End of the Showing Season
23rd Sep 1998
The Summer showing season has now come to end for me, culminating in the National Vegetable Society Championships at Harrogate last weekend, my local District Association show in Gwynedd being held on the same day. This entailed a lot of work having to lift produce for both events with my father doing the staging at home. Of course running on at the same time were my preparations for next years Chelsea Show as well as another visit to the Cincinnati show in Ohio to which I have just received a formal invitation.
Leeks and Large Onions
The leeks for Chelsea and the large onions were sown during July and are now making good headway with the leeks ready for moving on from the 3" square pots into a 5" one. The onions are also in the same size pots and the foliage is now ready for supporting with green plastic plant support clips.
Towards the end of last year I mentioned to you the conversation that I had with Bob Herbert regarding the brown marks that I was having on every root of parsnip that I pulled last year. Bob was convinced that the reason for the browning was the contamination of the growing medium in the beds.
The growing medium had been in drums for a few years and then, over the last few years, inside the concrete block beds.The only answer it seemed was to empty all the beds and fill them up with new clean concreting sand. However this year the parsnips stopped growing during early July for no apparent reason resulting in very weak top foliage. The result was that I had poor weight on them, but what was evident and heartening was the absence of any marking whatsoever on the roots; they were as clean and smooth as they could possibly be with very good length.
At the same time last year I told George Armstrong about this method as he was experiencing the same problem as myself so he emptied only one of his containers leaving another as a control. The one which he had filled up with clean fresh sand produced beautiful clean unmarked roots whilst the other container, still containing the old sandy mixture, produced parsnips that were marked with deep ingrained irremoveable brown lesions.This must surely prove that, over a period of time, if you still grow your parsnips in the same old medium they will certainly deteriorate, so Bob has been proved to be right.
However, we may not have to empty the whole beds or drums and renew them as we thought after having a chat with Trevor Last from Stowmarket, Suffolk. Trevor has also been experiencing problems with his parsnips being marked so he has put clean sand into the containers but beyond this, he has addressed the problem differently.What Trevor has done is to remove all the compost that he placed in every bore hole using the same sort of pipe that I use to make my original bore hole. On his return from one show he had 20 bore holes that were empty and within a matter of twenty minutes he had cleared each bore hole to a depth of 3ft 6inches and emptied the material into the barrow. Trevor stated that it was quite unbelievable how many fine root hairs there was in the compost from the bore hole, roots that wouldn't be seen if the bed had been left and emptied out later on in the season. Initially it wasn"t easy to find the location of the old bore hole but by pushing the pipe down a few inches and removing it, you could see where the bore hole was in relation to your first attempt.
Trevor believes that all these roots left in the compost after withdrawing the parsnip naturally rot away and any toxins in them will then be mixed into the sandy bed when it's eventually emptied out. It certainly makes sense to do this as purchasing clean sand every six to eight years or so is certainly expensive and by trying to remove the source of the infection as soon as possible, the life of the bed could be indefinite. I shall certainly be giving it a go.