Tullamore Show Co Offaly
5th Sep 2007
Tullamor Show Co Offaly 5th September 2007
I simply love visiting Ireland and in particular to Judge the vegetables at the Tullamore Show in Co Offaly. The show is the largest of it’s kind in the Republic of Ireland having usually upwards of 50,000 people in one day. How bitterly disappointed the organisers must have felt when they had to cancel it this year at the very last minute owing to torrential rain the day before. A pattern I’m sure that’s been all to often this awful Summer.
So bad were the conditions that the Horticultural tent was a foot under water with mud everywhere all around, my sympathies are certainly with the organisers but more so with the exhibitors who would have harvested and washed all their vegetables, cut their flowers and baked their cakes to no avail. I certainly missed having my usual chat with the growers, but as we are an ever optimistic band of people, next season all ready beckons.
Of all the vegetables that I grow for exhibition and displays, and I have grown probably 99% of them, the one I like the least of them all to eat is celery. I have no particular love for it, mainly I think because I tend to look upon it purely as a salading vegetable. However I must be in the minority when you realise that in this country today we munch our way through 120 million sticks or petioles of celery in a year. We also tend to forget that the leaves can also be used as a tangy herb or added to hot dishes at the end of cooking.
The celery, Morning Star, is being grown this year in two stages, there are a dozen plants in my raised bed at home and another dozen or so in 25 litre pots at the Bangor Greenhouses. These are required for my display at Malvern and I just hope that I can have enough weight on them by the end of the month. They have all been regularly given liquid feeds of low nitrogen through the application of Calcium Nitrate. They are now on their final collar and have been for the past 10 days or so.
The main purpose of the Calcium Nitrate is to make sure that the celery heart remains free from the rot that can seriously destroy any chances you may have of staging your heads. Heart Rot, as it is commonly known, is not a disease but rather a cultural problem and manifests and exacerbates itself in the main through the way that we grow it for exhibition. Celery for exhibition has insufficient air movement around it because we collar them upwards to blanch the petioles and the problem is certainly more prevalent during heavy, warm, humid days.
The problem stems from the fact that the young shoots, because they are in the dark and being tender are prone to sweating and rotting; in the main because they have a deficiency of lime at the tips of the shoots. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the lime in your soil, or rather the PH level within your soil. The tips of the leaves are the first to start rotting and before you know it, it will work it’s way down the stalk or petiole until the whole heart is a rotten mess. Make no mistake, unless you can control this problem you will never win any cards with your celery.
This is always one element that the judges are looking for when they appraise the heads and sadly, it can start on the plant, before you are even aware of it. I have seen a head of celery perfect in every way on the day it was harvested, yet by the time it was judged, the heart rot had started over night. Apply the Calcium nitrate at 5 ml to the gallon and trickle the water down into the heart and around the base of the celery. When you go through your celery inspecting it and pulling off any outer stalks that have deteriorated, leave the collars off for a couple of hours to allow some air to get at the heart and dry it out.