Getting Ready for the Welsh and National Championships
23rd May 2002
Now that the Chelsea flower show is history I can get on with growing the vegetables that will hopefully be used at the Welsh Championships and the National Championships.
The tomatoes were certainly in need of attention on my return as some of the plants were desperate to be tied back to the canes. It's essential to remove side shoots on the show varieties of tomatoes but I am not in too much of a hurry initially. I have seen growers struggling to remove tiny side shoots when the plants are no more than a foot high risking snapping off the main growing point. Initially it is much better to allow the side shoots to grow normally as the plants need the chlorophyll from the foliage to strengthen up. Once they are around two feet in height they can then be side shooted.
The seed of the newer F1 hybrid plants are certainly not cheap but there is a way on allowing yourself to get free plants from your current crop. All the side shoots that you remove now can very easily be rooted on by simply pushing them into some gritty compost and leaving them to develop roots in a shady part of the greenhouse. Within a matter of two weeks or so the stem of the cutting will have thrown out adventitious roots and very quickly you have yourself a whole new plant.
There is a lot to be said for this system as, towards the end of the season, you can allow some side shoots to develop on your plants and these can once again be rooted up. If you have heat in your greenhouse, like most exhibitors seem to have, these cuttings can be kept growing over Winter. The young plants can be stopped when about eighteen inches tall to ensure that it will throw out more side shoots so that these can once again be used as cuttings and the mother plant disposed of.
This way you can have cuttings rooting that will be nice young plants ready for growing on next Summer and they won"t have cost you a penny, that is if you already have some heat in the greenhouse for your leeks and onions etc. The great benefit of generating plants in this fashion is that the first truss is always much lower than the ones from plants grown from seed. This means that people in a normal small greenhouse are able to fit in an extra truss before the plants reach the greenhouse glass. One word of caution however, do make sure that the side shoots are only removed from plants that appear to be healthy. It's important to realise that any viruses present in a plant will automatically be transmitted over and if this process is continued ad infinitum you could end up with a really sick plant in the end.
My leeks, since planting out in early May, have rocketed and I was amazed at the size of the plants on my return from Chelsea. From now onwards I will be keeping a very careful eye on the condition of the foliage and in particualr looking out for two dangers, Thrips and Rust, both of which can destroy you chances on the show bench. I have been very successful with controlling Rust by spotting it at the earliest opportunity. It always manifests itself on the lower more mature leaves first and as soon as I see a postule of rust, I cover it over with some Vaseline on the end of a cotton bud. This seals the postule and prevents it from bursting open and spreading the spores on to the other plants. Once the rust takes a hold on you plants and really gets established it is nigh impossible to control with the fungicides that are currently available to the amateur grower.
At the back of my furthest tunnel I have a strip of soil that is about six feet wide and every year this is utilised to grow my exhibition peas 'Show Perfection'. I usually have two rows about fifteen inches apart and the peas within the rows are grown on the cordon system up 8ft canes at a distance of about 9 inches apart. Generally this variety of pea usually takes around a 100 day from sowing the seed to picking your peas. Last year the National Championships were held at Margam Park South Wales on the August Bank holiday weekend which was on the Sunday and Monday 26th and 27th August. As Anglesey is on the gulf stream I can usually pick my peas for showing in just 90 days, so last year they were sown on May the 28th.
Strangely, even though I managed to pick a good set for the class and for my collection, they were right at the top of the plant and this was during a mediocre Summer. Inded on the 27th July as the picture shows, they were getting near to the top of the cane then. This year, as the Welsh Championships is being staged at the same venue and on the same dates, I intend to sow the peas a week later. This means that I will, hopefully, be harvesting show quality specimens after only 83 days of growth. All I can say is that global warming must be having some effect!!