Having raved about the ‘birth’ of our lovely potatoes last week I now have to write about the other side of the story. I have not had a year when we avoided late blight of potato and this year is no exception. We have begun to see the first symtoms of Phytophthora infestans in isolated areas of our main crop varieties and we can expect it to worsen. It’s called late blight because it usually comes late in the crop as the leaf canopy closes over increasing the humidity in the crop. Despite the problems it causes I always find it interesting to see the fungus sporulating in the cool of a summer morning. I choose potato varieties, which can produce a crop before the disease kills the foliage, so it’s more about getting that balance right. The race is on and more often than not we get a saleable crop. We are allowed to use copper containing compounds such as Bordeaux mixture, if the need can be justified. This has the effect of slowing down the epidemic but so far I have never found it necessary.
Our attempts to soften the capped soil in the parsnips last week using irrigation had mixed results. I think more seedlings have emerged but we have been left with half a crop, which leads to questions about whether it is viable to put in the time to manage the crop to maturity. I always find it difficult to abandon a crop so will probably fight to the bitter end. We must have some parsnips for Christmas!
We planted the remaining 60,000 leeks last week in quite difficult soil conditions and in blazing sunshine. Leeks being leeks, they like a drop of rain so it’s good that, as usual, Glastonbury and Wimbledon have combined to bring promise of some. It seems that you can rely on Rain at the end of June.