The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Vegetable harvest from poor soil

Photo: Summer vegetables

Photo: Summer vegetables

We have several squash plants growing in the garden. I spotted this squash about two weeks ago. The seed packet advised harvesting them quickly to encourage more squash to appear. It is barely an inch across and has hardly grown. When I examined it this evening it fell into my hand.

Similarly the calabrese (all year round ‘broccoli’ in the UK supermarkets). Just like sprouting broccoli the head is harvested first to encourage the side shoots to appear. This evening I snapped it off, not wanting it to go to seed.

“We have a baby squash and a tiny head of broccoli for tonight.”
Danny examined them carefully.
“These are the size of vegetables that a toy would eat.”

It doesn’t matter. They are baby veg. We’d pay a premium for these at the supermarket.

Danny dug up some of John’s spuds this evening. The skins were not set. But there were two worrying things. There were little white spores on the spuds and some of them had a bit of scab.

I unearthed the pests and diseases book and discovered that scab is a sign of poor soil. There was no mention of the white spores.

We didn’t know that we had poor soil in our kitchen garden until we extended the garden and unearthed the old borders that had been tilled for years by the basket weavers who lived in the cottage. Anything grown in this ground flourishes compared to similar planted in our old kitchen garden. We do dig in loads of composted kitchen waste, composted grass clippings and this year in the areas where we dug in chicken pellets the results have been good.

If we hadn’t branched out and dug new beds this spring, we would have been delighted with our harvest. Now we are wondering how we can improve our old beds ASAP.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi S.O.L.,

    Welcome back. Hope that your hols were great.

    The squash are patty pan. Doing very well but the squash are teeny!

    Thanks for the cooking tip 🙂

  2. hey there, just back from holiday. Is that squash a patti pan, or is that a patty pan?

    chopped in 1/4’s and fried gently with garlic they are delicious.

  3. kate (uk)

    Seaweed feed is really good, I’d agree about horse manure and the water retention- my compost bag potatoes were a bit scabby last year and it certainly wasn’t from lack of good food in the soil, they were given only the best home made compost and manure- it was the watering the let them down. The white spores could just be friendly mould that is breaking down the compost in your soil.Soil is full of moulds and spores.Speaking of which, mychrorysil ( that spelling is wrong…but you will konow it when you see it in the garden centre) fungus added to newly made beds makes everything flourish, worth adding to your new and old soil to get it working and digesting all the good stuff you are putting into it, there was a huge difference between the growth in the beds I dug it into when I made them and those I didn’t, despite all of them having plenty of manure,mulch etc.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hello Kate (uk)

      Thanks so much for this advice. I’ve tracked down your good fungus on the internet (Rootgrow – Mycorrhizal fungi) and it sounds marvellous. I’ll try the seaweed too. As always your advice is much appreciated 🙂

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Allotment Blogger

    Ah yes the magic of tea leaves! The rose and clematis outside the back door are triving on the slops from the tea pot. Perhaps they’ve had enough now and I’ll start hoarding the leaves for the garden.

    Yes, compost is the answer, I think. We used up most of our store on the new beds this spring.

    Hello Catrin M

    Sheep poo. The estate where I worked for month this year periodically have sheep in their paddocks. Great idea.

    Hi Linda

    Thanks for your advice. I will see if I can buy kelp in the UK. I reckon that you are right it will take time to improve and overhaul the soil.

    BTW I’m really enjoying your blog!

    Hello Jopan

    That’s interesting. Both Danny’s and John’s spuds were watered with a drip feed water butt system. D’s thrived and I reckon that you’ve got it spot on – the poorer soil couldn’t hold the water.

    Hi Mary

    Living in an area filled with studs, I must be able to get my hands on some well rotted manure easily. I must make enquiries.

  5. Yes, we have horses and liberally manure the veggie plot. Everything grows – usually in a greater profusion than we can eat. We give a lot away!

  6. i read in the books that scab is caused by the spuds getting too little water, i suppose good soil would keep the moisture in the soil. My spuds always get scab but i never water them. i actually find tatos without scab strange its been that long since i’ve had um 🙂

  7. I am not sure you can do it ASAP as most of the reading I have done states that it takes awhile for good soil to build up. I have been using kelp with the addition of molasses to help boost plant production. You buy the liquid kelp in a store and follow the mixing directions. To each gallon, you add 1 oz of molasses. It works very well, especially on my summer squash which is a heavy feeder.
    I bought some Amish produced vegetables a short while ago and was amazed at both size and quality. It turns out their secret is simply horse manure.

  8. Catrin M

    We have very good results using sheep manure, which usually puzzles farmers when you ask for it but they are more than happy to give it away.

    Have been reading & enjoying your writing for a long time – keep it up!

  9. Allotment blogger

    Yup, we’ve had the same with some of the spuds that we’ve planted in the bit of allotment that was really rough scrub last year.

    Apparently just to keep turning the soil with a fork after you harvest is a good way to aerate it which can release nutrients trapped in clagged (sussex for poorly draining) soil. And then compost, compost and more compost! We’re also taking our used tealeaves up in a bucket and chucking them on that area

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