Keeping to Alloted Time Scale
16th Mar 2005
I have to say that I feel quite chuffed with myself so far this year having managed to accomplish most of the tasks I set myself within the allotted time scale. If you can manage to accomplish this, then you are on a good start to achieve your goal of winning a few red cards at the shows this coming summer. The tasks are invariably the same annually, but I have rarely achieved them all at my percieved time scale. In the main I'm referring to any changes in growing preparations such as new beds or clean sand etc, achieving your sowing dates and getting compost mixes prepared on time.
All my parsnip seed were sown earlier than I have done for many years, 36 stations of the variety Gladiator were sown at home during mid February and a further 24 stations in 6 drums were sown at my friend Jims garden a week later. The variety at Jim's garden was a brand new one that I trialled last year code named SPS60 and has since been named Duchess F1. I was very impressed with this variety and though the breeder had insufficient seed for this season I shall certainly be stocking it for next year together with it"s sister variety Princess.
Leeks and Onions
The beds, both leeks and onions, were all prepared before Christmas and plenty of organic matter was worked in as well this year. This was not my usual farm yard manure but composted grass clippings and oak leaf mould mixed together that a farmer friend of mine had stored for many years. When I started digging into a tonne or more of the material that he had stored, I couldn't believe how good it both looked and smelt. It smelt sweet and looked like some old pipe tobacco with the exception of masses of red worms working their way through it. The same material was also incorporated into my celery bed.
All the carrot drums were emptied and flooded out with water to settle the sand down around the middle of January. After the drums had been emptied, the sand when replaced, was soaked with a dilution of Jet 5 in layers as it went back into each drum. If you recall I was going to do away with a dozen drums from within my polytunnel and position them outside on top of my old raised beds. However I had overlooked the fact that the blue plastic drums that I use are considerably bigger than my old steel ones and therefore I couldn"t fit them on the bed. These raised beds however have now been emptied and I shall still grow some long carrots in them, just like I used to years ago covering each station with a bottomless jam jar.
I received my seed potatoes from ESP (Exhibition Seed Potatoes) from Derby on the last Saturday of January and I have to say that I was very pleased with them. They were an even size, clean and the skins were free from any scab or blemishes. On the Sunday they were all sorted out into boxes, rose end upwards and placed in my warm greenhouse where they have started to chit. I also had another new variety to trial from Marshals called Pixie, This certainly looks like a potential show type having a lovely oval to long shape, very shallow eyes with a pink flush around them. When they arrived they had already broken dormancy and this must signify that it's, at the latest a second early and could even be a first early variety which would make it perfect for the earlier shows. I have actually grown ten of these for my Chelsea display so I shall be able to see what they are going to be like in plenty of time.
Another new variety that I had a few of to grow on for this Summer was ----- this was given to me by Peter Guthrie who owns Castle Mill Seed Potatoes up in Scotland and will be available for next year. This is a long to oval variety shallow eyed possessing what looks like an excellent smooth skin finish. I shall certainly keep you informed of how these new varieties perform as well as the re introduction from ESP (Exhibition Seed Potatoes) of an old favourite of mine Mona Lisa.
The next few days will be taken up in preparing the peat ready for use in my carrot mixes, both long and other than long varieties as well as being the basis for my potato mixture. The Peat is stacked in a large garage at the college in Bangor which means that it"s going to be at the same condition as it left the factory. There is nothing worse than having stored peat outside in the elements only to find that it's taken in water by capillary action through the tiny air holes that they have in the bags. This makes it extremely difficult to handle properly.
Undoubtedly the best way to treat the peat for potato use is to have it as fluffy as you can and this is best achieved by passing it through an electric shredder. It will pay you to block off at least half of the outlet with a block of wood or a piece of steel to allow the material to stay inside the shredder long enough to be treated properly. Although this time factor is merely seconds, if you don"t partially block the outlet, the peat will simply drop straight through it without having the desired effect.
I will cover the mixes for carrots next week and for potatoes the following week.