Allotment mulches

The strawberries are being munched by both slugs and woodlice. One of our allotment neighbours told us that if we had woodchip paths we would get woodlice – annoyingly he seems to be right. There are lots and lots of strawberries: if it wasn’t for the rain we’d be having a bumper crop, but even though they are mulched with straw they are getting beaten into the ground by the volume of the rain. Without the straw mulch though, they would be resting on mud at best, or in a rivulet of muddy rainwater at worst.

Woodlice are pernicious – the only thing that enjoys them as a snack is slow worms, as far as I can establish, and we have loads of slowworms, but perhaps our hordes of woodlice are too much for them. They are certainly too much for me.

We’ve also mulched the sweetcorn, currently with newspaper and stones with bottle waterers in between them so that once this rain stops we can water them well below the soil surface. This prevents the roots coming up to seek for water which weakens the plant, and stops weed seeds germinating through surface watering so that they don’t get to compete with the sweetcorn for space and nutrients. When they are about 30cm tall we’ll mulch them too with straw which changes the albedo of the soil surface and reflects light back up into the plant – once the corn has set, this encourages the cobs to fill apparently. We’ve had a high degree of success with this in recent years: at least two cobs per plant and sometimes three, so we will continue with it.

Squashes, pumpkins and other cucurbits get mulched with large sheets of cardboard. We cut a hole in the centre and grow the plant through it. This keeps the soil around the plant moist and friable, but stops the plant resting on the soil. Most plants in this family are prone to powdery mildew and one of the ways that this is transmitted asexual spores called conidia which appear to be airborne, but which also need damp to multiply, so we think (no research available on which to base our thinking, so it’s just an opinion) that the cardboard helps to hold the conidia down.

We’re also going to mulch the borlotti beans, but we can’t do that until the rain at least abates because there is no point applying a mulch over ground that’s really sodden as it might even prevent the rain evaporating away from the surface, trapping stagnant water against the plants in a very unhealthy fashion

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Thursday, June 14, 2012


Blogger Hazel H said...

I just stumbled on your blog while looking for information on growing sweet peas. I am curious about where your allotment is, and really, what it is. Is it a kind of community garden?

June 15, 2012 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Hazel H an allotment is not a community garden although an allotment site is very like one. On most allotment sites people are allocated a space in which to grow fruit and vegetables alongside lots of other growers, but it's not usually a community space - people don't grow stuff in a group and divide the harvest, they grow their own food.

We're in Sussex, England and Plot #103 is both an allotment and a teaching plot where OH and I try to share what we've learned with other allotment-holders.

June 19, 2012 at 5:37 AM  

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