Back to the Hard Slog of Clearing Up the Garden for Next Year
21st Sep 2000
With a sigh of relief I can say that the showing season is over for me for this year and what a hectic season I have had as well, I was never home any weekend from the middle of July to early September. Though very tired at times I have to say that the friends I have made in the vegetable world makes it all worth while and a joy to re new old friendship every Summer.
It is now back to the hard slog of clearing up the garden and preparing it for next year and the quicker that I can do it then the easier the work load will be as I shall have Chelsea to contend with as well.
I still have a few Cauliflower's growing in the polytunnel, initially there was one in every station where the exhibition onions were growing previously. As soon as these are finished, the whole tunnel will be cleaned out.
One end had my own long carrots growing for seed production as well as onions for seed and long black beetroot all these will be removed and disposed of in black bin bags. The next step will be to remove the black and white polythene and dispose of that as well. Next will be the removal of the seeping hoses, these will be flushed through and rolled up for use again next year. The final thing to be removed will be the soil warming cables, often if the soil will have been a bit on the dry side, some soil particles will have been encrusted on to the cable, scrape these off the cable and store away ready for use next year.
The next task is to lightly fork over or rotovate the upper surface of the soil so that when I come to soak the beds later on in the year the water can permeate through without any trouble. Before I apply anything in the way of organic matter or fertiliser I really need to know what sort of levels of fertiliser are now present in the beds after a whole seasons growth. A sample will therefore be sent to a soil analyst who will tell me all the answers I need to know. For instance, is the soil mechanically sound, in other words is there a right amount of humus present or does it need more organic matter or even perhaps more grit to open up the soil texture. The important factors to know as well is the level of PH, do the beds require any lime if so how much and very importantly what is the level of salts in the bed or the conductivity reading.
It"s vitally important when growing continuously under covers that the soil is saturated for a long period of time in order to wash out the build up of salts in the soil. The other alternative is to remove the polythene or, as some growers have done, remove the soil from the tunnel, and wheel it outside to be exposed to the elements only to be wheeled back later on in the year, no mean feat I assure you. The nutrient that leaches out of the soil fastest of all is Nitrogen and as my cauliflowers will have been taking a lot of this particular element up as well, I expect this to be a low reading.
The next job, and one I haven't done this early before, will be to sieve the soil whilst still comparatively dry and before I soak the beds. The soil will be passed through a quarter of an inch riddle and will be bagged up in strong polythene bags and kept under cover. This will be the soil that I intend to use for my Parsnips next year as well as possibly for my long and short carrots. Sieving soil is not the easiest of tasks but when it's comparatively dry it can be quite an easy task.
Finally the whole area, the beds, the concrete floor as well as the polythene structure will be totally cleaned down using the recommended dilution rate of Armillatox. This will help towards sterilising the soil as well as being the best product to clean any algae off polythene and glass.
Between my polythene tunnel at the far end of the garden and the long carrot beds, I have three raised brick beds that used to grow really good stump carrots. Last year one of the beds, the one nearest to the boundary hedge, was changed over to be a celery bed and considering it was it's first year I had some good quality heads from it. The other two however produced poor stump roots and this is possibly because since the construction of the polytunnel a few years ago it has shade these beds somewhat.
I therefore need to raise these about two blocks higher so that they are well exposed to the sun, I will also have to think about constructing a lightweight timber structure over them to which I shall attach the enviromesh which in turn will be covered over with polythene. My parsnips were treated in this manner this year and the initial growth was superb. This will certainly help to get the carrots away without a check to their growth which is so important. I am convinced that any check in growth with carrots definitely puts a stop to you achieving the optimum quality and size from them.