Autumn 2017

Tomato disaster at Cae'r Delyn! A fast-growing mould has attacked leaves,stems and then fruits. Within two weeks most of my plants have had to be removed, with about  1 in six surving - and healthy  - for now ! Only once before - about 10 years ago have I seen this disease.
               Where I have cleared the ground- and in every vacant space - I am watering thoroughly.I
shall now sow some small leafy crops for winter use. Lettuce (4 kinds) pak choi, tatsoi, spinach (annual and perpetual) and chard, also mustard, rocket , cress---and radish will all germinate quickly. Use the warmth in the soil and this year's late ration of sunlight to give interesting, fresh, green eating and will wait in the ground for months.
               Dare to think of next year and sow a few calabrese seed - with March and April in mind. Some cabbage varieties - Hispi, Spring Hero and Winter Jewel - can reward, next spring, a September or October sowing.

Tomato taste!
Standard size…

Early September - keep the growing going

I'm giving tomato plants lots of care and attention and aiming for good picking in October.

Generous feeding now will keep growth strong for a while, and supply the developing fruits. All growing points above head-height are stopped, and all side-shoots above waist height are removed. But one low strong side-shoot on each plant can grow and bear two or three trusses, each shortened to leave the best flowers. Damaged or diseased leaves are removed - but I try to do all cutting when the air is dry, in the hope that mildew spores will fail to establish.

Sowing carrots now is a gamble as are beetroot. I'll chance a sowing of 'mange-tout' peas, which could cheer up late October or even November.

Lettuce sown now can do well, though firm hearts may not form. Four or five different varieities can mature successively and may well mature into December.

Spinach and chard sown now will supply during the shortest days

Quick! Quick! mid August

In five weeks' time we expect the Autumn Equinox, after which light declines in strength and duration. Plants with good-sized healthy leaves carry on growing- slowly!
                  Some seeds sown now will grow plants of a useful size keep growing during shorter days.
                      Choose dwarf or speedy varieties of carrot, beetroot, lettuce and spinach; also
dwarf French beans and mangetout peas. A special word about pak choi! It starts quickly, and
can be eaten from small leaves up to large into the winter. Other salad leaves may also reward an
August sowing.
                    I'm still shortening the new trusses of tomato flowers and removing sideshoots; and it's
time for another liquid feed: double strength this week.

Early August -- time for a big sowing!

An empty tunnel in winter is a waste of a precious resource. By sowing now, you can produce plenty in autumn and provide variey and vitamins during the shortest days.

Dwarf French beans and mange-tout peas can spice up October and November. Spinach and chard can be partially picked and will keep re-growing all winter. Pak choi is reliable and long standing.

Beetroot, carrot and kohl-rabi will wait patiently in the ground for months and still taste as fresh as in summer.

All these crops germinate quickly now, and grow fast while days are long. The whole process is slower from sowing later in August, and the final yield is much smaller.

I'm going to try a sowing of calabrese now and another in September; daring and dangerous? I'll take a chance!

Keep caring-and controlling fast Summer growth

As the earliest crops finish - lettuce, French beans, peas, spinach, cabbage, broccoli etc., new sowings can fill the spaces. I'm sowing Cobra - a climbing French bean - mangetout and sugarsnap peas for Autumn eating. Salad leaves sown now have a long eating season.
          Tomato and cucumber plants respond to careful management. An adequate and regular
water supply is essential - no drying out! Developing fruit benefit from regular liquid feeding.
Reducing the number of flowers per tomato truss ensures healthy development of all the crop. I open vents and door to maximum - better draughty than too humid.                                                                                                                                                    

High summer - think ahead

The higher space in the tunnel will become available by September; it can be used by climbing french beans- Cobra does it well -which yield late beans in plenty.
            Seeds of Cobra sown in late July -in situ or in pots for later planting - will produce fast growing plants to race up the sticks in August and September.
             Tomato plants have ample bulk by now which will feed the later fruits. I'm nursing new trusses, week by week, and shortening them, to develop through late Summer and Autumn. Late
August flowers  give you October fruit! Surplus "cherry" tomatoes freeze well- for direct cooking in Winter.
              Removing the oldest tomato leaves could  reveal space for sowing pak choi, rocket, mustard, mizuna, cress, kailan kichi, and annual spinach. Fast growers every one!

J.A.M. in the polytunnel

Just about managing. The long days with maximum sunshine have produced rampant growth. Careful management is needed.

Big healthy plants should lead to big crops. If all tomato flowers are allowed to fruit, the plants will be overloaded, fruit size reduced and a glut in August will leave exhausted plants with little late yield.

I'm removing complete trusses of tomato flowers and reducing the size of the rest. A strong low sideshoot can remain, and be nursed to continue flowering when the main plant is stopped at about 5 feet. This will give tomatoes in October.

Cucumbers easily overcrop - and then give up early. Allow fruit only on the main stem and remove every other small fruit. The same discipline suits courgettes.

A weekly feed will keep the swelling fruits supplied with resources.

Leaves in the shade do little good - a sharp knife is best for all pruning or trimming. Choose a day when clothes are drying well.