Sowing Dates so that Vegetables will be at their peak for a particular show
21st May 1997
A few exhibitors are always phoning up regarding sowing dates so that a particular vegetable will be at it's peak for a particular show day. My usual reply is that although I can normally give a sowing date based on the dates that I use here in Anglesey, the weather will always be the determining factor. A cold wet Summer will hold plants back quite a lot whilst a hot dry Summer will force vegetables into maturity well before their planned show date.
One would therefore think that growing over ninety percent of my vegetables for the Chelsea show in a large greenhouse with plenty of heat and artificial lights would make it a lot easier to arrive at a perfect sowing date. Unfortunately the weather still holds the Aces and I"m sure that I won't be able to stage a few items simply because they have matured much too early. Primel French bean for example was at it's prime for last years Chelsea yet when sown on the exact date this time I was eating the first few beans on the 19th of April, a month earlier than normal.
The reason for this is very clear, last year we had a very cold hard Winter and I quote from a note I made in my diary "I couldn't have possibly chosen a worst season for growing early vegetables, continuous low temperatures has meant escalating heating costs and with the extremely low light levels throughout March, the artificial lights had to be kept on longer than anticipated. The low temperatures have also meant that the automatic roof vents have rarely opened with the result that the lack of air movement has made plants tender and don't appear to be growing as fast as one would like"
This year though is a complete opposite, both March and April have produced absolutely fantastic weather with even my father commentating that he can't remember experiencing such a beautiful Springtime. Of course the light levels have been high consequently the vents have been fully open on most days and this change of air certainly strengthens the plants and brings them on faster.
The plus side should show itself on those crops that can continue growing for a while even after your targeted show date, Tomatoes are an obvious example as you can always pick fruit from higher trusses. The carrots, parsnips, long beetroot and Mooli will also I hope be bigger than last year. The blanch leeks are in 14" diameter pots with 18" collars and they are really growing away well and hopefully will be positioned at the top/centre of the exhibit ( where else would a Welshman position his national emblem!)
To grow for Chelsea, Ivor Mace sent me a few of his new Welsh seedling, even though to start with they were a few weeks behind the original Welsh leek, they soon made up for lost ground. It 's undoubtedly more vigorous than the former as it has currently no viruses, it also possesses a much more erect habit with the foliage standing bolt upright. It pulls easier as well and I could have easily passed the 18" collar stage should I have wanted to. This leek has undoubtedly got great potential for the next few years and could easily supersede the original.
Peppers and Aubergines
The peppers and Aubergines are growing well and I'm hoping to have a range of different coloured ones to stage. One big problem has been pests, it's been a constant battle throughout to control both the Whitefly and Red Spider Mite. The latter took a great liking to my leeks and before I realised it the outer foliage had staring turning to the heartbreaking silvery dead appearance. However by using Polysect on a regular basis I have been able to bring both the Whitefly and the Red Spider Mite well under control.
Some of the more unusual vegetables will also be displayed, the purple carrot that I had from Dr Brian Smith at the Horticultural Research International will be quite a sight, I don't think it's going to be very large as it's currently at the early stages of breeding development and the colours may be rather variable. I am certainly looking forward to harvesting the two different varieties that I have as well as listening to the public's opinion on eating a purple coloured carrot! I had been warned that the variety was rather prone to bolting but grown in such ideal conditions, not one went to seed.
The Ideal celery will also be staged although I have lost half of the original batch , what's left seems to have settled down with no more heart rot being evident. The Asparagus Pea is also going to be an added vegetable that I was unable to get ready for last years show. Potatoes have grown really well with 5 tubers in a half length forty gallon drum producing really strong top growth in a totally peat mixture of Levington M3. What has grown superbly is the Swiss Chard, both the white and the red complement each other perfectly and should add that extra depth of colour that can so enhance any vegetables display.
My aim will be to stage a display of Summer vegetables in Springtime and hopefully prove to people that a display of vegetables can be just as colourful as a display of flowers, so on the Saturday and Sunday both Gwenda and I will be busy at it painting a picture with these beautiful God given colours.