Most of the preparatory work obviously gets done outside but there is valuable work to be done indoors as well. One task that I like to carry out is to set out my next years activities on a planner so that I know exactly where and when the relevant shows are held.
The preparation and planning for next season is well and truly under way now and if this work isn’t carried out properly, the results of your endeavours next year might not quite be up to the mark. Most of the preparatory work obviously gets done outside but there is valuable work to be done indoors as well. One task that I like to carry out is to set out my next years activities on a planner so that I know exactly where and when the relevant shows are held. This is an absolute must for me as my commitments are heavy, so the first thing is to ascertain which shows I’m competing in and to find out their dates.
Next year I have three major displays to stage, Chelsea, Southport and Cincinnati in Ohio USA where I have been invited back to their new show which is being held during late September. The next dates to be entered are the competitive shows such as the National Championships of the NVS and the Welsh Branch Championships. The Nationals are held at Dundee on 1st to 3rd September and the Welsh are held at Pembroke on 19th and 20th August. Southport is on 17th to 19th August which clashes with the Welsh Championships so I shall be staging on the 15th and16th and then leaving on the 18th for the Welsh.
Once the show dates are entered, the next crucial thing is to enter the sowing dates for the various vegetables. This is a very important factor as I need quality vegetables on time for the three large displays and the sowing dates can easily be forgotten; with things like radishes, if you miss the dates by as little as a week either way, you may well not have any on the day.
Cross referencing with this years sowing dates can prove to be very useful, My sowing dates for short carrots were a little late this year as they never quite got to the right size. My first batch of cauliflowers were also sown too late so this date will be amended. However, always be aware that however diligent you are going to be, it’s the weather that will have the final say and if we have a real scorcher of a summer, then all the best laid out plans can go through the window.
The next stage is to make sure that you have all your seeds ordered in plenty of time .The first things I order will be potatoes so that I can start to chit them in plenty of time. This is particularly important for early crops such as the eight different varieties that I shall be growing for Chelsea. These are usually planted in 5 inch pots in peat based compost and left on the greenhouse bench with just enough heat to make the growing area frost free. They will be planted on 20th January and by the third week in May I shall have a good crop of August quality potatoes for display.
One potato that some have been raving about for the show bench is Alex which was introduced in 1998, a long narrow part-coloured variety that has a deep bluish splash on the end with creamy to white flesh. My opinion is that it will never make a truly top flight show variety but a dish on my Chelsea display, where colour is paramount for best effect, should look very effective.
There are a number of new varieties out that have been seen around the shows this year and the latest potato catalogue from Websters, the only one that I have to date, lists eight new varieties. According to Mr Webster, five of these are show varieties with Celine already making a name;it is a long oval red-skinned variety maturing as a second early and bred by one of the top breeders, Jack Dunnet. Another potato listed as new although I grew it in 1998 is Osprey, a round oval pink-eyed variety maturing as a second early. This is another variety from the Jack Dunnet stable and has been bred from Kestrel with all the same exhibition qualities. However it has never performed well for me, having a lot of marks on the skin when grown in an identical manner to Kestrel. I have seen some nice dishes on the table but I don’t think it will ever be as good as Kestrel. Claret is an early maincrop producing oval red-skinned potatoes, very uniform with shallow eyes and this variety has high resistance against blight and scab. Kirrie is a long oval pink-eyed variety that matures as a second early, producing a high yield of large tubers with superficial eyes. According to the catalogue this one has smooth skin finish and is resistant to eel worm. The fifth variety is Amour, a round pink-eyed potato maturing as an early Maincrop which produces a huge yield of bold shallow-eyed potatoes that have a high resistance to most diseases; a variety exclusive to Websters.