Surging ahead in the Sunshine
1st May 2003
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My tomatoes were planted at least two weeks earlier this year from the same sowing date as last years plants. Last years planting date was the 25th April and this year they went in on the 11th April as very strong sturdy plants. There was really two reasons for this, firstly they were started off in my greenhouses at Bangor University where they were subjected to 16 hours of artificial lights. They were brought back home just after they had been transplanted into their final 4 inch square pots. From that point on they had no more artificial lights but the greenhouse temperature was kept at a minimum of 55°F.
Early arrival of Summer?
The most important reason of all though is the phenomenal weather that we experienced here in North Wales during March and April. I don't think I can remember such long sunny days, if it wasn"t for the cold snap in the evenings you could easily have mistaken it for mid Summer. Everything else is much further advanced as well, for the first time in eight years of staging at Chelsea I am concerned about some of the vegetables maturing too early.
What has been making amazing growth in a matter of days has been the various types of beans. The initial growth rate on the French and Runner beans was such that they had to be potted on from a 3 inch pot into a five inch pot in 10 days and within a further 10 days the leading shoot on the runner beans were 4 foot high. Other things romping away are various types of courgettes, I have been eating these since early April and just hope that the plant will continue to be productive.
Peppers, Chillies and Aubergines
Of course the sunshine brings good news as well, particularly for some of the more difficult cultivars to grow well. The peppers and chillies are all fruiting now as are the various types of Aubergines so I hope to have more full coloured fruit on the stand this year. The long blanch leeks seem to be wallowing in all the sunshine, they are, up to now, undoubtedly the best that I have ever grown, they are just over 7½ inches around and have been on their 18 inch collars for over a month already. This means that if they continue to grow at the rate that they are doing, I will definitely need less leeks for the circular pillar that I create with them.
This year I planted 32 leeks in three raised beds made out of Link-a-Bord which means that I should have a few left over. With these I intend to nurture them along with the odd balanced liquid feed just to see how big they really will grow before they either split or go to seed. The pots leeks, the Cumbrian, (picture attached) is also doing well after a slow start which seems to be par for the course for this particular variety. This year I hope to display these upright as single specimens in a 2 litre pot which should look quite impressive with their arching foliage spanning other dishes on the stand.
Back at home things are fairly well on target although there is always something that is desperately in need of attention in some way or other. The onions are now established after being planted out in the polytunnel on the 30th March which happened to be a glorious sunny Spring day. Of course the only reason I was able to plant that early is because I have heating cables running right through the two beds that they are planted in so the soil temperature rarely drops below 60°F. Since they have been planted we have had a few nights of frost, but living on Anglesey, which is an Island, surrounded by the Irish sea, we rarely get severe frosts. Having said that, I am also convinced that if the roots of the plant are kept warm, the tops can well look after themselves. In past years I can remember entering the tunnel after a couple of nights of fairly hard frost and seeing the tips of the onion leaves white where the frost had caught them. They continued to grow and not even one onion went to seed that year and I was able to stage some excellent quality bulbs in August.
One thing that really annoys me is if I cut I my finger when gardening, I just get livid with myself for doing it as I hate working with plasters or gloves on my hands. Well I did have a deep cut the other week and I had to attend the surgery to ask for a tetanus injection. I had already been given a booster about five years ago and apparently, according to the nurse that treated me, the rules are now different.
What I did not know was that routine Tetanus immunisation began in 1961, thus individuals born before that year will not have been immunised in infancy. That placed me within that category and therefore I had to have the full course of immunisation. For immunised adults who have received five doses either in childhood or as a result of injuries, booster doses are not recommended, other than at the time of Tetanus prone injury, since they have been shown to be unnecessary and can cause considerable local reactions. Data supports the fact that Tetanus has occurred only exceptionally rarely in fully immunised individuals despite the passage of many years since the completing dose of a standard course of immunisation, and without subsequent routine boosting. Cases that have occurred were never fatal.
There is therefore little justification for boosting with Tetanus vaccine beyond the recommended 5 dose regime.