Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vegetable Accounting

Hi to everybody who reads this blog. As Winter is passing with longer hours of daylight, it is time to take stock of last years experiences in the vegetable plot before we make final decisions on this year's stock. As we mentioned in a previous blog entry, when we sow vegetables directly into the soil we lose many of the seedlings because of the leather jacket larvae which likes to feed on the roots of the young plants. There is some chemical control you can use to combat this pest but we aim to be as organic as possible and prefer not to apply chemicals. Instead, last season we experiemented with sowing vegetables in drainage pipes cut in half and then grow them on in the pipes until they are strong enough to withstand the pest attacks before planting in the ground. The results have been great. For example, we used to have to sow beetroot directly into the ground at least 3 to 4 times before we could manage to get sufficient number to survive the attack and since we tried the new sowing method, we have managed to grow them and harvest them successfully in good numbers per sowing.

Another successful trial has been that of the tomatoes, a fruit susceptible to blight in the high humidity that we normally have during early Summer. In the past we have tried blight resistant varieties with no luck, we also failed to crop many cherry tomatoes that are usually more resistant. There is a chemical that may help to control the blight but it fails to protect them entirely. This year we copied a local's method of growing tomatoes under partial cover and we sprayed them with copper sulphate before the plants start to fruit (a practice allowed in organic vegetable growing). We also grew two different varieties, Alicante and Brandywine, the former performed better than the latter variety. Last season we ate lots of tomatoes straight from the vine and were able to bottle several jars of pasata (a tomato sauce) to be used during the Winter.

Earlier last Spring I also mentioned that I grafted one of our cider apple trees with a nice russet variety. I did a total of 4 grafts and three of them have taken, not a bad starting point for a neophyte. I would have probably had a 100% success rate if impatience had not had the best of me - I could not resist having an early look and in the process I damaged one of the grafts. Never mind, I am very pleased with the results.

The final trial  I want to share with you is the results of our crop of onions. This year we planted them, 400 in total, as the locals do and they grew better and bigger than ever before. This local method entails the planting of the young onions in a trench filled with well rotted manure. The three varieties of onions we cropped have been really successful and they taste wonderful. We are still enjoying them now in February and they are keeping well.

Seedlings of beetroot, aubergine, turnips and many others are already nestled in their half of a drainage pipe ready for planting out when they reach a good size. If this year's harvest is as good as 2009, then we shall not have reason to complain.

Organic pest control on their winter break...

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