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Garden Diary of Grant Douglas - third week of August
updated 20 Aug 2009
Just as things were starting to dry out a little bit, back comes the rain - 60mm in 24 hours recorded here so, once again, do not try and work your ground that is too wet. You will do damage that will last all season to the soil structure. It can be very frustrating. Day and night temperatures have warmed, but don't be fooled, the cold weather is bound to return before things settle.
I am having a terrible problem at the moment with Downy Mildew (furry mould on underside of leaves) on lettuce seedlings which is a timely reminder of watering practices. Try and avoid having your seedlings leaves wet at night, specially when nights are cold, days are hot. Damp leaves can not only be caused by over-watering, or watering late in the day, but also by condensation caused by closing up cloches or green-houses too early in the day, without adequate ventilation.
If you are thinking of planting early tomatoes in your greenhouse, consider using PB bags, rather than planting in the soil. The advantages of this are that you do not need to sterilise the soil for disease buildup and the black bags will warm up faster than the ground. Use a PB40 bag and if you wish to grow them organically, use a mixture of 90% good compost and 10% pea gravel and a small handful of blood and bone mixed into the soil. This should last them all season although you may find for some varieties if you note a potash deficiency (green shoulder on the fruit), you may need to liquid feed them. At the end of the season the bags can be planted up with 3 or 4 lettuces to see you through the winter and then the compost tipped on the garden in the spring. Tomatoes can be planted quite deep as they will produce more roots down the stem and if you allow them to be stressed for the first period after planting, their first flower truss will be produced low down on the stem. A new variety I grew last year which you may like to try (seed available from Kings Seeds) is Juliette, a small Italian type tomatoe, heavy cropper. For me, first to come ready last season and last to finish in the greenhouse.
Sowing or Planting this week:
Broad Beans (getting towards end of planting time)
Peas (this year I am growing Easy Peasy - low growing, heavy cropping)
Sugar Snap Peas
Brassicas - Cauli, Cabbage, Broccoli
Garlic (still time to get these in)
Sow now for early outdoor planting:
Basil (protected outside)
Now's the time to be preparing Asparagus beds (make sure you get rid of all perennial weeds and apply as much organic material as possible and also the planting of Artichoke and Strawberry beds.