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Coping With The Drought.

Lots of vegetables had started to go to seed towards the end of July because they were simply too dry, but some of the deeper rooted like things like Beetroot were coping a bit better and then suddenly we had plenty of rain at the end of the month, almost too much for some parts of the country with flooding occurring. However, after a brief respite, the forecast going into August was for more dry and hot weather, so I took the opportunity to put lots of mulch on the ground around my plants to help retain what moisture there was and prevent further problems if the hot weather did remerge. Mulching round fruit bushes especially, is a good idea at any time, as many people donít think to feed them. It is particularly useful round Gooseberry bushes anyway, because as they are shallow rooted, weeding is never recommended and a good, thick, mulch will help to suppress the weeds.
I had plenty of fresh compost available on my Allotment, because I had shredded the Conifers that I had removed from my garden at home and mixed them with weeds in my Compost bin on my Allotment. I had intended to use the resulting compost later in the Autumn as a winter mulch, but I had so much of it I decided to use some it now to help retain the moisture and stave off some of the effects of more, persistent, dry, conditions.
Shredded Conifers take a long time to rot properly, but once the process has been started they can safely be used as a mulch. They will make the soil more acidic, which is especially good for things like Azalea, Camellias and Rhododendrons, but perhaps more importantly they will retain a lot of moisture and help to put a lot more humus in the soil. The mix will break down further as it gets taken deeper into the soil over next winter by worms. Just a little word of warning though - if un-rotted, woody, material, is dug into the soil rather, than being left on top, as it rots down it will draw Nitrogen out of the soil depleting it of its goodness. So, when using woody material as a mulch, especially stuff like Woodchips, it should only be spread on the surface and not dug in unless you feed the soil at the same time to compensate.

Elsewhere on my plot I planted some Courgettes and Squash that went in a bit late at the beginning of July, but they have grown quickly in the hot weather. The Squash in particular are doing well with lots of fruits forming nicely and I have picked a few Courgettes as well. I was going to put in some Tomatoes as usual, but have decided not to bother this year. Normally, the plants grow well enough, but the fruit struggles to ripen and I end up with a lot of green fruit. In the past I have always given this to my mate who makes a lot of Green Tomato Chutney, however, this year he has his own plot and has grown his own Tomatoes, so there is no need for me to give him mine.

At the same time of planting the Squashes and Courgettes I planted a Yacon that had been started off earlier in the season in a large pot. Last Winter I only managed to keep one shoot going through the cold and into the Spring, but I hope to multiply the number up for next year. 

The tops went down on my Potatoes a week or two ago, but I havenít started digging them out yet. As the first rows do come out I will clean up the soil, add some Organic, pelleted, Chicken Manure and plant my Leeks. It may seem very late to be planting them, but they can safely be held back in pots, growing slowly and then planted out much later than other things, because they will continue growing right through the Winter on the warmer days to give a harvest well into the new year.

One thing that hasnít minded the exceptionally hot and dry Summer that we have had, is my Grape Vines and recently I have done massive amounts of summer pruning to them. The few Commercial Grape growers in this Country are predicting record harvests, so we will see what my little vines do. The Bay Trees, Gooseberry Bushes, Fruit Bushes and Fruit Trees in general are all getting a Summer pruning as I get round to each of them before the Autumn comes. Pruning now will reveal the fruit and let the sun get to it to ripen it. One thing you shouldnít really prune now though, is Figs as they will bleed badly and can suffer from Die Back. The right time to prune them is at the end February, but if you really need to prune them now be careful not to get the Latex like, white, Sap on to your clothes as it drips everywhere and is difficult to remove. 

 

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