We have had some really healthy produce this year on the allotment with very little in the way of pests and diseases. Some of that is down to nature itself such as weather conditions but I do feel that a lot is down to the condition of the soil. As a nutritional therapist I’ve always felt that growing vegetables is a little like growing people – the more goodness that you can put in, the healthier the plants or people will be.
Where possible we try not to dig the soil as this disturbs the beneficial soil bacteria which help plants uptake nutrients. We also try to feed the soil well with manure, compost, blood fish and bone and seaweed. This enables them to obtain all the nutrients they need to grow well. It’s a bit like poorly people who pick up every bug going, poorly plants are also susceptible to bugs and diseases.
There have been a few caterpillars on the broccoli plants but that’s par for the course as the butterflies will always find a way to lay their eggs even though we covered the crop with netting. So far we have managed to remove these before too much damage has been done. The kale we planted out for winter wasn’t faring quite as well so we decided to leave it to act as a decoy to save the brocolli plants. We have found that it’s better to plant kale seeds late in the year after the butterflies have finished laying and then over winter them protected by glass. They start growing again in spring and this year we have had a very good crop.
Interestingly lots of research is taking place at the moment about growing healthy crops. One I read about, said that crops resisted pests better when a variety of plants were grown, rather than massive fields or areas of just one crop. It’s basically how farming used to be and of course the way one grows on an allotment.
Another research study was looking at soil bacteria and came to the conclusion that the bacteria were necessary to produce healthy plants. This information has been around for a long time in organic growing circles but hopefully it will eventually become mainstream. Organic growers have always been interested in the health of the person eating the plants whereas big industry is interested in producing healthy plants to save money on pesticide sprays and fertilizers. It doesn’t really matter so long as the end result is a more natural way of growing.