Gardening - A Year Round Hobby
1st Nov 2001
Whoever thought that gardening was a hobby to keep you going right through Spring to Summer must be having an easy time of it, in my case it's now an all year round activity and I love every minute of it. The main priority over the past few weeks has been in clearing up the garden and gradually getting the place back to some form of normality. There's no doubt that this showing game is quite stressful as we need to stage our vegetables as fresh as possible. This means that they have to be harvested, washed, packed and taken to the show in pristine condition, all within a matter of a few hours.
This inevitably means that the garden on your return looks as if a bomb has hit it with foliage all over the area (particularly if you haven't had a good pull) together with celery collars as well as leek collars waiting to be put away for another year. This all takes time but it has to be done and completed as properly as you can.
The first thing that needs cleaning out is the old bath that I use at the bottom of the garden to clean up the vegetables. If it's left to it's own devices it will soon be covered over with Autumn leaves and will start to smell something awful.
Wash it out and then clean it thoroughly with Armillatox to kill off any disease spores that might be lurking there. The best way to clean it is to clean something else at the same time, so I fill the bath two thirds full of water with a strong dose of Armillatox. I then put on some rubber gloves and proceed to dunk my leek collars into it and wash them clean with a sponge. It doesn't take a long time and if you pick, hopefully, a nice sunny day, they can be rolled up in a couple of hours and kept until next year. The other thing I do at this time is to write on a plastic label what size the collars are so that finding the right bundle will be no problem next Summer. Most labels have a little hole at one end and this comes in handy to push the string through tying it securely to the roll of collars.
One of my pet hates is slugs, I have never had a good relationship in any way at all with both slugs and snails finding it very hard to think of an excuse for having them in the garden at all, apart perhaps for feeding the birds. One thing is certain, there are always plenty of slugs about at this time of year, to such an extent that even the birds have got fed up of eating them! The other morning when I got up, looking directly across from my kitchen window to next doors gable end, three quarters of the way up was this demented slug that must have lost it's way somehow in the garden thinking it was on the motorway! Quarter of an hour later, on my way to the bin I went sliding on another one, it must have been a super slug measuring all of five inches. Why can't they just stay out of sight like they seem to for the rest of the year. There's nothing more revolting first thing in the morning I can assure you than looking at a squashed slug, they just turn my stomach!
Well, now that I've got that off my chest I can finish cleaning up the garden and as a last gesture of defiance to these crawling invaders, I shall scatter some slug pellets all round the perimeter of the garden in the vain hope that I shall at least reduce their population somewhat for next year.
Parsnip and Carrot Beds
This year I told you that I took a lot less time over my parsnip and carrot beds, not emptying either of them out, simply coring out the holes as they were. This idea if course was born out of lack of time to complete other pressing tasks so it seemed to be quite a logical move when under stress! The carrots grew well but the main problem was that a number of them had carrot fly damage at about nine inches down along the length of the carrot. Strangely every carrot that was affected had the damage roughly in the same area so there must have been some eggs over wintering in the sand at that level.
This year I hope to start emptying these out in the next few weeks so that they will all be completed before the years out. Don't tell me about the hard work, I know all about it, but if I'm to get back on the winning trail with these roots, some hard graft will have to take place. Both the long carrots and Parsnips are grown in raised concrete block beds with one side of each bed having a series of strong planks built in to form a wall. These are carefully removed and then the sand can be shovelled out much easier and piled up along the path, what a pile it makes as well.
Once the beds have been emptied, fork over the bottom layer and water in some Armillatox all over it. The first bottom board can now be replaced and some more sand piled on top, as soon as the sand is level with the top of the board, the whole area is again soaked with Armillatox. This is repeated until the beds are all full, by full I mean heaved up in the middle so that when they settle over the Winter months there will still be plenty of sand on the bed to level up. When you empty your beds or drums it's unbelievable how much sand that you have left over and it's often difficult to know what to do with it. A few years ago I was given a good solution to this problem by Trevor Last who uses it to brush into the holes that he spikes in his lawn when aerating it. Whatever you do, don't store it with a view of using it again as part of a carrot or parsnip mixture, it could well be contaminated and isn't worth bothering with.