Soggy spuds, rotten citrus and slushy aloes
The weather’s been mild this week and I’ve been able to do jobs left from last year. Mostly pruning. The old boys always reckoned earlier was better than later and for years I’ve been done by new year. This time I’m late with many trees and shrubs waiting, though at least the grapes are finished- these are most important as if I don’t keep them hard pruned they take over.
I’ve also been clearing up damage under cover caused by the severe cold. My low powered heating system worked for those important plants such as pineapples hiding under two layers of clear plastic doubled up with two layers of bubble wrap. But plants under two layers without heat have suffered with large old aloe veras turning slushy and even those under cover have died which shows just how cold it was.
Moisture damage on one of my lemons
Oddly enough my citrus trees mostly avoided too much harm from direct freezing but instead have ghastly damage from condensation. The cold caused frozen leaves on other plants which with the thaw wilted giving off their moisture; this has been condensing on the inside of the roof and dripped onto the packed rows of citrus unnoticed. The predictable result has been an explosion of grey mould covering citrus fruits, flowers and leaves and threatening their shoots too. Ooops, should have spotted that coming, I’m now ventilating every drying day to recover control. But I’ve lost nearly all the fruit which are moulding in spots if not wholesale.
Most strangely satsumas have not suffered as badly as lemons or oranges and grapefruit are almost unscathed. I’ve also been sorting through my stores - maybe half my onions are rotting, cabbages also, while apples stored in a dead freezer in a shed although frozen near solid have surprisingly apparently not taken much harm.
My carrots are fine but the spuds are in a bad state - also housed in another dead freezer -about two thirds have gone soft. A touch of frost and potatoes go sweet, much more chill and they go soft, liquefy and stink so it’s important to evict them as soon as noticeable.
One of my soggy spuds
Although losing my stored crop is annoying losing my seed crop is far worse. I save my own potato sets, and select especially big ones as these give better results by far. Ironically it turns out big spuds are more adversely damaged by cold than small ones. (Probably having got bigger because of more water availability and thus getting damaged the more as they were moister). Now I do have some sets left to plant but only smaller ones- no bigger than bought sets. Though of course their eyes may have been killed even if the tubers have not softened. I will have to wait to find out. Not for long though as I’ve got my first buckets of Dunluce and Rocket already planted up and stood in the warm.
Bob Flowerdew is an organic gardener and panellist on BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time.