Polytunnels, Preservatives and Mixtures
2nd Jan 2003
Lets hope we have a Summer that resembles one this year, last year over here in Anglesey was a nightmare. June must have been amongst the worst ever, I don't think I saw the sun at all that month. However September made up for it, it was a gorgeous month and it gave me plenty of time to clear up around the garden. One thing that I need to be getting on with on a nice dry day is to paint all the woodwork that I have exposed to the elements.
In particular the doors and frames to my polytunnel, they are not going to last very long unless treated. It really isnt a difficult job as most of the wood preservers are like water and you can easily cover a large area in minutes. Do make sure that whatever preservative you use that it's harmless to any plants, the last thing you want is your plants to collapse from the paint fumes.
Digging out the Beds
I have really managed to cope quite well with most of the digging etc., the parsnip beds have all been emptied and re filled as have the new carrot drums in the polytunnel. The leek, onion and celery beds were completed during late November and the big load of farm yard manure that I had delivered in September has been drastically reduced.
One other job on the agenda for me is build a concrete slab area down at the compound where I pack all the seed. There is enough room there for fair size slab of concrete so that I can order some more manure which will be neatly stacked on it. This can be then covered over with a tarpaulin which will help to break it down further.
The strange about gardening is that even if you carry out things to the letter, exactly as you did last year, it doesn"t mean that the vegetables will turn out to be the same. For example in the eighties I used to dominate quite strongly the long carrot classes with a mixture of 1 part sieved soil from the garden, 1 part peat and 1 part concreting sand. The harvested carrots were so good that I was able to have a good set of six from pulling a dozen or so. Two years ago I went back into my diaries and repeated the mixture to the letter, no deviation at all and the resulting carrots were amongst the worse that I had ever grown. The same happened two years ago, I had some marvellous small onions for the under 250grams class called Tasco, a new variety released that year. I did really well with them winning at the Malvern Autumn show. I repeated everything the same last year and they were no good at all. It therefore must be something to do with the weather, as I said earlier the dull damp days of June were certainly not conducive towards plant growing to their optimum.
Now is the time to be thinking about sowing your seed for this particualr class as you need them to be ready for harvesting from early July onwards, particularly for the August shows. I will sow Tasco again this year as well as Friso and the new variety Carlos so that I can monitor the three of them. I shall broadcast sow the seed in half trays of Levington F2S and then cover them over with fine Vermiculite. I always water with a sprayer which doesn't move the vermiculite particles about as bad as a watering can.
They will be placed in a propagator with no glass over the trays and they'll be given a daily fine spray of water to keep the Vermiculite nice and moist. They should germinate within a fortnight and once through they will be removed for the propagator and placed on my warm bench with the greenhouse heating kept at a minimum of 55°F. When the seedlings are nearly straight (at the crook stage) they will be transplanted into plantpak 40s using Levington M2 and then kept in the same greenhouse to grow on with no artificial lights on them.
Last year I conducted an experiment by planting up the best six of my Tasco onions with a view of having some bulbils from them. The problem is that most of the newer small onions are all F1 hybrids and therefore to select seed from them would in theory give you a Heinz 57, a right mixture. However what I did was to treat the onions like I do my show leeks, when they were in full flower I immediately removed them all in the hope that the bulb would push out some bulbils from the seed head. The result was not good considering that each bulb threw out five or six heads and only three heads a actually produced a small amount of bulbils.
I now have about thirty of these pips and these will also be planted this coming week. The thinking is that the bulbil will be similar to taking a vegetative cutting and therefore, just as with the leeks, the resulting bulbs should be very uniform.
I did this with my large exhibition onions two years ago with the resulting bulbils being grown on for Chelsea. They grew to between 15 and 16 inches around but the uniformity of the bulbs was unbelievable, they were like peas in a pod. Hopefully these pips of Tasco will again provide some very uniform bulbs and I believe that if I once again put the resulting bulbs back down to seed, I'm sure that they will provide bulbils much easier, having started from bulbils themselves.
I shall keep you informed.