Category Archives: Tips

Ladybirds – the gardener’s friend

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Ladybirds are great for your allotment and should be encouraged.  I have had loads on my allotment this year.  Ladybirds eat aphids which makes them exceptionally useful.

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If you are interested in finding out which types of ladybird you have on your plot try the UK Ladybird Survey website.  This website has a wide variety of information included on it and aims to help the recording of ladybirds within the UK.

The Harlequin ladybird is not native to the UK and is causing problems for our own native species due to it being the worlds most invasive species.  To find out more, including how to identify and record sightings of the Harlequin ladybird, go to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website.

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Problems with my veg…

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I spoke in my earlier posts about loosing some of my onions to mould.  Here is a photo of the white mould on the bottom of an onion after I pulled it out.  Additionally, this year, on all the mouldy onions I also saw these little creatures!  I think they are baby centipedes, or possibly millipedes.  If you can not see them, try clicking on the photograph below to enlarge it.

If they are centipedes then they should be encouraged, they are carnivorous and eat a wide variety of pests, including slugs.  I am just not sure what so many of them are doing on the bottom of this onion!  Down Garden Services provides a list and pictures of common garden creatures which is worth looking at.  The creatures are grouped into 3 categories:  friends, enemies and those that have some “bad habits”.

It is also possible that they are millipedes, this would make more sense as they feed on decaying vegetation which is in line with being on the bottom of a rotting onion.  This makes them very useful for recycling organic matter on the allotment.  However, they also have some bad habits.  They can damage seedlings, as well as beans, peas and carrots.  They like to eat soft tissue plants such as cucumber plants and strawberries.  They also enlarge wounds created by slugs in harder veg, such as potatoes or bulbs, however, they are unable to cause damage to these plants on their own.

After considering all these points I think they must be millipedes.  I have found them living in slug holed potatoes in the past.  As they are just eating rotting veg I do not see them as a pest.  They have not caused any damage to my seedlings or other plants so I am not too worried about them at the moment.

Above is a picture of my first butternut squash which has gone mouldy/rotten.  I noticed it after being away for the weekend.

After some more online research it looks like it is due to “Blossom end rot”.  There appears to be number of reasons for this to happen, from a lack of calcium in the soil, through to a need for more regular watering.  Apparently if you catch it early enough you can nip it in the bud.  Try these online resources below to find out more information and possible solutions:

Weekend Gardener: Stop Squash Blossom Rot

iVillage Garden Web: Blossom End Rot

Gardening Know How: Squash Bottom End Rot

Bolted Lettuce

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If you get a dry hot sunny period make sure you keep watering your lettice as much as possible or else you run the risk of it “bolting“.  This means it shoots up tall and begins to create flower buds.

Bolted lettuce tastes AWFUL!  It is so bitter that it really is best avoided if at all possible.  When my lettuces bolt I pull them out and compost them.

Tips from the BBC!!!

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I have just come across this useful site provided by the BBC and Gardeners World.  It has a number of step by step gardening guides, some of which include instruction videos.  The fruit and veg section covers a wide variety of produce.  Well worth a visit if you are starting out or if you are planning on planting something a bit different next year.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/

Potatoes

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I have cut the potato haulms down just leaving stalks above the ground.  I generally do this every year when blight starts to appear on the allotment site.  In my experience it seems to attack the outdoor tomato plants first, which is a good early warning system.  It is also the reason I don’t grow tomatoes on my allotment any more!  This year I have not seen any signs of blight but it is getting so late on now I thought it best to do anyway.

Leaving a few inches of stalk above the ground works well as a potato marker and the potatoes can be left in the ground like this for a while longer.  If you would like to know more about potato blight click here.

Onions, onions and more onions…

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All my onions are now harvested.  I left the last ones out in the sun to begin to dry as today was such a lovely day.

I know my onions are ready when the stalks bend over, see picture below, however this year, as I discussed in my earlier post, my over wintering onions have just kept growing and growing.  Normally I would have harvested them in June/early July and not August.

I brought some home the other day and placed them with the others in the greenhouse.

The far onions are the ones I placed there about a week ago now.  As you can see below they are very nearly dried out and will soon be ready for binding together with string so they can be stored more easily.  They will be ready when the stems are all yellow.  You do need to be careful drying them in the greenhouse as the temperature can get quite high on sunny days.  If possible on such days it is best to take the onions out and place them directly in the sunshine.

Now the onion beds are empty, before I plant anything else in them, I need to test the soil pH level as this can affect how well things grow.  Not having had this allotment for more than a year I do not know what fertilising regime has been in place so it is important to test the soil and find out the pH level in a number of places as it will vary throughout the plot.  If it is too acidic or alkaline the plants will not grow as well and may be more susceptible to disease.  The best overall pH for growing vegetables is 6-7.   I have found a few websites, below, that have tables that show the preferred pH for a number of vegetables.

Grow Anything

Gardener’s Network

The Garden Helper