Tuesday 3 August 2021

Heatwave, Water and some Observations - Week 9 - ESC - The Polyculture Project


The heatwave in southeastern Europe continues, and this week our priority has been to ensure that we can bring the water into the gardens and keep the plants alive as temperatures exceed 36 degrees daily. The channels that bring the water into Ataraxia  a developing garden on the east side of the village, needed to be completely re-dug in places, but the ESC volunteers did a beautiful job and managed to get the water into the ponds and irrigate the young trees.

In the home garden we designed the layout of our annual vegetable beds to use gravity to flood irrigate the plants,  positioning access and earthworks to distribute water across the site and slowly sink into the soils. We've found using raised beds laid out on contour with sunken pathways between is very effective, because the pathways double up as irrigation channels, and not only does the water sink into the soils but capillary action also draws water up into the raised beds.

The water running alongside a Tomato plant, encouraging the root system to develop deeply

The nursery plants need a lot of watering in these temps, as well as some other maintenance jobs such as repotting plants that need more space.

Although a plant may look very healthy in the container, it's really important to check the roots when you visit a nursery and avoid buying any plant with very dense roots circling the pot. A potted plant with circling roots will struggle to grow well when planted in the ground and will be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Trees grown in pots with circling roots will never outgrow this problem and it will often result in an early death for the plant.

I noticed this week that some of the later Kale plants we sowed have been attacked by the flea beetle - Psylliodes chrysocephala, causing the plants to develop white spots and quickly turn brown, dry and wilted. I tried using a spray with nettle tea but it didn't seem to deter them. Probably it's best to sow the Kale earlier or later and not midseason as we did.

The powdery mildew that  I wrote about in an earlier blog post that affected the majority of Hazel- Corylus avellana plants in the home garden has definitely worsened, although it's encouraging to see that the emerging new growth seems healthy. 

New growth seems unaffected

The tomatoes in Zeno are looking good, although we have only eaten a few as the majority are still very green. I'm slightly concerned that the hot temperatures are adversely affecting some of the plants and may result in some of the plants dying before the fruit turns red, a first experience here for us. Many other local fruit growers are finding the same, probably due to the weather patterns this year that also resulted in the Linden - Tilia spp. flowering a whole month later than usual.

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We're ending on a bright and colourful note this week with the welcome gifts for thirsty food growers from the forest garden this week. My favourites were the yellow wild plums, juicy and sweet with a pleasant velvety texture :)

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