Chelsea and other shows - Onions, Leeks, Parsnips, Long and Short Carrots, Celery, Parsley
12th Jan 2000
Onions, Leeks, Parnsips and Long and Short Carrots
Things are getting quite hectic once more, no sooner than I feel I'm on top of the job, other work needs doing and with Chelsea flower show on the horizon there is never enough hours in the day. Just for interest, my leeks and onions for Chelsea are now in 7 inch pots and looking tremendous. The long and short carrots are already sown as are the parsnips and this weekend I shall be sowing a batch of Parsley that will help me through Chelsea as well through to the August September shows.
Celery and Parsley
If you have an early show, late July to mid August, now is the time to be sowing a tiny pinch of trench or exhibition type celery. It takes a long time to gain its maximum size so sowing it now will be just right. The same sowing strangely enough will be perfect for Chelsea as well, even though 3 month early, it will gain it"s full potential having been grown under glass.
The celery and parsley seed is sown thinly on top of some Levington F1 compost in a small shallow tray and the seed given a fine mist spray on top. Both the celery and parsley are part of the umbelliferae family and I find that they germinate a lot more evenly if subjected to some diffused light. The seed is therefore not covered over but just lightly pressed into the top surface of the compost and kept evenly moist throughout.
The variety of celery to sow for the show benches is undeniably Ideal, but this year I intend to have a go at both new crosses that have been bred for me and showed great promise when they were trialled last year. The Ideal cross 'M' is a very tall vigorous variety whilst the Ideal cross 'L", whilst equally vigorous is slightly shorter in height. Both have a lovely splash of pink at the base and is sure to make a big hit on the show bench. As the seed is currently unregistered I am unable to sell it, but I can sell the young seedlings if you are interested. They are currently listed in my new catalogue, please send three first class stamps if you need a copy to Medwyn Williams Llanor, Llanfairpwll Anglesey LL61 5RZ.
There's no doubt that one of the most popular classes at local shows is the one for small onions which gives most gardeners an opportunity to match up with the top growers. This class used to be known as the 'Under 8 ounces class" or ‘250 grams or less' depending on which flower shows you were going to be competing in as the rules differed between the National Vegetable Society and the RHS.
Thankfully, since the new RHS handbook has been published the weights have come in line and all the onions this coming season will need to weigh in at 250 grams or less which is 8.8 ounces, considerably larger than the previous 8 ounces. This will make the need for two sets of onions unnecessary as well as allowing onions to be grown to nearer their natural optimum than previously.
It is now the ideal time to sow these varieties in a warm heated greenhouse if you haven't already done so outdoors during early autumn last year. The choice of varieties to grow are extensive and the you need to decide which one grows best, not only for you but in your locality as well. I am a firm believer in varieties that suit their location, the old adage ‘horses for courses' is certainly true amongst vegetables as well.
One variety that I can recommend with confidence is one that I introduced many years ago called Buffalo, as this variety is still winning at the highest level, the last NVS championships class were won by Buffalo. Buffalo is a Japanese type onion and if sown in a little warmth now will mature quickly and you will be able to harvest it from late June onwards. This means that when fully harvested it develops a very mature light straw colour, ready even for the mid August Shows.
Other new varieties to try are Toughball, Bison and Vitesso all of which have won at he highest level, it's really a question of choice. If you haven't got a warm greenhouse then it might be better for you to consider planting onion sets instead of sowing from seed. These are really onions sown from seed the previous year, harvested at around an inch in diameter and kept under controlled temperaturers until ready for planting. In the past my father has had some excellent specimens of the variety Centurion from a sowing during early March in a cold greenhouse. Using plantpak 15's (15 cells in each large seed tray) fill them up with a peat based multipurpose compost and plant one set in each cell, plant them out after gradually hardening them off. They will grow to the required size a lot faster this way with the added benefit that this particualr variety stores over Winter really well.