Laying the Foundations for Next Year
27th Sep 2001
This Summer wasn't too bad for me in the growing sense, we had some sunshine as well as enough rain to prevent at least a hose pipe ban. However Summer is now gone and Autumn is here so we have plenty of work to do between now and next Spring. When you build a house the most important element is the foundation on which every wall in you house depends right through to the roof. One can easily draw a comparison with this in Show gardening terms, it"s from now that you start to lay the foundation for next Summers shows, and the better the foundations laid the better will be your success at the show bench.
The first thing for me immediately after I return from the shows is to select the very best long carrots and long beet for seed production. My long carrot has been re selected by both my late father and I for over forty years and in the main that is because of the tight selection that I have used. My father used to select his before I was even married and in those days his main variety was Altringham. However one year I decided to push things along a little and persuaded him to sow a few rows of a different variety to test out how good they were in comparison with Altringham.
Altringham in it's day was undoubtedly an excellent variety but it wouldn't hold a candle against my re selection today. Dad therefore had Altringham in the first row as a control and then New Red Intermediate, I don't now why they still call it New as it's been around for as long as I can remember. The third row was Red Elephant and as the name intimated it was supposed to be of gigantic proportions. This was followed by St Valery and then Long Red Surrey concluded the trial.
In Days Gone By
In those days of course Dad had no idea at all about growing them above ground in pipes, drums or raise beds, indeed he never bored a hole in the soil even. All he did in his light sandy soil (that had loads of ashes thrown all over it from the fireplace for many years) was to open up a deep trench then go back along it forking the bottom as loose and as fine as he could manage it before closing up the whole row and shaping it into a ridge which would be as straight as bullet.
My father was a farm worker where very long hours was quite normal, in those days he used to work late in the Summer evenings hardly giving him any time for gardening and then to top it all he would have to work on Saturday mornings as well until lunch time. He effectively therefore only had Saturday afternoons until dusk to carry out most, if not all of his work. The difference in those days was that Dad wouldn't dream of working in the garden on Sunday an neither would my mother do any washing, if she had to as an emergency, she certainly wouldn't hang them out to dry; the neighbours might see them! how times have changed.
Yet with so little time to spare he took pride in the way that he opened his rows as well as how he finished them. His gardening friends of course would come over now and then for a natter as well as to see the garden and straight neat rows were a must. Sadly I do feel that we are now living in a period where 'anything will do' we seem to have lost that extra bit of pride that the older generation had. There's nothing that gives me more pleasure when visiting a fellow grower than to see neatly laid out rows of vegetables with those rows in a straight line like a canon; a nicely laid out vegetable garden to me during June and July can be more beautiful than a garden full of flowers.
I can remember when I first had my own house and Dad came over to give me a hand in the garden. I'd opened my first two rows and was about to sow some seed when he arrived with the comment ‘why didn't you open them straight' to which I replied that the vegetables would grow just the same if the rows were straight or like a banana. ‘Yes' he said ‘but where's your pride, what if someone comes here to see your bendy rows, and anyway it will make it a lot easier for you when you come to weed or hoe' good old days.
However I am now reminiscing too much, the carrots were eventually all harvested and as he never seemed to use any fertiliser, certainly not for the long carrots, the roots were of excellent quality with superb smooth skins. Of course they were nowhere near the length that we can achieve today through using a bar but they were as good as you would see anywhere at that time. From one of the rows he lifted a really superior specimen to all the others, and I can't be sure which row it came from. This was a heavier carrot all round and so long that the root had snapped when he tried to pull the whole entity. We both agreed then that this particualr carrot would be kept back, there wasn't one like it anyway in the remainder of the rows to make a matching set, and it was duly re planted for seed production.
All this came flooding back to me a few weeks ago when I potted up over thirty of my long carrots for seed production as well as my own long black beet. For the past few years I have started them off in deep 4 litre rose pots and eventually, when the beds have been prepared in early Spring, they will be transplanted to these. The pots will initially be positioned on a concrete path adjoining my long carrot beds so they will be well protected.