
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Post by freebird on 9th July 2018, 12:11 pm

Chilli-head wrote:.  And, according to one school of thought,  tge loose surface layer creates a "dust mulch", which breaks the hydraulic coupling to the surface slowing evaporation.

I completely agree with this CH. I was told this by a fellow allotment holder some 40 years ago, and have found it helps - even better is, having mulched as part of my no-dig regime, what remains of the loose, dry layer on top serves much the same purpose.
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Post by Ploshkin on 9th July 2018, 1:25 pm

I have never entirely understood mulching. I get that the mulch layer helps to prevent evaporation from underneath but what happens when you water again? Do you need to 're mulch? If not, is it as effective 2nd time round when you have to water on top of it?
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Post by Chilli-head on 9th July 2018, 2:04 pm

I think mulches work for moist air a bit like insulation works for warm air. A fluffy layer works best to trap the moist air. When flattened down it will work less well - but hoeing serves to fluff it up again.

All very scientific Embarassed
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Post by freebird on 9th July 2018, 4:44 pm

Because my top layer (the remains of the composted stable manure) has remained quite loose and coarse, watering goes pretty much straight through it into the ground below. The loose top layer dries off quite quickly, but helps keep the ground below more moist.

I never used to 'get' mulching either, Ploshkin, but since I have been doing no-dig, it has become quickly apparent how valuable it is.
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Post by Chilli-head on 10th July 2018, 12:28 pm

Every year, I say that what keeps me going is that, despite the failures, something always does well. This year looks set to prove me wrong. Tomatoes, apart from cherries, badly affected by blossom end rot. Chillies and peppers just not growing with the usual vigour. Caterpillars eating the cabbages before I've even found time to plant them out. The dratted caterpillars are even eating my caper bush, which I was rather pleased to have raised from seed. Both indoor and outdoor cucumbers are bitter from the heat, the lettuce has bolted and the red onions I left out to dry have cooked in the sun and developed a sunken scorched patch on the side that was facing up.

What did I do in the garden today ? Clear up next door's cat s**t. Their fence has been down since winter, and their cat takes it as an open door invitation. My Dad would have returned it 'by air mail' Laughing

The areas of the allotment I topped with manure over winter remained possible to cultivate even when the rest - being Bedfordshire clay - became as hard as rock. Trouble is that without digging I can't keep the horsetails down, and they appear not susceptible to any domestic grade herbicides, including Roundup Ultra. So though a really appealing idea, No Dig is a non starter on my plot.

One good thing about the hot, dry weather we have here is that horse tails, when cut down and left in the sun, are completely dead in days and can then be safely composted. The pernicious weeds that I had bagged up in black plastic compost bags to die from lack of light - couch and horesetails mainly - I have been able to just spread out on top of some dry ground - desiccated beyond any chance of survival in days, so can be left there as a mulch.
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Post by FloBear on 10th July 2018, 2:29 pm

Oh, CH, that's tale of woe.
I'm having to use far more metered water than I want to but crops are beginning to make it through. Peas are excellent, summer broccoli good and has had no slug/snail damage. Tomatoes are hard work and quite a few in the GH are developing blossom end rot - I think it's because the plants are so large that the water just isn't enough. The outside ones, of the same varieties are faring better so far.
I have a feeling the potatoes won't be very large, nor the leeks, but the sweetcorn is looking happy as is the single cucumber plant and the butternut squash which is well in the way to world domination!
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Post by Chilli-head on 11th July 2018, 11:05 am

This is probably the best bit of my plot this year. At least something is growing, though it is behind where I'd like it to be. And a few bits of produce on the ground there - courgettes and some cucmbers picked small for pickling.



It is so dry the grass on the paths has died down. So at least I can keep the weeds under control fairly easily !
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Post by freebird on 11th July 2018, 4:05 pm

That's looking pretty good CH.

What actually happens to horse tails when you pull or hoe them? I don't doubt that they grow back, but do they just increase their root spread regardless and come back either stronger, more numerous or both? Is continually hoeing, rather than digging, a possibility? Because if it is, then that wouldn't preclude no-dig. My understanding is that the roots can go down too deep for digging out anyway.

Maybe I'm being too simplistic in my ignorance, but if no-dig/mulching helped keep down everything else, and you can keep on top of the horsetail in ways other than digging, then it would surely be worth a try. Your time is at a premium right now, CH, so the less plot preparation you have to do the better.

I've just done a quick bit of internet research whilst typing this, and I see they can spread by spores too. So hoeing before they get the chance has to be a good thing.
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Post by Chilli-head on 11th July 2018, 5:16 pm

I don't think the spread by spores is much of the problem. The roots are indeed too deep to remove completely, but digging to a spade depth gets out enough to take them a little while to be up again, so giving time for a crop to establish. Hoeing results in about four stems emerging from where one was cut. Repeated hoeing must have some effect; until recently my neighbour did nothing to control weeds though, and the same plant spreads a long way !

The up side is that, being very deep rooted, horsetails access minerals from deep down, so when hoed off and left to dry until definitely dead, they can make a good compost ingredient. Indeed dried horsetails are used in one of Steiner's biodynamic preparations, and can be bought by the ounce Shocked ... I could be rich !

Anyway, I've sharpened my hoe (that definitely helps), and will give it a try.
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Post by Dandelion on 11th July 2018, 9:33 pm

My water saving tip is only a tiny one - I keep a plastic jug by the sink and every time either of us needs to run the tap to get the water hot for washing up (or cold when the water is running hot...), we run it into the jug (or if there's a bit of water left in a tumbler it goes in the jug.) The jug then gets emptied into a watering can in the porch (next to the kitchen), and quite often by the evening at least two cans are full ready for the greenhouse. I know it's a bit of a 'no whatsit sherlock' idea, but as they say 'every little helps'!

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Post by freebird on 12th July 2018, 12:28 pm

I do something similar, Dandelion. Any left over glasses of water go on my houseplants. Water run waiting for hot water to arrive is used for rinsing things (such as our cafetieres) prior to going in the dishwasher or being washed up. If it's still not hot, then it gets saved for watering plants.
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Post by Chilli-head on 14th July 2018, 11:31 pm

I gave up on the greenhouse cucumbers today. Just too hot for them I think, looking wilted when the sun is on them despite being well watered, and the fruits
bitter. To the compost heap with them, at least I can give the chillies and peppers more space, and not waste more water on them. These were baby cucumber "sweet crunch", but were anything bar sweet ! Back to la diva next year I think, they were reliable.
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Post by Ploshkin on 16th July 2018, 9:43 am

For once my cucumbers are doing really well.  They are the one thing I still do in the greenhouse (in autopots) The fairly shady situation of the greenhouse is suiting them this year.
I've been amazed at how well the stuff in the polytunnel is doing given the excessive temperatures.  The strawberries that had gone into survival mode and sent out a zillion runners had a revival when I took them down from the bars and left them on the floor at the back with a bit of airflow.  I cut off all the runners and I've now got a really good crop of strawberries.  
With no rain on the sheep shed roof for 2 months Mr P has been filling IBCs with river water for me to use.  The last lot stinks and is a horrible colour and I really thought that something had fallen into my barrel and drowned.  I didn't find anything in there so I asked Mr P what had been in the IBC.  It had contained liquid feed for sheep which is molasses and minerals.  I suspect there was a couple of inches left in the bottom.  I honestly think that the plants are really benefiting from it as they all seemed to take off at the same time forming loads of fruit and  pods .
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Post by Chilli-head on 16th July 2018, 10:03 am

That wouldn't be too surprising - a lot of the organic plant foods are made from vinasse, the waste left from processing molasses in the sugar industry.

I suspect that I underfeed my greenhouse plants. The bought compost is so poor these days that without a lot of feeding the plants are stunted.

I remember Geoff Hamilton describing making liquid feed by hanging a sack of sheep dung in a barrel of water for a while. You could try that Ploshkin Laughing The clean up of a sack of macerated sheep droppings sounds a bit unpleasant though - I suppose if you used a hessian sack it might be easiest to compost the lot !
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Post by freebird on 18th July 2018, 4:32 pm

My Uchiki Kuri squash plants are looking very promising. Each has a well developed fruit, another smaller one and another ready to swell. I'm growing these upright to save on space. Anybody else tried this?

I made a triangular framework of canes with a plant at each upright, but wish now that I had thought to grow them slanting to the next cane, and taken all three around the structure in a spiral. Ah well, next year.
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Post by FloBear on 18th July 2018, 4:51 pm

I've grown cucumbers upright to save space. Made tubes with a couple of layers of chicken wire and held them steady with bamboo canes. A bit makeshift but not too bad an effort.
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Post by Ploshkin on 18th July 2018, 5:38 pm

I grow one Uchiki in the polytunnel now and take it up to the roof and along the crop bars. It creates a bit of shade for other plants and I love seeing the squashes hanging down from the roof. I let a few stems go along the ground too and in amongst the sweetcorn, they help to keep the weeds down. I didn't realise until this year that they will root into the ground.
I recall that when I very first grew them outside I made a trellis of canes slanting from the fence down to the ground and grew them up that.
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Post by Chilli-head on 21st July 2018, 2:59 pm

Back on plant feeds - I just bought some tomato feed which seems suddenly appearing all over ebay. It claims to be organic, and contain a mix of 'soluble plant extracts, seaweed and acids from ancient leaf litter'. It looks and smells just the same as the last type I bought, which was made from vinasse. The bit about ancient leaf litter has me concerned, does not sound very eco, unless it is marketing speak for something much more commonplace ?
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Post by freebird on 21st July 2018, 7:29 pm

I confess I just use the wormery liquid as plant food - things seem to do alright with it.

Now, I have a dilemma. My broad beans are all but finished, and I have brassicas in pots desperate to be planted out, taking over the space occupied by the beans. But the bean plants are still covered in ladybird larvae - some are nearly ladybirds now, and I see there has been another hatch. What to do?
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Post by Ploshkin on 21st July 2018, 10:10 pm

Ooh, that's a difficult one Freebird.  I think I would wait for the ladybirds - they surely don't take very long.  It's strange that you should mention ladybirds, I saw just one on one of my strawberry plants today, it's the first ladybird I have seen for years.

I meant to say on the subject of Uchiki Kuri, I don't know if it is apparent with them growing outside but the flowers have the most glorious perfume and the bumble bees love them above any other squash or courgette flowers.  My flowers are filled with drunken bumble bees most mornings, sometimes 3 or 4 in a flower.  I usually plant some sweet peas along with them as well but this year only one has grown tall, all the others seemed to keep getting chewed off.
I took this picture of my polytunnel plant this morning, I think it has about 15 squashes on it.
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Post by freebird on 22nd July 2018, 10:00 am

That's massive, Ploshkin! I haven't the space to let a plant develop like that, and mine are outside as well.
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Post by Chilli-head on 22nd July 2018, 11:02 am

That's one happy plant. I assume there is a great deal of dung under it !?

I thought my squashes were doing fairly well this year, despite the drought. I dug a trial hole at the allotment yesterday, and the Bedfordshire clay is still moist 8" down. This is probably helped because the twit on the plot uphill from me, in spite of the rules, has covered probably 3/4 of his plot with clear polythene - not terribly good at suppressing weeds, but it does send his rainwater my way. Which, for the first time this year, is a good thing !
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Post by Ploshkin on 22nd July 2018, 12:48 pm

I do dig plenty of muck into the beds and I think the unintentional feeding with molasses has had some input. The clay subsoil is proving good to have - despite the prolonged period of very high temps I don't think I've had to water much more than usual and the squashes are swelling rapidly.
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