Mary Lowther: Water, carrot flies and beats

Most of my vegetables welcome the recent rains, but I’m hoping the raised bed my garlic inhabits allows

Most of my vegetables welcome the recent rains, but I’m hoping the raised bed my garlic inhabits allows much of this rain to drain off since too much water encourages rot. Garlic’s deep root growth in winter allows it to flourish until harvest in late July without irrigation. My garlic averages two inches in diameter, few of them rot and they hold up well in storage.

Potatoes growing in the box that David built are about a foot taller than the bed without it, so I’m wondering if they might keep producing longer too. It’s good to keep up with foliar spraying compost tea since the enzymes and beneficial microbes continue to protect against diseases. I had planned on harvesting all the potatoes this month but they are doing so well that I’m just going to leave them and see what happens.

When harvesting cabbage, if you cut just the head off without disturbing the large lower leaves, several more cabbages will probably grow around the centre stalk. Scratch in a quarter cup of organic fertilizer around the perimeter of each plant to encourage new growth. Keep cutting the smaller side shoots of broccoli, side dress the plants with more fertilizer and they should keep producing till late summer. Broccoli leaves contain more beta-carotene than florets and their mild flavour compliments the salad bowl so pick some of these too.

Carrot flies lay eggs that hatch into larvae that eat holes in carrots, but, as Vern Mitchell says, “they’re lazy and won’t fly higher than two-and-a-half feet.” I erect a 2.5-foot-wide plastic sheet around the perimeter of my carrot bed that keeps out this pest and acts as a wind barrier, slowing down evaporation. Alternatively, one could wait out the flies and sow in early June because they are often gone by the end of May.

Spring turnips, rutabagas and beets will be out next week so I’ll sow more for fall and winter storage. Beet seeds usually produce more than one seedling and I’ve learned that these can be successfully transplanted if dug up gently and placed four inches apart. Only half of the spring-sown parsnips came up so I’ll sow carrots there now.

It’s a good idea to record these harvesting dates and temperatures for reference this winter when planning next year’s garden. We can roughly estimate when to plant a succeeding crop and determine what kind of follow-up crop this should be, depending on the length of time left before a killing frost.