So much to do in the Garden
23rd Mar 2000
The amount of work to be getting on with at this time of year is phenomenal and inevitably, even with the best intentions, some things don't get done. I can't recall how often I've gone to the garden to do a specific job only to find that a more pressing task had to be completed and the one that I went out of the house to do had to go on the back burner. The other day I went out to the leek bed to start preparing it for planting when I saw that my broad beans for Chelsea wanted some support as did the peas, so the other task had to be done the next day.
My parsnips were sown slightly later than I had anticipated and they are not yet showing through although I really do expect an early germination rate this time. A few weeks ago I mentioned to you that I was going to cover the timber structure over my parsnip beds with the new product called Enviro Mesh that I had from N.A Kays from Cumbria. I must say that I'm really impressed with this material, its light yet strong and tough and should last for more than one year. However I was speaking to Peter Holden from the North East about my intentions with this material and he also agreed that it was wonderful innovation.
Peter used it last year over his long carrots cover and never bothered to spray them with any pesticide and experienced no Carrot fly or Willow aphid problem. The one concern that he had was the fact that when raining the water seemed to concentrate on the mesh and dribble down on to the growing area. When the water happens to be coming in on top of a sowing station the effect can be disastrous. Taking heed of his experience I have therefore covered the mesh over with some lightweight polythene and the seed are now effectively as good as in a polytunnel. Once the weather warms up enough the polythene will be removed and the mesh underneath left on to prevent any damage by strong winds.
I would dearly like to hear from growers who have used this material already or even at the back end of this season from growers who are giving it a go for the first time. One grower who had some marvellous results last year was Jim Thompson from South Wales, his stump carrots 'Gringo' were a joy to be seen with superb colour and skin finish. At the National Championships he came second with a beautifully matched set of six that couldn't have been far away from getting the first prize card. Jim does most of his growing on his large allotment and he used the Enviro mesh in two ways. The first is obvious, he rigged a system over his raised beds to accommodate the mesh above. Secondly because he is regularly plagued with moles, when he emptied the sand out of his bed during the Winter, he lined the bottom of it with this mesh which totally prevented the mole from causing any damage.
I keep a regular eye on my chitting potatoes and every now then I give them a light spray of Maxicrop with added iron targeting the strong shoots. For this sort of spraying you only need a small quantity mixed so I just use a 1 litre trigger action sprayer that's Ideal for this small amount of work. Before spraying I like to quickly go through the trays to make sure that I have no problems with any green fly that me be colonising as well as any traces of mice damage. Should I have any greenfly present then I will add some tumble bug to the Maxicrop at the required dose rate to keep them clean.
My leeks for Chelsea have been giving me grave problems this year, as soon as I took them to the greenhouses at Bangor, they had rust with a vengeance, the worst that I had ever seed on young plants. It probably started off from some wheat that they were growing in the same house as I have no trace of it on my leeks at home, consequently I had to spray them repeatedly. The best ones at the time were in 9 inch pots and another spare batch were only in 4 inch pots, the latter ones were so bad that I decided, kill or cure was the answer, so I pruned off nearly all the top foliage to within two inches of the button and sprayed them with a strong dilution of Dithane 945. My best ones just sat there, the others immediately started to grow with some vigour so I potted them on and because of the desperate need to have leeks early, I placed them in the warmest greenhouse which is 30° c which is well over 80° F.
They have now soared past the others, so I'm wondering whether the old gardening books were right all along, 'trim off the roots and trim off the flags before planting'. With this in mind, I recently moved on some young leeks from a seed tray to plantpak 40s, which are 40 cells in a full size seed tray. As these plants usually have a good root system it's not easy to get them into the cells, coupled to this problem is the weight of the flags above the barrel, they make them bend all over the place looking really straggly. I therefore removed half the root system with a pruner as well as trimming back the flags to a point about two inches above the button.
This made the potting on very easy and each leek stood bolt upright in their cells and never flinched when they were watered. Within a few weeks they had a strong root system and flags that showed no sign of having been cut back. I just wonder if this is the way forward. Any comments would be very welcomed.