cabbage white butterfly

Six Common Allotment Crop Disasters and How You Can Prevent Them

In my previous two posts, I’ve talked about plot crop disasters, and how we should both celebrate them and accept them as part of allotment life.

Which is of course, easy for me to say. So I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and talk about my biggest crop losses.

Here are six crops I’ve lost over the years, and the steps I’ve taken to limit the chances of it happening again.

Brassica Massacre
This was probably my biggest crop disaster ever. It was also the most recent, which just goes to show that even when you think you’re a reasonably capable veg grower, things still go wrong.

My brassicas were absolutely devastated by Cabbage White butterflies, who laid their eggs all over my plants. The resulting caterpillars had a field day, fattening themselves up on my precious kale, sprouts, PSB, and cavolo nero.

This year, I shall be putting netting over the plants much, much earlier! I’m talking as soon as the plants hit the ground early….

Leek Rust
One of the most disheartening disasters I suffered was losing my leeks to leek rust. This is a fungal disease that causes yellowy streaks and spots. Mild cases don’t do much and can be prevented by pulling infected bits off but 2011’s serious infections stunted growth and eventually took out the whole crop.

I don’t plant leeks as close together anymore, as any warm and humid conditions can encourage leek rust to spread. Planting further apart gets the air flowing better and prevents any case of rust from deepening.

Varieties with good rust resistance, such as Apollo and Neptune, are also worth considering.

Carrot Fly
Carrot flies are horrible little blighters that feed on the roots of carrots. If you’ve ever pulled a carrot that looks rotted and has small tunnels burrowed through it, that’s carrot fly.

After losing two rows of carrots to this pest, I did some research on the web and found out that carrot fly can’t go any higher than about 40cm or so. I started growing carrots in containers, propped up on breeze blocks and to date, I’ve had no further problems with carrot fly.

Stumpy Parsnips
Stumpy, deformed parsnips are caused by stones, which the ‘snip can’t grow through. The root either stops going down or splits around the stone. It took me a while to put two and two together, but recently I’ve given up on my allotment’s stony soil, and now grow parsnips in containers.

Using my own soil means I can go stone-free, resulting in nice, long roots.

Broad Bean Black Fly Infestation
I lost the majority of a broadie crop the year before last as black fly took hold really early in the season.

There are a number of tips to delay the infestation, such as snipping off the tips of broad beans as soon as you spot any blackfly and spraying off the pest with hot, soapy water.

These days, I do daily checks of the broad beans to try and spot blackflies as soon as possible.

White Fly Infestation
Whitefly is another fly that sucks on the sap of plants. They too have taken a chunk out of my brassica crop, until I learnt a neat companion planting trick.

It’s not entirely foolproof, but I’ve found planting marigolds in and around the plants has greatly reduced the amount of whitefly on the plot.

Apparently, they don’t like the smell, so the more pungent the marigold the better. Try African marigolds for maximum smelliness.

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