Sunday 24th June 2012
Having just returned from giving a talk for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir I have to say that I am reasonably pleased with most things in the garden. That is mainly due to my son Alwyn and my daughter in law Alina, they have really taken to this gardening hobby and they both take a lot of the weight from my shoulder these days. The onions were again planted a little late and the necks are too long for my liking, I don’t think they will make very large specimens. However, having said that, the best measured today 15½” around. These are primarily intended for my displays with the first one coming up at the Royal Welsh in a month’s time. At this time of year you should and can expect an onion to expand at the rate of a ¼” a day, let’s say an inch a week. This hopefully should allow me to harvest a set, though a little green, at around 18 to 19 inches in circumference, 15 of them should look reasonably good on my display.
My leeks, Pendle Improved, for Malvern and possibly the Welsh Championships at Bridgend on the 1st and 2nd of September are on 18 inch collars and looking well. I have reverted this year to my old way of blanching by starting off when the plants were in 5 inch pots and much younger. I do find with the Pendle that if you let them put on too much weight with a small collar, they are very reluctant to pull upwards when you are late putting the 18 inch collar on with a couple of flags yellowing, rather than extending.
I pulled my first ‘Centro’ onion yesterday, this was the biggest in the bed, as I normally do, I like to find out what measurement I should be pulling up the remainder at. It so happened that after cleaning the onion down to one whole skin, removing the top, leaving a stem of about two inches also trimming off the roots, the onion was 10.625 in circumference. This is 10 and five eighths and as you can see, it weighed in at 246 grams, just about as good as you can get The remainder will now be harvested at this size.
This ‘New’ Centro onion certainly looks as if it could be a serious challenge to Vento, it’s got a nice shape and I have plenty more to harvest in the days ahead from the Link-a-Bord beds of nearly a hundred. To be honest I was a little greedy when planting out and I have too many in reality growing in a square metre. Most will make good onions but I do struggle now that the foliage is so powerful, to get in amongst them to clean up the dying and split skins..
My long carrots are about the best I have had for a number of years and this lot is expected to be ready for the Royal Welsh as well as possibly the Welsh Championships. The stalks are strong and they have good colour and when I try and pull them gently by the foliage, they seem to well rooted in their bore holes. The same applies to my new parsnip to replace Polar, this has very strong stalks and should have some heavy roots below, given time! I was speaking to John Branham who also grows this new selection and he thinks it’s possibly the best he has grown so far, time will tell.
Finally my stock plants of my own selection long carrots from New Red Intermediate are the best ever with plenty of large heads which should yield some of the best and biggest seed from well set heads. The bumble bees have now realised they are there and they certainly help to make every flower set as seed.
June 18th Blog
I have an exciting couple of days ahead of me this week as I’m travelling down to Oxfordshire tomorrow morning to give a talk at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford for Raymond Blanc. This is undoubtedly one of the top restaurants in the Country and I’m really looking forward to my evening meal tomorrow night as well as lunch on Wednesday. The talk is for around 50 people on Wednesday morning 19th July at 11am followed by a special lunch. If you fancy coming along please ring Sarah Eaton on 07860 632 175 to see if there are any vacancies.
For this special event I decided to grow a few special veggies such as long Beetroot, my own Long Carrots and the new parsnip to replace Polar as well as two Pendle Blanch Leeks. When I was invited to give the presentation it was on the 13th of February this year so on the 14th I sowed all the above roots, Four of each kind in six inch pipes using Levington F2S to fill the pipes. The carrots were really exceptionally long and slowly carrying their weight down measuring 7 inch in circumference around the shoulder and every one had gone down the 4ft length of pipe. The Long beet were really good and I only pulled Three from the four sown. The parsnips were a little small as, Ideally they should have been sown earlier in the New Year, the quality was good though.
The Two Pendle Improved Leeks were from a batch that I am growing for my stand at the Royal Welsh. I now have 11 left and as they are a good size already, 7 or 8 is all I will require to fill my centre piece stand for leeks. These leeks have been on their final 18 inch collars for over a fortnight now. By the time I pull them, probably on Thursday the 19th of next month, the day before we all travel down to the show, they should have reasonable length.
What terrible weather we are experiencing at the moment, the plants must be so confused they don’t know whether it’s Spring Summer or Autumn! My Sweet Candle carrots for the Royal Welsh show have all been grown this year (as a trial) in large heavy plastic boxes with their intended purpose supposedly for the transportation of oranges. They are not cheap but we managed to buy two old ones with holes in the bottom and positioned then within the doors to the polytunnel.
Both were filled with sand (they took well over a ton each) and bore holes were cored out to a depth of 18 inches. There is 26 in each box and they have really grown well with one omission. This was certainly due to my myself as I must have omitted to sow one station!! The seed was s own during early March and both beds are as even as you could possibly get them.
On the 1st June a farmer friend came over with his John Deere and extending boom with fork lift attachment and moved both boxes outside. It was lovely Summers day but the day after it turned cold and wet and that’s the sum total of it more or less since then.
My potatoes for the Royal Welsh are also doing well with some powerful heavy haulms on them. I was given some orange plastic material by a friend who bought a roll of it at a farmers sale and it has certainly come in very handy. I wrapped it around the whole double row of potatoes and it’s certainly helped to keep the haulms upright and undamaged. They were given a liquid feed last week of Medwyns Liquid Gold which is a growth stimulant involving some new chemistry. I can use it as a foliar or as a drench treatment. Liquid Gold Increases root development and ensures maximum utilisation of all available nutrients. Excellent for drought tolerance by reducing transpiration through the leaves.
The wonder of technology, yesterday I took my first video with commentary of my parsnips and Long carrots growing for the middle of July and targeted at the Royal Welsh Show. Have a look at it and do let me know what you think of them. When you consider that the technology in my hand was no bigger than a box of Swan matches the pictures were very good! The camera I have constantly with me, attached to my belt, is a Sony 4X optical zoom Steady Shot DSC-W530. Not an expensive camera at all but with its Carl Zeiss lens it certainly takes some super pictures. All I need to do now is to be able to use it better and take video pictures as the plants are growing away.
The parsnips were sown towards the end of February a brand new variety which is going to be the replacement for Polar F1 which will no longer be available from the breeder. This is currently a number only and if it performs to expectations it will certainly feature in my New seed Catalogue for 2012 – 2013. I like the look of it at the moment as it seems to have a much shorter top than Polar with very powerful stalks, lets home there is something powerful below as well! In addition it’s suppose to be one of the whitest parsnips to date.
The long carrots seed was sown around the middle of March and the mix was nothing more than a bag of F2S with an added 10 litre pot full of Fine grade Vermiculite. The seed is from our selection of New Red Intermediate with the stock having been inter planted over the past few years with specimens from John Branham and Graeme Watson. To have good vigour in your carrot seed you need to be planting plenty of them, one or two is not sufficient to maintain the vigour within the selection. This year we have over 30 planted up right along one side of my old wooden Parsnip bed. The heads are the most powerful I have ever grown and I’m now hoping for some bumper large seed with help from the bumble bees, once they find where the seed heads are!
We are now slowly catching up on the land after the dismal April and early May. Last Friday I managed to get my second sowing of celery planted, the variety was Morning Star. I have never planted out before from such small pots, they were actually only 4 inches and shallow as well. However the weather was good and the plants were well rooted so rather than re potting, into the soil they went straight in to their Link-a-Bord raised beds. These are two boards high and erected on the soil adjoining my polytunnel with 5 plants in each bed. Prior to planting a dusting of Mycorrhiza Root Plus powder was applied to the planting holes and the celery produced from these beds last year were superb. The soil was well worked over with my little lightweight Honda rotavator with well rotted farm yard manure incorporated. Also added was Medwyns Complete Base Fertiliser 5.3-7.5-10 +TE (trace elements) at 4 ounces per square metre as well 4 ounces of Nutrimate.
The same day I re collared my first lot of blanch leeks, the Pendle Improved, from 15 inch collars to 18 inch collars all made from Builders Damp Course. These are intended again for the Royal Welsh show and they should make some excellent specimens. These were struck from an excellent early head of pips during early October while my usual ones, those for late August and Malvern were struck towards the end of October to early November.