Parsnips and Tomatoes for the Show Bench
26th Feb 1997
Last year was the first time for me to grow parsnips in the new concrete block beds, and I must say that the results were very good, I've never had such strong top foliage, they were well out through the top of the timber frame construction on top of the beds. One problem I had though was that most of the parsnips never really carried their weight all the way down and I'm convinced that because the beds were just finished a week or so prior to planting, the medium inside them wasn't firm enough.
There's no doubt that when growing tap roots in drums the outer edges of the drums exerts pressure on the parsnips or carrots as they are growing so that when there is sufficient pressure, there is a better chance of the weight being more evenly distributed along the whole length of the body. However when growing in a raised bed there is much more space within the bed for the sandy mixture within it to move as the roots swell, consequently, on a loosely filled bed there would be a tendency to grow a specimen with a bigger top and possessing less weight along it's body.
With this in mind the beds were completely emptied out during late October last year so that by now they have properly settled down and firm, yet the boring of the holes won't be too difficult and hopefully, if my assumptions are correct, I shall have some decent parsnip this coming Summer.
The mixture I feel was right so that will not be changed but the spacing between the bore holes will be reduced to about six inches each way. The mix is as follows : one three gallon bucket of Levington F1, one three gallon bucket of Horticultural sand, one three gallon bucket of Vermiculite and one three gallon bucket of sieved soil from my friend Jim's garden. This garden is where I have been growing my potatoes and the soil there is light and sandy.
The above mixture nicely fills my electric concrete mixture and whilst it's rotating the following fertilisers are added: 2 ounces Superphosphate, 2 ounces Sulphate of potash, 4 ounces of carbonate of lime and 2 ounces Calcified Seaweed. I also used to add a capful or so of Clorophos to the mix but as this has now been withdrawn, I have unfortunately no alternative to offer. If any of the chemical companies are reading this article, perhaps you could advise me which product I can add to the mix to ward off soil pests such as carrot fly etc.
The above mixture will be used in one bed, for the other bed I shall use the mix that Bob Herbert has just given me; I have a high regard for Bobs dedication to growing vegetables and he is well known throughout the Sheffield and Derbyshire area for the high quality of his root crops, I'm sure they will grow well in it. Bob's mix is 2 by 2 gallon buckets of Irish Moss Spagnum Peat, 1 by 2 gallon bucket of horticultural Silver sand which makes six gallons by bulk. To this quantity is added 3 ounces Superphosphate, 2 ounces Sulphate of Potash, 2 ounces Calcified Seaweed, 2 ounces Epsom Salts and 3 ounces of Carbonate of lime. If you have problems getting hold of any of the above elements, they are all stocked by Chempak and are in their Garden Reward Catalogue, for a copy ring them on 01992 441 888.
In my opinion there are three good parsnips to grow for the show bench, they are all F1 hybrids and were bred by Dr Peter Dawson of Tozers. The first was Gladiator and many believe this one to be still the best, the next was Javelin followed by Archer. I have tried all three and found them all to be good. This year though I'm going to sow Javelin as it seems to carry it's weight better along body and has good resistance to canker.
The tomatoes will have to be sown this week and Choice will be my selection, this new shelf life type seems to have done well for most people and possesses a sparkling red colour that stays firm for good while on the plant allowing you to have a wider selection to pick from. I found out last year that it needs to be sown earlier than most others as it was slower to ripen than Goldstar. Incidentally Goldstar will no longer be available and I believe that next year could be the last year for Choice as well. However don't worry I already know of a couple of new varieties that are currently be grown on trial for me, and according to the breeder they should be excellent for showing.