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Furryfreek 2022 (2nd Grow)

Knucklehead

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If the growth tips look good then it's not as bad as it seems. Many of those bottom leaves would end up what I call mud lugs and I usually don't save them anyway as they are thin and weak, have very little flavor, and usually end up torn, tattered, and trampled by the end of the season. Some call them trash leaves, dirt leaves, flyers, etc. Let's call them sacrificial lambs and keep our fingers crossed. Later, you can claim it was all part of a genius plan and you masterminded the whole thing. ;)
 
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tullius

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They look fine to me, but I don't know much. What's the piece of slate for in the background?

0612d-jpg.42228
 

furryfreek

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Oh, that's not slate (that'd be -kin' heavy); it's just an old bit of chipboard or something I placed there "temporarily" to keep mud off the fence back when I was preparing the bed. I keep meaning to do a proper job and put a strip of plastic lawn edging down like we have along the rest of the fence (see pics left of the path) but I've yet to get 'round to it.

In other news, slugs have finally set eyes (tentacles?) on my baccy patch and drawn battle lines along the northern front. I picked off two fat bastards last night, about the size of my thumb, and several smaller ones. Still, it's a miracle they've barely bothered my baccy 'til now; April and May were the worst last year. My veg patch, on the other hand, is basically an occupied state. They might as well plant flags and call it the Pulmonates' Democratic Republic or something.

No sign yet of the other, more destructive pest that troubled me last year, Mamestra Brassicae (cabbage moth) larvae. I do think I've had a few of the moths (or one very persistent one) fly in my face while out with a headtorch, though (May/June bugs are the worst; I jump out of my skin every time, lol). I was out hunting them dawn and dusk nearly every day last summer (they're much easier to spot while commuting between their dwellings underground and the leaves they feed on overnight). I'm not sure I can be arsed with that this year; baccy's not worth loosing that much sleep over. I bought some BT already a few months ago, though the only product I could find here in the UK (TOPBUXUS XenTari) is marketed very specifically for treating box tree caterpillars; no mention of other use cases or target species. They do say it's a strain of the Aizawai sub-species, which I since found listed as a natural enemy of M. Brassicae in the Invasive Species Compendium, so I'm much more confident it'll do the job now.
 

furryfreek

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Back when I was side-dressing sulphur a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the embankments of soil I made along my rows were giving rise to quite extreme temperature gradients. The south facing slope of each ridge was heating and drying out rapidly from the sun, whereas the other side remained reasonably cool and damp (far from soggy, though). As one might expect, root development seemed much better in the northerly direction, both in terms of extent and density.

I was thinking mulch might help but the earthworks would've made that a bit tricky. Then I had a brainwave and thought of using strips of light coloured fabric to shade some of the ground and reflect solar energy away without trapping moisture. So I rooted out some spare canvas (light-weight calico) and an old bed sheet that never gets used and put the plan into action.
0616a.jpg 0616b.jpg
Time will tell if/how the plants actually respond but, just going by how it feels now beneath the fabric, it seems to be working as expected, if not better. Looks kinda' cool too, though I doubt those sheets will stay such a brilliant white for very long.

Whether or not this has any bearing on the polyphylla/frenching I've observed, I'm not sure. They say it's commonly associated soil that's wet, poorly ventilated and rather warm. All three of those conditions are present here and there but rarely all together in one place, at least not for long periods, so I dunno'. That does maybe strike a chord with the cases of frenching associated with root intrusion, come to think of it. Either case presents the possibility of plants getting confused by mixed signals from different parts of the root system. Given that my plants are growing vigorously enough in all other respects, it may well be that they have plenty of decent soil available to support healthy growth but unfavorable regions, or just variations in general, are enough to upset them.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention that most of my Little Dutch have started budding now and the Basma look (and smell) like they're getting close.
 

Old Gasman

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Back when I was side-dressing sulphur a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the embankments of soil I made along my rows were giving rise to quite extreme temperature gradients. The south facing slope of each ridge was heating and drying out rapidly from the sun, whereas the other side remained reasonably cool and damp (far from soggy, though). As one might expect, root development seemed much better in the northerly direction, both in terms of extent and density.

I was thinking mulch might help but the earthworks would've made that a bit tricky. Then I had a brainwave and thought of using strips of light coloured fabric to shade some of the ground and reflect solar energy away without trapping moisture. So I rooted out some spare canvas (light-weight calico) and an old bed sheet that never gets used and put the plan into action.
View attachment 42280 View attachment 42281
Time will tell if/how the plants actually respond but, just going by how it feels now beneath the fabric, it seems to be working as expected, if not better. Looks kinda' cool too, though I doubt those sheets will stay such a brilliant white for very long.

Whether or not this has any bearing on the polyphylla/frenching I've observed, I'm not sure. They say it's commonly associated soil that's wet, poorly ventilated and rather warm. All three of those conditions are present here and there but rarely all together in one place, at least not for long periods, so I dunno'. That does maybe strike a chord with the cases of frenching associated with root intrusion, come to think of it. Either case presents the possibility of plants getting confused by mixed signals from different parts of the root system. Given that my plants are growing vigorously enough in all other respects, it may well be that they have plenty of decent soil available to support healthy growth but unfavorable regions, or just variations in general, are enough to upset them.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention that most of my Little Dutch have started budding now and the Basma look (and smell) like they're getting close.

Can you explain to me what you mean by your Basma smelling like they're getting close?
 

furryfreek

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Can you explain to me what you mean by your Basma smelling like they're getting close?
They're starting to smell nice, basically. I hadn't noticed much of that distinctive oriental tobacco smell until very recently; only a faint, tantalizing hint some evenings when the weather was still. I'm not actually sure smell is remotely indicative of a plant nearing maturity; I just put two and two together.
 

Old Gasman

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They're starting to smell nice, basically. I hadn't noticed much of that distinctive oriental tobacco smell until very recently; only a faint, tantalizing hint some evenings when the weather was still. I'm not actually sure smell is remotely indicative of a plant nearing maturity; I just put two and two together.
Thank you, I'm a bit further North than you so my plants probably aren't as advanced as yours so I'll give it a couple of weeks and start sniffing.
 

furryfreek

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@deluxestogie has mentioned the benefits he sees from planting one of his beds in front of his white wall. Quite a bit of sun reflects back on the plants.
That'd be a bonus. Two birds; one stone :cool:.

I had pretty much dismissed that before, reckoning the sheets' angles and positioning would reflect light away from the plants almost all the time. Now you mention it though, I'd been thinking about it as if the canvas were a perfect mirror or something. whereas it actually reflects diffusely (Lambert's law, if I'm not mistaken.) So yeah, that could actually be factor. Can't loose either way :)
 

furryfreek

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I took a few photos this time last week, which I think was our hottest day so far this year (28°C/82°F).
0617a.jpg 0617b.jpg 0617c.jpg 0617d.jpg

After a wet and thundery spell last weekend, we had another stretch of dry weather and the plants have really shot up and all are at least starting to bud now.
0624a.jpg 0624b.jpg 0624c.jpg 0624d.jpg
My Little Dutch can't be much more than a week away from flowering now and the Xanthi and Ohio Dutch aren't far behind (not sure how I missed those last week.)

The weather's turned again now. Heavy showers and gusts of around 30mph are forecast throughout the next week or so. Some of my Basma and Xanthi already started leaning over quite a bit so I strung some paracord between stakes to keep them from leaning too much further. So long as they don't tip right over, they should be able to stand themselves back upright and not end up being permanently wonky. The wind's set to be southerly the whole time too, so the plants should benefit from their tendency to lean in the opposite direction, towards the sun and into the wind.
 

furryfreek

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I was starting to think I might as well top some of my plants a little bit early, seeing as I'm removing suckers every few days as it is. I'm holding back though, since I'm not sure there aren't any other reasons not to top early and I'm in no particular hurry anyway. With my Little Dutch and Ohio Dutch, which are further ahead than my other non-orientals, what I have done is remove all the spindly upper-most leaves I know I'd loose anyway when I do end up topping.
0625a.jpg 0625b.jpg
I've been a bit inconsistent with suckers near the top which immediately form buds. I've left most of them alone but removed a few simply out of absent mindedness and some deliberately from plants that had more than three budded branches.

The supports I rigged up seem to be doing the job nicely. Just a couple of leaves have been injured slightly where they've rubbed against the line too much; I feared that might've been worse.
0625c.jpg
 

furryfreek

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Sails ahoy!
0627.jpg
We've got 30-35 mph gusts forecast all through tomorrow with heavy rain in the evening. My orientals are already leaning all over the place and heavy from recent rainfall so I've improvised some extra wind protection. I don't like having guy ropes all over the place but it's just a temporary thing. I'll hopefully be able to take the extra stuff down in 36hrs or so.

EDIT:
The supports I rigged up seem to be doing the job nicely. Just a couple of leaves have been injured slightly where they've rubbed against the line too much
Well, they are still doing the job but the plants are getting kinda' beat up. I'm not sure there's much more I could do by adding more supports without risking more damage. So, besides some minor adjustments, I've left those alone.
 
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Old Gasman

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Sails ahoy!
View attachment 42474
We've got 30-35 mph gusts forecast all through tomorrow with heavy rain in the evening. My orientals are already leaning all over the place and heavy from recent rainfall so I've improvised some extra wind protection. I don't like having guy ropes all over the place but it's just a temporary thing. I'll hopefully be able to take the extra stuff down in 36hrs or so.

EDIT:

Well, they are still doing the job but the plants are getting kinda' beat up. I'm not sure there's much more I could do by adding more supports without risking more damage. So, besides some minor adjustments, I've left those alone.
Is it my imagination or do we get more wind than we used to get, it seems as though it's blowing a gale almost every day.
 

furryfreek

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I topped my Little Dutch and Ohio Dutch plants on Wednesday. Most of the former had flowers poking out, not far off opening, and the latter didn't seem too far off -- stems elongated and buds fairly well developed. The Xanthi are/were about neck-and-neck with the Little Dutch but I've no plans to top any of them.
0629a.jpg
Little Dutch. The one plant I left un-topped for seed wasn't the closest of the lot to bloom; it was about average in that regard. For the Ohio Dutch, imagine the bud pictured above but clustered a bit more tightly and no obviously visible flowers.

I didn't plan on topping any orientals, but one of my Basmas took matters into its own hands the other day and topped itself.
0629b.jpg
The wind must've broken it clean off overnight, despite the extra windbreaks I put up. There's nothing nearby that could've physically struck the plant at that height and it seems too cleanly broken for that to be the case.

I'm always amazed by the amount they've grown each time I take pics. I had been trying to take pics from a consistent set of camera angles each week or so but they've grown so much now I've had to abandon that to fit everything in shot.
0703a.jpg 0703b.jpg 0703c.jpg 0703d.jpg 0703e.jpg
Some plants were starting to look a bit upset about all the rain we've had recently but the weather's turning for the better now, just in the nick of time. Most of my wonkiest plants are now staked individually. The supports I rigged up before were a decent first line of defense but some plants needed more than propping up after a while. There's just one Xanthi that I think is destined to be wonky forevermore. It's bent over so awkwardly that attempting to upright it shifts the center of gravity and risks it tipping right over. It's not leaning into any other plants and crowding them though, so I might as well let it be.

Is it my imagination or do we get more wind than we used to get, it seems as though it's blowing a gale almost every day.
I dunno' but the weather does generally seem more extreme, more often.
 

furryfreek

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If I were a slug, I'd be breeding under those white ground covers.
I wouldn't put it past 'em, the sneaky buggers. It has been a little while since I last checked, but I've not found any slugs or even trails under the sheets. The material is breathable and doesn't keep the ground especially damp.
 

furryfreek

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The weather's been steadily improving since my last post and we're now experiencing a heat wave that's set to continue for at least another week or so. I sprayed BT on Friday after finding a few egg clutches and a caterpillar. I found a few recent signs of feeding when I checked today but less than I'd expect for the number caterpillars I found.

New photos:
0710a.jpg 0710b.jpg 0710c.jpg 0710d.jpg 0710e.jpg 0710f.jpg
I bagged one plant of each variety last week and topped the Symbol 4 and Helena today. They weren't quite in bloom but didn't look too far off.
0710g.jpg
[Symbol 4 tops left; Helena right]
I decided the position I was going to top most of those a couple of weeks ago and pruned off all leaves above. I should've waited a bit longer for the stalks to elongate more before making that decision; I would've topped somewhat higher otherwise.

I've just about resisted the urge to start priming yet but I've begun preparing my main curing area.
0710h.jpg
The slats along the ceiling (6 in total) can all be moved back and fourth if needed and, for ease of adjustment, I've used prussik knots/loops to hold the bamboo rungs in place. The lack of a nice pathway though may will make things a bit awkward but it'll have to do.
 
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furryfreek

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The weather's been dry two whole weeks now and the Met Office say it's gonna' hit 34°C (93°F) here today(!) We're getting a rare blast of warm, dry air from the Iberian Peninsula in the wake of retreating high pressure. We're to get a glancing blow of low pressure in a couple of days, bringing a slim chance of a shower or two. I reckon it'll just be humid as hell, though. Those showers will barely touch the ground.

The baccy plants don't seem to mind the heat or lack of rain. If anything, I think it's helping them mature/ripen better compared to last year.
0717a.jpg 0717b.jpg 0717c.jpg 0717d.jpg 0717e.jpg 0717f.jpg 0717g.jpg

Mid-week, I primed some lugs that had mostly or entirely yellowed on the stalks. Some, especially along the middle row of orientals, had apparently yellowed mostly due to lack of light and lacked other signs of maturity. Many of those were still very green in patches that weren't shaded. I picked those off anyway since (1) I wasn't sure they'd ever end up ripening properly anyway, (2) I doubt they added much in terms of shading the ground and (3) what with the heat and draught, removing a few limbs might reduce water consumption a little bit.

Curing closet:
0717j.jpg
In the foreground are Xanthi leaves I'm still trying to yellow in the shade. Behind that are Little and Ohio Dutch, split into grades based mostly on physical condition. Though, at this stage, that happens to correlate strongly with stalk position. There was a third grade of Little Dutch until a few days ago but I decided that, in their case, grade C stood for compost.

For sun curing, I cobbled together a hanging frame to allow for hasty relocation. At first I just hung it from our washing line but that thing can swing and bounce around an awful lot, so I erected a separate line with less slack.
0717h.jpg
At the back (partially obscured) are some Helena and Symbol 4 lugs which yellowed entirely on the stalk. I hung those outside the next day, after they'd wilted some (makes stringing a bit easier -- less chance of splitting the mid-rib.) Those seem to be curing nicely. The orientals, however, don't look so pretty up close:
0717i.jpg
I'm pretty sure the problem here is that I let the leaves get too sweaty when yellowing them beforehand. I had them all in one big pile with too many leaves stacked atop one another in a cardboard box. I shuffled them all daily but regularly found leaves that were visibly wet. I should've just yellowed them on a string in the shade, packed up close together (like I eventually did with the Xanthi.)

I'm seriously considering the idea of slinging a hammock between those A frames. The temperature's not gonna' drop below 22°C (71°F) tonight and I think I'd rather sleep outside.
 
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