Get Yourself a Diary
30th Mar 2005
This morning I intend to sow my long carrots in the location where I marked the stations with a short split cane last week and the sowing surface will then be moistened with a watering cane. To be on the safe side, I will also apply a few slug pellets around each station to make sure that the emerging young seedlings don't become devoured by these ravenous beasts.
Now that the carrots have been put to bed, they are in the hands of the gods and regardless of whether or not the mix was right, I will have to wait until I pull them. My first pull this year will be for the Welsh NVS Championships which are going to be held at Wrexham on the last weekend in August. This is not the first time for the championships to be at Wrexham, and as President of the branch, I"m really grateful to the Wrexham Maelor Council for sponsoring this fabulous show of vegetables.
The next Welsh Championships are going to be staged in North Wales as well and, would you believe it, on the Isle of Anglesey my beloved Island, god help me if I don't win a red card there!
Timing of Vegetables
Timing of vegetables is quite crucial and I have learnt this the hard way through staging exhibits at Chelsea. None of my vegetables are going to be any good if they are ready a fortnight too early or even a fortnight too late, they simply just have to make the grade on the day for which they are intended.
Thank God for Samuel Peppes, the inventor of the diary, without him I would really have been struggling to win 9 consecutive Gold at Chelsea. When you think about it, the diary is probably the most important weapon in any growers diary. Luckily for me I haven't had to buy one for years because my friend Jims' wife Gwyneth, has always bought one every Christmas for more years than I care to remember. Not a tiddly pocket diary but a full sized A4 page a day masterpiece to which I scribble all sorts of essential facts. Don't even think of telling me that you would remember when you sowed your broad beans, which row they were in and what compost you used when you started them off. We all think at the time of sowing that we will never forget, saying things like 'oh, it's the fourth row from the hedge, I'll remember that'. That was my father, labels were a real nuisance to him and he just wasn't prepared to use them, relying totally on his memory. I well remember the times we used to argue when I walked up the vegetable plot with him ‘and what's in this row then dad' his answer was ‘I'll find out when they pop their heads through'.
If you are really keen on showing your vegetables, or even on just how well your vegetables performed on any given season, then get yourself a diary. It could prove to be the difference between winning the red card and being an also ran. Never forget, dates are important, the weather is important and the special mixes you make are important, write them all down at the end of the day. Use your diary properly, don't just make sweeping statements such as ‘sowed my carrots today' Next year, when you look back you'll see this and wonder, ‘did I sow my long carrots - or were they the short, what sort of mix was it – was the weather mild etc. No detail is too small to go in the diary and the pleasure that I've had when looking back over my diaries, which go back over 30 years, is immeasurable.
Get your Broad beans in now, even though they are only worth 15 points in showing terms, they are immeasurable to me as regards being one of my favourite vegetables. You tell me, what will beat a dish of freshly grown, straight from the garden, broad beans and peas mixed together. Boiled or steamed together as a dish, a knob of butter, some added pepper, the real taste of early Summer and a proper meal in itself. Sow each bean individually in small pots, 15 cells in a tray would be fine and once watered, leave them in the shade until they start to pop their heads through, then you can start watering them. Plant them out after a few days of hardening off in the shade or even simply on the row, broad beans are very hardy and can withstand some frost. There is an old Welsh saying ‘ffwl deilith ffa' translated it says ‘only a fool would manure beans'. Another says – Fe dyfith ffa trwy waden esgid' - ‘A broad bean will grow through the sole of a shoe' I wonder if any of my readers had some sayings like that – I'd love to know. This means I suppose that the old Broad Bean is well capable of looking after itself – even in some really poor soil. However, for exhibition, give them good ground, a light sprinkle of dried blood as soon as you have planted them and this will really send them motoring.
For the best broad beans, treat them like you would exhibition peas, grow them cordon style. Grow each plant up an eight foot cane, tie up the main shoot, remove any side shoots as well as any growth from the base and the resulting beans will be longer and straighter. The secret with beans is to sow a few now, then another small batch when they have popped through. Staging old beans with the aged brown to black marks developing on the outside of the pods is a sure sign they have gone over the top. The first condition a judge wants see when he opens a pod from a good uniform set of broad beans is that the eye of each bean is a pale green colour. He will mentally disregard any set that have beans turned black, a sure sign that they are over their peak and not even fresh enough to eat.