The Back Bone of any Vegetable Display - Celery and Large Onions
16th Apr 1997
Even though I was absolutely thrilled to win a Gold medal at Chelsea last year I was disappointed that I was unable to stage what I would normally call the back bone of any vegetable display, namely Celery and large onions. The latter grew to only about twelve inches in circumference which is really not big enough to take centre stage in such a prestigious show as Chelsea. This year the seed was sown earlier, towards the end of July and looks this time like I might be able to harvest them at around the 16 inches mark.
What has pleased me though this year is the Ideal celery, it was potted on into twelve inch pots early in March and has kept growing remarkably well and was given it's first loose collar during mid March. The problem last year was that it constantly kept having heart rot; just as the plant was producing new growth from the centre, so they rotted away.
Having had a chat with Bob Herbert who can really grow celery to a high standard, in fact Bob regularly stages them with a 28 inch blanch and 28 inches in circumference, he told me that the plants were probably starving and that I should introduce more soil into the mix. At every potting stage this time I have mixed in sieved soil from my onion bed together with some M2 initially and some M3 for the final 12 inch pot. The ratio was 4 parts soil to 3 parts M3 and one part Vermiculite with an extra 4 ounces of Vitax Q4 to every bushel of mixture.
The plants are now about 2 ft 6" high and look as if they are going to be really good specimens for staging at the end of May; watering is of course very important with celery and must be kept up regularly, particularly so when grown in pots. Some years ago I grew six plants as a trial potting them on right through to a 14" diameter pot. During the last 6 weeks of their growth they were watered at least twice a day and given liquid feeds very other day. Of the six, I was able to stage three heads at the National Vegetable Society Championships at Ayr and though they never came in the cards, they were the longest blanched there but unfortunately one head had started developing heart rot. It did however prove that if you haven"t got the room for growing celery it can most definitely be grown in containers provided that you are prepared to give the plant regular amounts of water and liquid supplementary feeding.
The plants for The Summer and Autumn shows are now all growing well and they have also been given the added soil to my normal M2 and M3 compost. I explained in my column before about the centre young growth in the pots going brown in previous years and getting what can only be describe as the early onset of celery heart rot. When removing the plants from their pots, the roots were wiry and brown and Bob Herbert was convinced that the plant were starving and not having sufficient nutrients to maintain growth. This year there is no sign of the browning syndrome and the roots are white and healthy so I might well be lucky enough to get some really good heads this year.
This week I shall prepare the greenhouse for planting Tomatoes, they have for a few years now been grown in Gro bags and these will be taken into the greenhouse a few days prior to planting so that they can slowly warm up to their growing environment. The main variety that I shall grow at home is Choice followed by a number of other varieties at the University College at Bangor. The plants there will all be grown in deep floristry buckets using Levington Gro bag compost, they are mixed plants being assessed for their show potential. A number of them are brand new selections with only a serial number at present but the hopeis that I can find a good replacement for the Variety Goldstar which is no longer available and I believe Choice could also be withdrawn after this year.