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Wednesday, 15 July 2015


My allotment ia at last fertile; as productive as I'd hoped. There lies this year's problem. Glut.
Lots of broad beans (photo: Winnie Hall)
I have been concentrated on getting things to grow; delighted at the plot's fecundity; taking home onions, potatoes, peas, broad beans, garlic. I have to ensure this fertility continues but that it's planned to avoid well as shortage. 
Says the Royal Horticultural Society: Gluts and shortages are common to most vegetable gardeners. However, with some planning and by sowing seed little and often in batches, it is possible to ensure plants are ready to harvest in succession throughout the growing season.
Little and often. We've just picked a good thirty kilos of broad beans all maturing in the last few days. Our deep freezer was already full; not organised for gluts. And anyway it's freshness we value; food picked and on the plate the same evening. I've given bags of broad beans to neighbours and family but there's still loads too much to eat in the next week. At least I can leave potatoes in the ground, to dig up when needed. I can pull dry and store onions and garlic.
All the same I feel muddled. It's the plot's next chapter.
I've been sowing more runner beans, and trying the first time with beetroots and parsnips - but still not 'little and often'. I spent a couple of hours rejigging the freshest compost bay, full of recently harvested leaves, stalks and pods. I raked out about two thirds of it. I spread a two inch layer of soil on what was left riddled from the heap of earth full of weed, twigs, stones and rubbish removed from the plot half a year ago. On this I sprinkled a whole kilo bag of organic compost activator given me by Winnie's dad the other day. Then I put back a foot height of greenery and repeated the process of riddling an earth layer on which I spread Garotta. I added the remaining greenery and covered that too with black earth sprinkled with the last of the Garotta. This afternoon I reached into one of the vent's I'd driven into the pile and found it pleasingly hot. Now to get the other heaps working.
Two of my compost bays. One working at last.

Winnie added to the glut pulling potatoes from a bed where they are still coming up slightly scabby and in some cases showing signs of attack by wireworm and slugs.
"That bed is entirely too busy"
"It's a mess" said Winnie
The potatoes are too compressed, along with onions planted in their midst and the soil is probably too rich - a complete turn-up for the books.
"Yes at the start of last year I dug in manure up this end and then 6 months later I was adding compost. We'll not put more potatoes in there for a bit. Perhaps level it off and use it for turnips?"
Dennis has been helping Winnie who's been away for a week on rare sick leave.

Digging up the broad beans, I saw something I'd only read about and seen in black and white illustration in Gardener's Earth...Quite fascinating! I wouldn't have had the slightest notion, even had I noticed them, of the significance of the small white nodules on the roots.

Now I know these are mycorrhizal fungi (μυκός/mikos=fungus, ρίζα/riza=roots) - beneficial fungi growing in association with plant roots. The fungi have formed on the broad bean roots and have been taking sugars from them ‘in exchange’ for moisture and nutrients gathered from the soil via fungal strands. If the soil is too hard or dry the association between plant and fungus cannot occur. As it is these mycorrhizas greatly increase the absorptive area of a plant. They are extensions to its root system.
  • Marilou Scott The white nodules are caused by nitrifying bacteria not fungi. These bacteria fix nitrogen gas from the air and nitrogen products are stored in the white nodules on the roots of legumes eg peas and beans. This is an important part of the nitrogen cycle...See More
    18 hrs · Unlike · 2
  • Simon Baddeley Thanks Marilou. I know I ought to get out more but explain which things in my image are bacteria - which I thought were invisibly small - and which bits are fungi which I thought were visible. What exactly do you call the white nodules caused by the bacteria you mention? Thanks so much for the other advice BTW
    16 hrs · Like
  • Marilou Scott Simon the white nodules on those roots contain the nitrogen fixing bacteria and the store of nitrates. You cannot see the bacteria inside as you say.
    I can't actually see any mycelium of the fungi in your pic. They may be there but not visible or dried
    ...See More
    16 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley Ah-ha. Got it. Pulling them out was bound to destroy the delicate mycelium web....I learn more every day. Wow!
    14 hrs · Edited · Like · 1
  • Simon Baddeley ...this is what I read, and now I understand more exactly with your help what I'm seeing (and not seeing). The diagram here shows the broad bean roots and the nodules but not the fungi filaments -mycelium - in the image I got from the web (see above)
    14 hrs · Edited · Like · 1
  • Jude Ongeri If you cut a nodule in half it should go red like blood because of the iron in the chemical the bacteria uses to fix the nitrogen.
    2 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Marilou Scott That is interesting Jude. I've just looked it up and it acts like our haemoglobin and makes oxygen available for the respiration of the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the nodule without inhibiting their nitrogen fixing enzymes.
    1 hr · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley I'm going to get a microscope to help me understand and see more of what's going on in the soil of my plot. I was so grateful to the friend on FB who got me started on this by referring me to a book written in 1944 under war time economy conditions called Gardener's Earth by Stanley Whitehead. I usually read police procedurals but I found I couldn't put this book down! It is written clearly but it does not attempt to simplify the incredible complexity of the earth in which we grow our vegetables

  • Simon Baddeley So beautiful Leghemoglobin...
    1 hr · Like · 1
Working with Winnie and her son Dennis on Plot 14, Victoria Jubilee

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