Storrington Allotment Growers Association

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Thursday, 14 March 2013 08:46

Welcome to the SAGA Blog

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Welcome to the new SAGA Blog. If you are a plot holder or local allotment owner contact us here and we will create a login so that you can contribute.

Friday, 25 October 2013 17:03

Something new . . . an update

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I promised I would update you on how my experiments this year went. Well, good news and bad. The raised beds have been great, although I did have to rebuild the first one – my fault for using brass screws instead of stainless steel outdoor ones! You’ve probably noticed that the paths between the beds are still covered just with black weed matting but I intend to cover the matting with woodchips.

For my potatoes I tried growing in black polythene potato sacks, which was a great success. When I first filled them the holes looked far too small for the roots to even find, let alone grow through. But somehow they managed. The potatoes came out clean and undamaged by pests and harvesting. They were a real success and I will use them again next year. The bags are quite strong and are supposed to last for at least 5 years.

Unfortunately the potatoes themselves were a mixed success. Of all the years to try blight resistant varieties, I had to choose the one year where no potato blight was reported anywhere in the country!! So I can’t report on their resistance, but I can say that the Sarpo Kilfi (which I grew as a late early) was a great success. They are torpedo shaped with a waxy white skin, have a good flavour and are good for baking and roasting. But they do break up a little when boiling. From one seed potato per bag they produced a yield of 800g each, so 8kg from 10 plants. Definitely one I will try again.

I can’t say the same about the Sarpo Mira maincrop ones. They may not have suffered blight, but many had surface scab (which the Kilfi didn’t), and much worse about half of them had what appears to be Potato Leaf Roll Virus (PLRV). Although I bought certified seed potatoes, PLRV only comes only from infected tubers, so I definitely won’t be trying these again, or buying from the same supplier. Fortunately PLRV doesn’t infect the soil, although my rotation plan means I won’t be growing potatoes in that bed for another 4 years. The flavour is not bad but, by the time you’ve cut out the brown bits, half the potato has gone. Also you dare not bake them as the virus is often only visible when you slice them open. The potatoes were quite large, some of them enormous, and the yield was pretty good at 1kg per plant, 8kg in total as 2 tubers failed to grow.

For next year I am considering growing Kilfi again, but alongside either Charlotte or Lady Christl. I know a number of you regularly grow these so any advice on how they do in our soil would be most welcome. In fact it would be nice to hear what type of plants or varieties you like to grow so if you feel like sharing your thoughts then get in touch with Charles and he can provide you with a password to be able to post on the SAGA website.

Monday, 25 March 2013 16:47

Trying something new . . .

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Charles has kindly allowed me to post on our website, so let me first introduce myself. My name is Dennis Chapman and I am one of the newer members, having taken over plot 1 (in the southern corner, opposite Kay) in April last year. I didn’t manage to grow a great deal last season as most of the time seemed to be taken up with getting rid of the resident bracken and nettles. Although new to our site, I am a very experienced allotmenteer having had allotments in the past in various parts of the country. I was introduced to growing fruit and vegetables by my Dad, a very keen gardener, and have been growing them for the last 45 years.

If you’ve had a look down in the corner you will have noticed the recent appearance of a lot of raised beds. I have experimented with them in the past but have decided that, because our soil is so sandy, it lends itself to raised bed growing, allowing soil enrichment to be concentrated into smaller areas rather than widespread over the plot. It also allows me to keep easier records of what I grew and where for crop rotation. The memory is not what it used to be!

As well as the raised beds I am going to try a couple of new ideas this year (well, new to me at least). A number of members I have spoken to have warned me about the area’s susceptibility to potato blight and to avoid maincrop potatoes as the blight is more prevalent in plants that mature in the autumn. I have decided that my potato varieties this year will be two of the new Sarpo potatoes, Kilfi and Mira. These were originally organically bred in Hungary to have extremely high blight resistance and are now produced in Wales. They have had quite a lot of publicity in magazines this year but, being a very new introduction, are not widely grown as yet. Kilfi is an early maincrop, but I will grow them as a late early. Mira is a maincrop and I will let them grow to maturity. Obviously I will need to keep a close eye on any signs of blight but, if they live up to all the hype, I won’t find any.

The other new idea is something I picked up from a superb talk at West Chiltington Horticultural Soc. given by Barry Newman, the National Chairman of the National Vegetable Society. The NVS recommends growing potatoes in 25 litre polythene potato sacks rather than in open soil. The bags come with holes in the bottom to allow both drainage and for the roots to grow down into the soil beneath the bag. You water and feed into the soil round the bag, not in the bag, as the tubers are fed by the roots not from water in the bag. The advantages are that you can grow more in a confined space, the crop comes out completely clean and undamaged by soil pests, no slicing or stabbing of the crop as you dig them out, and when you empty the sack you get all the little buggers and nothing gets left behind to give you an unexpected crop just where you didn’t want one next year. I will keep you posted on how these trials work.

One thing I definitely won’t be repeating this year is grafted tomatoes. I tried them last year and managed just 6 tomatoes from 5 plants. The previous year Monty Don had trialled them on Gardeners World and said they were a waste of money, but I had already ordered mine before he gave his verdict. All I can say is – he was right. This year I will be sticking to the tried and tested older varieties that I know do well outdoors.

I am always impressed by the immaculate state of most of our allotments, so I hope many of you will consider entering your plot in the allotment category of Storrington in Bloom this year. I certainly intend to. Entry forms are now available from The Village Florist, The Card Centre and the Parish Office, Sullington.