Re-capping on Achievements to Date
8th May 2003
Things are certainly starting to ease off a bit now with the pressure of the impending Chelsea Flower Show now starting to turn into good hype. All I need to do now is to liquid feed all plants that are approaching maturity on a weekly basis as well as the routine work of removing side shoots, tying and making sure all plants remain pest and disease free. This of course means that I am now able to concentrate a little more on things at home, and there is certainly plenty to be getting on with.
To re cap a little on what has so far been achieved in the order in which they were either sown or planted in their final growing positions.
The first of the vegetables to be sown were parsnips and they are doing really well so far, with the speed of germination being the fastest that I have ever had. Gladiator was the first to show through in 13 days with dagger following 2 days later. The main reason for the quick germination was undoubtedly due to the warm growing conditions that they were under. Not only are they being grown under a greenhouse type timber construction on top of the two raised beds, the surface area of the bore holes were also covered with panes of glass. Within a further ten days they were all thinned down to one seedling per station.
Large Exhibition Onions
The next item to be planted were the large exhibition onions, 32 of these were planted at the end of March and are growing away steadily. They were followed by two sowings of long carrots, 48 stations on the first day with a further 44 stations five days later. Stump or carrots other then long went in during mid April as well as two types of long beetroot, re selected Cheltenham Green Top and my own re selected Long Black, the tomatoes were also planted at this time.
A week or so ago I planted my leeks, 1 single row of eight in each of the two beds which, if they grow as good as I have had in the past, should satisfy all my show requirements. They are nearly always planted around that time as the soil is then nicely warmed up without any need for soil warming cables. Also, as they are usually planted up into 4 litre pots, they are rarely ready for planting anyway until this time. I am now starting to think that even though the leeks and the onions are part of the same family, the alliums, they may well prefer different conditions.
I have this year treated my leeks harder than the onions in the sense that they were weaned off the lighting and bottom heat much earlier. This I hope will make them grow on stronger towards the back end of the season, it's all very well to have large impressive leeks at this time of year, however, the reality is that the largest and most impressive leeks are those that peak on the show bench, time will tell.
It's now to time to really prepare the celery beds as they need to be planted next week, just before I go off to the Chelsea flower show, I planted the same time last year as well and the plants really did grow well for me. This time though I expect them to do even better, the two beds were thoroughly prepared during early autumn with plenty of organic farm yard manure incorporated right through the two foot deep raised bed. When the soil is renovated it should be full of humus, just what the doctor ordered for the celery plants.
As I have said many times, celery is a bog plant and thrives on the sort of conditions that a heavily manured soil will give it. Chris Hewllet goes even one step further by really creating a boggy marshy 5type bed, and we all know by now how tremendous his celery growing is. The heads of 'Redstar' that he won the NVS Championships with at Malvern last year was the best that I have ever seen staged at any show. Chris told me they were even better a fortnight earlier as they were starting to loose their crispness slightly. The winning heads actually measured 20 inches around and were five feet tall. Chris" secret is to use some rally old cow manure, in fact he reckons that the stuff he has now must be at least 15 years old. It has never seen the light of day, the manure is actually cut with a farming knife straight out of the sheds and he buys it at £1.00 a bag. Three or four of these bags are then emptied into an old galvanised bath and broken down before adding water to it. Sufficient water is added until the manure becomes the consistency of pea soup and this is then added into the bed.
The beds are two scaffold planks high and 4 foot wide, the top fifteen inch layer is removed completely and this prepared slurry is poured on top, anywhere between 4 and 5 inches deep. Carefully working from the side (you certainly don't want to fall on your face into this stuff!) with a fork he works through the lower spit allowing the manure to work into it. The top soil is then replaced and 4ounces of Fish Blood and Bone worked in to every square yard. During the season I shall give you some more tips form Chris so that you can even improve your celery growing.