Protecting your crops

Protecting your vegetable crops.

 

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Protecting Your Vegetable Crops.
                  The main enemies of vegetables are winter frosts, cold spring temperatures and summer drought. Over the centuries, gardeners have learned to deal with these threats by protecting the soil and their cops from inclement weather.

Mulching Potatoes

A traditional  mulch:  In the past, gardeners  used a mulch consisting of partially  rotted manure. It is easy to break down and ideal for covering - or mulching  - the soil. A thin layer of mulch  spread  over a seedbed  promotes  germination  by helping the soil to retain  its moisture.  A relatively  thick layer enables recently planted  cabbages, leeks,  celery, courgettes  and strawberries to get established.
Top tips for effective mulches: Anything that covers  the soil and protects it from light and heat can be used as a mulch. There are lots of materials that make ideal mulches and are absolutely free.  They all reduce  the evaporation  of moisture and keep the weeds down.
Grass  cuttings: These can be spread  on the ground  once they have dried  out. Always  spread  thinly  even if it means renewing regularly  - you should still be able  to see the soil. If the layer is too thick, the grass mulch  tends  to form compact lumps that will eventually  go mouldy and attract slugs.
Flat stones: These make a great mulch while allowing gardeners  to walk  on them freely.  They can be used to cover the soil between  rows  of crops, and around  trailing  vegetables such as marrows,  which are extremely prone to rotting  on cool, damp soil.
Paper  and cardboard:  Newspaper, folded  in half or in quarters, and corrugated  cardboard,  with sticky tape and staples removed, make a practical  mulch  for widely spaced vegetables.  Cover with a scattering of dried grass for a more pleasing aesthetic  effect.
Spent hops:  Available  from local  breweries, these  make a practical,  attractive  and natural  mulch.
Forest bark:  Bark is a popular mulch in the ornamental garden, but is not really suitable for a vegetable  garden, except for pathways  and strawberry  beds, as strawberries  like its acidity and the drainage it provides. If you do use bark as a mulch,  don't dig it in afterwards  as you'll create an imbalance in the soil
structure.  Add fertiliser to the soil when you dig it over for another crop and it will improve  the structure.
Retaining moisture: Mulching helps  to prevent the moisture  in the soil from evaporating.  The best time to mulch is in spring, when the soil is warm but still moist, and any time after it rains. However, don't mulch when the soil is dry, as this will prevent the rain getting through and just keep the ground  dry.
 
 
mulching helps to retain moisture
 
Getting a head start.
Covering potatoes with fleece
         You can bring on young plants and seedlings by using a piece of horticultural fleece. You can also use it to warm the soil before sowing. The sheeting creates a snug environment on the surface of the soil by acting as a windbreak, but it allows air and water through. At the beginning of the season,from February to May, it enables you to bring on young vegetable plant two or three weeks early. Spread the sheeting on the ground immediately after sowing or planting, leaving some slack so that the plants can lift it as they grow. Weigh down the edges with bricks, pieces of wood or small bags filled with sand or soil. Peas, green beans, potatoes, various salad greens and turnips are ideally suited to this method.

 
Seed Potatoes.
Seed Potatoes
Potatoes are purchased as seed potatoes, which are placed in trays in a frost free, light position and left to 'chit', or sprout - this generally takes about six weeks. They can be planted out once the sprouts are about  2cm  long. Once the stems reach 20-23cm high the plants are ready to be earthed up. This is done to prevent any light getting  to the tubers, which would then turn green  and poisonous.

  


 
 
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