I have just been informed that the John Innes Compost,both No2 and N03, are now available once again. This is the one that Peter Glazebrook uses very successfully to grow his large onions. Peter uses it by mixing a bag of N02 and N03 together, a mix his friend and fellow grower of Giant Veg, Joe Atherton, has called ‘John Innes two and a half!! If you are interested in getting some, please give me a ring or email me for a quote.
I had my annual visit to Chelsea on Monday which is officially Press day and the day that all the Royal family seem to attend at around five o’clock onwards. It really is a joy to be able to get to the show on this particular day as there are no crowds at all and you are able to walk around and see all the exhibits at leisure and while they are at their very best. There was only one vegetable display of note which was staged by the Robinsons family from Lancashire and was awarded a Silver Gilt Medal. These are a few pictures that caught my eye -
I have three lots of large onions on the go this year, the ones at the University glass house outside Bangor, there’s another 24 just been planted up in 30 litre pots inside my glass house on the land. I also have another 20 that are currently in 6 inch pots ready for planting directly outdoors when, or perhaps if, the weather improves. These are going to be planted up in the raised concrete block bed where my celery has grown over the past three years.
This particular bed has some class one soil incorporated with the some well rotted horse manure and the whole lot was rotavated together with some Levington M3 on top of the bed. Some slow release fertiliser was added as well as some of my own Leek and Onion Fertiliser with added magnesium as well as some Nutrimate powder. Once these are planted I shall erect some protection all round them using fine mesh to cut out any possible wind damage.
I haven’t grown exhibition onions outside for many years, going really with the flow of offering protection to them with either glass or polythene. It will be interesting to see how they perform without overhead protection and the result will of course depend to a large extent on what sort of Summer we get. If we have a proper warm to hot dry Summer I would expect to harvest some really good bulbs. Time will tell.
I have really gone to town on short carrots this year having 740 cored holes in one raised bed which consists of five different varieties including a yellow and a purple variety, all of course for my late display at Malvern. The other raised bed has 430 Sweet Candle sown ten days ago and these are also for Malvern and possibly for a set at the National in Harrogate, provided they have a distinct stump end.
Inside the polytunnel on the land I have another lot of around 400 growing well away now for my Tatton Park display.
They are in square containers and deep 150 litre pots. All these will remain inside the poly tunnel through until they are ready for harvesting. One square bed consists of Sweet Candle
whilst the others are again a mixture. I also have 150 round carrots growing away in 10 litre pots on the bench and these are now ready to be thinned down to one. Last Friday we finished coring and filling the twenty large grey pipes on the field. Ten pipes of Parsnips, three in each pipe of a new early variety that we may stock next year if it performs well, it’s called Pacific F1. The other ten pipes have three of my own long carrots in each one.
In my tunnels at home I also have a further two sowing of thirty long carrots in blue barrels with the first lot about two inches tall. These are meant for Tatton but with the cold late Spring they may well be a little light. So, all in all, I must a have over 1600 carrots in total.
My early sowing of leeks and onions, just as I thought, are now a source of worry. They were of course intended for the Chelsea Flower Show in about three weeks time, but as I pulled out of that show I still planted them hoping that they might make it for the Tatton Park Flower show during mid July. The onions are quite something at the moment and would probably have been the best that I would have shown at Chelsea. The biggest is now approaching 18 inches in circumference with plenty of top still on it and still pushing young growth from the centre.
The bulk of them will probably grow on for another 2 to three weeks until around mid May and I will probably lift them around the end of that month. This means they will have to last for a further 7 weeks before I can stage them at Tatton, depending of course if they are going to be worth staging. I have on one occasion, 2010, shown some onions that had been on my stand at Chelsea and the same onions, with a couple of others from a later sowing, again formed part of my display at Malvern on the same year. Obviously there were a few split skins but they were still good enough to help me gain another gold medal.
For some reason there are a few bulbs in pots that are looking very powerful and at the moment reluctant to swell out. They look like they could be really big specimens as they are on 18 leaves with powerful looking stems.
I do have a back up of onions this year, I have 26 just planted up in 30 litre pots in the large glasshouse on the land and a further 20 to go outside in my old celery bed with mesh all around them. The latter will happen when the weather improves considerably as it’s very cold here at the moment.
The leeks for Tatton are possibly my best bet for making it on the day even though they are now 6¾” in circumference. They are currently on 18 inch collars and they have certainly slowed down the lengthening process. I will have to monitor them carefully as I had full intensions of increasing the collar length to 21″. However if they are hesitant to pull I may well have to leave them on 18 inches and hope they don’t split on me. I am more convinced than ever that to get the length on the Pendle, up to 21 inches say, they certainly need to be pulled young and on a regular basis. If they get to a certain girth they do seem very reluctant to pull upwards after that.
The problem is if you put a collar on that’s too tall they won’t pull and all you do is spoil the whole leek as you will simply just blanch the lower foliage. When that happens no amount of stripping will improve the length, indeed it will probably spoil it. I seem to have a constant battle with whitefly this year and though the yellow sticky traps catch a lot of them still need to make contact with it. I have used a new spray which seems to be very effective, it’s called ‘Chess’ and works without killing any beneficial insects as well. It’s not an instant knock down but takes up to four days to work followed with another spray in four days or so.
Chess is a commercial product and claims the following – Unique chemistry and mode of action, Prevents aphids feeding in minutes, they then die from starvation. Activity observed on a range of other sucking insects as well. Excellent crop safety and as I said it’s safe to most beneficial insects. This is available from Fargro Ltd.
What a lovely Spring we are having, this time last year I had over an acre of potatoes planted and I was seriously considering watering them as it was so hot and dry. It’s been so cold this March that the weeds aren’t growing and that says it all!
Last weekend I gave a talk over at Salisbury for the Hampshire DA with over a 100 present. I stayed the Saturday night with Bob Brown who suffers with Muscular Dystrophy and yet he still loves his garden. His next door neighbour is Chris Hewlett who helps Bob a lot with the planting etc. When going around Chris’s garden he had just sowed his Sweet Candle Carrots, over a 100 bore holes and he had a novel way of growing them.
When I sow my short carrots I always fill the bore holes to about an inch short of the surface. This is to allow me to naturally cover the shoulder of the carrot as it develops thereby preventing the shoulders from being exposed to daylight and greening over. Both Chris and Bob have taken this a stage further by inserting pieces of piping into the bore hole with the top of the pipe about an inch above the sandy bed.
The short pieces of piping, about 3 inches in length, have been sawn from the same type of pipe as they core the sand out with. This serves a very useful function by leaving the upper surface of the filled compost level at all times whilst the seed are germinating. The problem that I experience is that during watering, there is a tendency for the side of the bore hole to trickle in on top of the sown seed thereby making the depth that the seed has to germinate through much deeper. This will also lead to an uneven germination of the bed. I certainly like this idea and it’s something you only have to invest in once as the pipes, after they have germinated and been thinned down to a strong young plant, can then be kept until required the following year.
Both the early sown leeks and Onions for Tatton park Show are still doing well with the onions on 16 leaves and starting to swell out. The leeks are on their 15 inch collar and nearly ready to get an eighteen inch one. They are probably the best leeks I have ever had at this time and as I have already said previously, I just hope they don’t go to seed!
I also potted up some of my old heritage parsley, Faulds. This is undoubtedly the best type of parsley to grow, either in classes or for garnishing. These large plants will now be my stock plants for seed production later on this year. When we put together the displays at shows we actually take 100 pots of parsley with us for garnishing between the various dishes of vegetables.
A very quick blog before I travel down to Wakefield to give a talk at the Northern Branch all day Seminar. I now have some Purple Eyed Seedling in stock at the same price and postal charges as the others in my Catalogue. You can order the potatoes by the Kilo from my on line shop, Item N0 6013. I also now have plenty of Cedrico Tomato seed and I would suggest you buy enough to last you a few years because it has definitely finished. Tomatoes have a good shelf life if kept in the bottom of a refrigerator, Item N0 3145 in our Shop.
Perhaps you would like to check out three new additions to our Sundry list on our on line shop. They are watering cans in 3, 5 and 8 litre capacity. Item 0086, Item 0087 and Item 0088. They are galvanised and painted over in green and the 8 litre can has a very fine fitted mesh on top of the filling aperture to prevent any dirt or grit getting in and blocking the rose. These are brand new on the market and in my opinion superb value for money. They are lightweight and well balanced with the 3 litre can being perfect for light greenhouse work.
Last Thursday whilst at the University glasshouse in Aber I decided to change the 9 inch collars on my Pendle Improved leeks and extend them to 12 inches. I was very surprised to see that the button was nearly level with the top of the collar and the root plate is approximately an inch below the compost surface. This of course means that the blanch is already at around 10 inches in length which is much longer than I first thought.
The collars are made from a bubble like material around quarter of an inch thick with one side silvered. I cut the collar to measure 12 inches by 15 inches so that at the next stage I can simply remove the collar and roll it up in the opposite direction to give me a height of 15 inches. I had about three rolls of this material kindly given to me and as far as I am aware they are used in the construction industry as a form of insulation material. I don’t their cheap but they will last for years, particularly if you plan ahead and cut them to the correct sizes so that one piece will give you two lifts on the button.
The beauty of them is that they are quite rigid and the silver side facing outwards to reflect the light from the barrel helps keep the leek cool. I have used this on my celery as well with equal success.
At the moment I am very happy with the progress of both my Pendle blanch leeks, my Cumbrian Pot leeks and my own selection from the Ivor Mace Large exhibition Onions, all of course destined for Tatton and were started off August last year. The leeks are in 30 litre pots and last week they had their first collar made from builders damp course and cut to 12 inch by 9 inches. It’s now rolled on giving me a height of nine inches, this will be removed before long and rolled the other way to give me a collar height of 12 inches.
The onions are now on nine leaves with two support clips supporting the leaves whilst another single clip is used to keep the stem growing upright. This is important if I am to harvest onions with good form or shape on them.
The pot leeks Cumbrian, are showing the usual blotches on the leaf which is a virus that seems to curtail somewhat the earlier growth. However the growth will quickly improve as the plant seems to grow out of this early virus affecting the leaf. Watering all these is quite critical with the water being targeted around the inside of the pot rim and never aroud the centre of the plant.
Time will tell if this is going to work, don’t forget these were initially intended for the Chelsea flower show in May so all could end with a disappointment if they throw up a seed head. I shall keep you posted.
I had some disappointing news yesterday when I ordered more seed of Cedrico Tomato, I was informed by the breeder that it was no longer available and all their seed stocks had been exhausted. Even if there was any left it would be in poor condition. This means that I have now only sufficient seed left to satisfy those orders that I have taken in for Cedrico plants. So please be wary if anyone else offers you Cedrico as there definitely aren’t any available.
To those customers who are still waiting for Cedrico seed I will have to offer the Zenith which, in my mind, is every bit as good as Cedrico. For next year we may well do as we did with Goldstar, sell some rooted cuttings which we will have to nurture throughout the winter months and sell them as rooted cuttings in packs of Five.
I am however constantly on the lookout for new varieties and all tomato breeders are aware of the criteria I’m looking for. In many respects, talking to a breeder yesterday, most of the big boys are pulling the plug on all varieties if the don’t sell in their millions. This could be a worry to us as we look at our show vegetables with a different outlook to those of the commercial world such as supermarkets etc. They tend to dictate the trends and are currently looking to buy flat bottomed tomatoes as their easier to stack and you get more into a box! Time will tell where this will lead.
Ivor Mace and Paul Barlow have written an Ebook that’s called Chrysanthemums:- the ultimate ebook and it costs £10. Probably the best reference work ever written on the subject, it has everything you need to know about growing every type of Chrysanthemum containing over 400 pages with plenty of coloured picturers as well. Contact Ivor Mace on his email www.ivormace.com .