Storrington Allotment Growers Association

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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.

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