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Plotholders’ Question Time - report

Date posted: Tuesday 13th February 2018

Plotholders’ Question Time - report

PQT audience

Another packed house for our third annual Plotholders’ Question Time held this year on 28th January, to hear panellists Liz Rigge, Ruth Walker and Len Cowking answer questions ranging from veg growing success to crop rotation, how to avoid tomato blight and the unsocial after-effects of Jerusalem artichokes, seed or Root trainers, weed disposal best potato varieties, veg for a shady shed side and what to do about woodlice! This is a mash-up summary of some of the key points made by our illustrious panel, with help from the audience:

Cabbages – create a dip/V shaped furrow in the ground to retain water; brassica collars firmly pushed down round the stems; firm down the ground well around the plants; manure

Crop rotation – every 4 years: beans; brassicas; roots and other. Where same crops are in the same place eg climbing beans, dig a deep trench, fill with household compost, newspapers, card, then manure before planting out. Soya beans highly recommended – edame beans delicious and easy to grow. Compost/manure everything.

Tomato blight – some people use Bordeaux mixture, still ok for individual use in France! Early small cherry varieties less prone than later ones; ensure air flow round the plants by taking of lowest leaves; Gro-bags cut in half, turned on their side make deep planters, set against a shed wall to protect and shelter from air-born spores, in a sunny spot

Jerusalem artichokes – how to avoid the unsociable after effects (‘fartichokes’!) amusing image of young ‘foodie’ execs supping J artichoke soup and then going back into board meetings etc! Parboiling, then roasting them may reduce the flatulent effects

Parsnip growing success – a variety called ‘Panache’ recommended that can be sown late, last week March/early April, a hybrid, expensive but not prone to rust and good success rate. Plant 1½in apart – grow in a hollow to retain moisture. Or sow 3 seeds in a group, interspersed with radishes that will germinate first – easily identifiable by different leaf shapes. Soak seeds first. Loose, bread crumbly soil, use fresh packets every time – ‘Tender and True’ a reliable variety. Someone lets a few plants go to seed – these always germinate successfully

Seed straight into soil or starting in modules – Leeks good in modules although they can become tangly; tomatoes, beans, chillies best in modules/Root trainers to avoid being nipped off or eaten by birds – once transplanted leeks need covering to protect from allium leaf miner, other plants protected from pigeons with netting

Sweetcorn – socks used as a cover over the cobs – started with plastic bottle covers but mice got into them, rags soaked in Jeyes fluid around the bottle necks to keep mice/rats at bay; socks most successful as the cobs don’t need exposure to the sun; if socks are frayed the rats will get at them! Can be germinated in root trainers or sown direct – both methods get results

Disposing of weeds – nothing goes into the compost heap, all weeds taken home to put into green bins or bio-degradable bags. Dandelion, groundsel, nettles can be beneficial in a compost heap. Weeds can also be drowned in a water container, then liquid used

What to grow alongside a shed that gets shade in the afternoon – rhubarb, chard, perpetual spinach (beet family) suggested. ‘My shed, my shade’, you make sure your shed only makes shade on your plot!

Favourite potato varieties: ‘Pink Fir’, ‘Desiree’, ‘Lady Balfour’, early variety ‘Arran Pilot’ being trialled after recommendation. Percy Chapman best place for range and quality of varieties – loose so you can pick the best ones out. 7 potatoes per half a row does it. Chit first – now’s the time to get buying!

What to do about woodlice – not much one can do; they like to congregate under stones, in heaps, in the dark and damp – possibly the help in digesting and composting organic matter.

Asparagus – mulch, weed and remove asparagus beetles that may be over-wintering around the cut spears – easy to identify with bright red/black bodies and best disposed of on the spot – squishing!

Topical tips:

Liz: Make friends with your neighbours! Mutually beneficial – watering, advice and sharing info!

Ruth: (borrowed from Carol Irvine) – remember to take time to enjoy your plot – it’s meant to be fun as well as hard work

Len: Thank the Lord for all the rustic peace, quiet, fresh air and good companionship in an otherwise busy urban environment – all for 12 or 24 quid a year!

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