The Craft of Growing Vegetables for Showing
2nd Aug 2001
Time is now of the essence as very soon it will catch up with you and you'll find yourself right bang in the middle of all the shows trying your best to stay calm and cool as you travel from show to show. One of the best parts of showing for me is the actual staging, particularly if you know that the quality of your vegetables are good; the other part is the comradeship between fellow growers. I have made many friends all over the country through growing vegetables for exhibition and rarely, at this high level, have I seen any bickering or jealousy, indeed it's to the contrary.
NVS National Championships
Believe me there is no better place to learn the craft of growing vegetables to the highest standard than by visiting the Nationals and listening in on the conversation of three or four of the top growers when they gather together. They are free with their knowledge and always prepared to help any young or young at heart novice grower coming along who wants to know more about the art of growing for showing.
A few years ago Trevor Last, an excellent all round grower from the Southern region came up with the idea that he was prepared to nurture along a young grower who lived within reasonable distance to him and teach him all he knew about the art. I am prepared to offer this once again, if anyone cares to write to me or approaches me at the National Championships who is keen to learn more about the growing, then I will do my best to find a top grower who is prepared to allow you to visit his garden at various times during the growing season with a view of showing how he goes about growing his top material.
It doesn't matter how good I might think I may be or how good any one else might think they are, there are still people out there who have the ability to grow just as well if not better given the right opportunity. You must never forget the old saying, the apprentice will always beat the master in the end, and that's the way it has to be if the art of showing quality vegetables is to continue to evolve.
At the start of the carrot sowing season I decided to build two covers over two adjoining raised beds, both of which are two feet above the surrounding concrete path and filled with concreting sand. These have proved to be excellent in every way as the carrots growing in them at the moment look very good indeed, of course good foliage alone means nothing, only a guide hopefully that there could be some good specimens below ground.
The method of constructing the covers was simple and not meant to be a long lasting affair. The structure was constructed from panels made of roofing battens and each panel was screwed to hardwood uprights sunk into the sand beds. Each panel was covered with enviromesh, a fine nylon type mesh, and this was secured in position with a stapler. Germination was excellent in both beds, one was Gringo the other was Caroline, both F1 hybrids and from the moment they were thinned down to one per station, they grew on without fear of any check to growth. During early July we had some tremendously strong winds which hammered my runner beans and peas as well as twirling around my hanging baskets, but my carrots were intact inside frames.
The other advantage of these frames is that there is no need to spray to prevent the pests willow aphid and carrot fly provided you have the structure in place before the carrots germinate. I have had the odd one or two with foliage showing a hint of redness and I was concerned that the fly might have got into the cage. I therefore decide to pull all those with the reddish tinted foliage and they were perfectly fine, no pest damage whatsoever. My reason for pulling was that if the fly had got into the cage then they might have spread the Motley Dwarf Virus. This manifests itself with the central leaves showing a distinct yellow mottling and the outer leaves having a reddish tinge.
Every carrot has now been encompassed with a ring which is 150mm in diameter and 25mm wide, these were sawn on a band saw a few years ago from surplus plastic pipes that I used in them days to collar my leeks. They were positioned centrally over each carrot and then you either fill the cavity up with old peat or sand. I my case I just used the sand that was around the ring in the bed. This certainly prevents the crown of the carrot from turning green later on when it pushes itself out of the bore hole as it develops it's distinct stump end. You can of course just pull sand or peat over the shoulder but from my experience this just gets washed away when watering giving you a permanent job to replace it.
At the end of the season, each of these panels will be given a number as they are dismantled and stored over the Winter months so that next Spring the whole structure can be quickly re assembled. So pleased am I with this concept that the other similar two beds will have the same type of covers made next year. The idea is to have one extra short carrot bed and one bed for the under 250grm onions. I will keep you posted.