National Championships in Dundee
1st Jun 2000
Now that the Millennium Chelsea flower show is nothing more than history for another year I can now concentrate on producing top quality vegetables for the National championships which are this year held at Dundee from Friday the 1st of September through to Sunday 3rd. This is undoubtedly the greatest vegetable show anywhere in the country and any of you who want to have a go can get the show schedule free from the general secretary Mr Len Cox at 33 Newmarket Road, Redcar, Cleveland TS10 2HY. You must be a member of the National Vegetable Society to have a go but if you are, then the entries are free.
The Royal Horticultural Society and the National Vegetable Society, through their Liaison committee, have organised seminars at this top show in Scotland and speakers of the calibre of Mel Ednie, the current world record holder for the heaviest onion will be telling us how he achieved the phenomenal weight of 15lb 15½ ounces. Also speaking will be one of the countries top potato breeders Dr Jack Dunnet, so don't miss this years Dundee show, you could learn a lot just from these two speakers alone.
The first task this week for me is to plant out my celery, Ideally I would have preferred to have planted it during the third week of May but as that is always clashing with Chelsea I have to pot the plants on to a slightly larger pot for later planting. You don"t want to plant celery when there is any risk of frost as it could induce bolting at a later stage so planting at this time should be safe. I have two raised beds well prepared for these and each bed will have three rows in them giving me a total of 30 plants.
Thorough bed preparation during the Winter months is essential for good celery having incorporated plenty of farm yard manure in order to increase fertility as well as increasing the beds water holding capacity. Celery in it's natural habitat is a bog plant so it really should never be stressed out because of lack of water. During the coming Summer months make sure that the bed is well soaked daily and if the beds have been well prepared, the plants will reward you with winning heads.
I have three varieties sown this year, my own selection of Ideal is still an excellent variety but is not my banker this time but five heads will be planted in order to ensure that my new Ideal F1 hybrid crosses can continue. The bankers are Moonbeam Cross with Ideal as well as Lathom Cross. I have two sowings of Moonbeam two weeks apart so I should have some good heads right through from mid August to mid September.
The above crosses were only grown by a few people last year but the reports were immediately encouraging with Bob Herbert saying how vigorous it was and could be sown later than Ideal because of that very factor. The plants were moved from the greenhouse to the cold frame during the first week of May and just before leaving for Chelsea they were moved out on to the beds to acclimatise to their growing environment. Both beds this year are situated next to the boundary which has a Leylandii hedge running along it giving some partial shade which helps tremendously with the prevention of celery heart rot.
Celery heart rot is undoubtedly the biggest worry for celery growers as it can destroy your winning chances in a matter of a few days. This year I was able to stage the best celery ever at Chelsea, the variety was Moonbeam and I was able to completely eradicate the heart rot that had prevented me from showing it in the past. What most growers don"t realise is that you can actually have heart rot very early on in the season, in fact when they are still in their pots in the greenhouse. The reason is the tender young shoots haven't got enough calcium in them and they start to rot off.
My celery for Chelsea was grown in Florist buckets in nothing more than Levington M3 and the end result was spectacular. Initially though I had heart rot so in order to try and cure it I doused the whole foliage and the heart with Calcium Nitrate regularly every week. The calcium hardens up the cells in the young heart and the nitrate boosts growth, the result was nothing short of a miracle, the rot stopped and all the new shoots were fresh and green and continued that way right through to Chelsea even though they were in a greenhouse and with 15 inch black collars around them. I certainly intend to use it regularly on this new batch as well, as far as I know it is only available from Chempak and a 2% solution is suggested which works out at about a heaped teaspoonful of the whit granules to a gallon.
The bed was given 4 ounces to the square yard of Chempak BTD during mid May and the plants will be spaced out at eighteen inches each way with the middle row being in a domino fashion in order to ease access for collaring. Once planted the outer foliage will be supported by using the plastic plant support clips to form a circle around each celery plant. Water the plants in well and scatter slug pellets around each one, I shall cover the collaring and other cultural instructions throughout the coming season.