Tips on Growing Vegetables for Showing - Part 1
8th Jul 1998
It hasn't exactly been a perfect season to date as the weather seems to fluctuate an awful lot; one minute we have lovely hot summer weather then it"s all spoilt by a cold snap such as we had towards the end of May and early June. Regardless of whatever weather is thrown at us, we still have a job to do in order to get the vegetables on to the show bench. For the next few weeks I intend briefly to go through all the vegetables that I grow for showing, giving a few tips on each one.
The first three beds are on the left hand side of my plot and were reconstructed earlier this year using concrete blocks so that they are all now at a height where I can work on them with no strain on my back. Two of the beds were not completed to my satisfaction this year as they were really desperate for some good loam which I was unable to get in time. They will have to wait until next year to be completed.
These two beds have the Ideal celery growing in them and, after planting them on my return from the Chelsea Flower Show, they took a long time to establish themselves owing to the fluctuating weather at that time. They are now growing well and were given a light feed of Chempak 2 to get them moving along during early June; this feed will be altered to a high potash one towards the end of the season. If you have shows during mid August then you should start collaring the plants now; six weeks of blanching should be enough. Keep the beds really moist as they hate to be dry around the roots but because you are creating a really humid growing area, the slugs will be attracted there, so apply plenty of fresh slug pellets on a regular basis.
As the beds were not completed properly as I stated above, the third bed was utilised to grow a range of different types of short carrots for trial, most of them re selected seed of the Chantenay red core variety. There are 90 bore holes in this single bed which measures about 6 foot long and 4 foot wide. An occasional spray of Polysect will be given to these carrots just to make sure that the aphids are kept at bay.
Long Carrots and Long Beet
The next row down has another three raised beds which have proved to be excellent since their conversion last year from supported steel drums to concrete raised beds filled with concreting sand for growing long carrots. The first two beds are all my own strain of long carrot whilst the last one contains half long carrots and half long beet of my own re selection as well as the improved Cheltenham green top. The long carrots have again proved to be a problem this year with a few stations failing to germinate and a few collapsing later on in their growth. Any failed stations were therefore utilised to grow long beetroot as I can't stand any area of ground being under-used.The carrots were given a light foliar feed a few days ago using Chempak 8 with some added Epsom Salts which will really darken the foliage and brighten up the red colour on the roots.
The next three beds are all taken up by the Corrie carrot, a total of 144 bore holes which brings my total of short carrots to 234, all planted in the same mixture as I used for the long carrots. The only exception is that the bottom half of four bore holes at the end of the first bed were part filled with nothing more than very fine vermiculite with no added fertiliser. This is purely a trial to see how clean the root will pull out, provided of course they grow well enough to be considered for pulling; at the moment they are no different to the others. They were all sown on 15th April which is considerably earlier than I have normally sown them in an attempt to satisfy the judging criteria in the new NVS handbook where they ask for a 'decided stump" characteristic. This is often not easily achievable with Corrie as it needs time to develop properly, being a main crop variety. I know that this characteristic develops with maturity and because of its excellent skin colour and texture, I thought it well worth banking on.
The next area on the left side is my first polytunnel which has three raised beds of leeks, two of the Ivor Mace Welsh Seedling that has been cleaned of viruses by Ivor and the other bed has 15 of the Peter Clark type. All of them are doing very well with the exception of one which decided to go sick on me and was promptly removed. They were all given 21 inch collars during the middle of June and I have to say that they are looking as good as any leeks that I have ever grown with the Welsh leek looking really powerful. They are very clean with no sign of thrips or rust and the foliage or flags are better supported this year which has helped towards preventing the plants from bending at the lower quarter of the leek. They are currently showing no signs of a bulbous base either which really destroyed my best leeks last year and I'm convinced that this is because I planted them all about 2" below the soil level in the bed.
One problem that I have had on a regular basis with the Welsh leek is its foliage; because of its thickness, the epidermis seems to separate as it grows, leaving distinct bubble formations on the foliage. These raised type bubbles are much thinner than the leaf and therefore susceptible to extreme heat from the sun's direct rays which burns through them and spoils the end appearance of your dish. The edges of the burnt out foliage will brown over, a condition that will almost certainly render them in a position to be down-pointed by the judge on 'Condition'. This can be prevented from now on by screening the plants from the sun whilst not adversely affecting their growth by blocking out too much sunlight; try covering the tunnel with fine hessian which should prevent the searing heat from getting directly on to the flags.
They have not been fed as the growth rate tells me they don't want any; however towards the end of the month they will be given a couple of feeds of the new Chempak tomato liquid fertiliser which is even higher in potash than the regular Phostrogen or the Phostrogen tomato food. This element is essential to harden up your plant which in turn will give the leek a sheen on the barrel which smacks of a plant that has been really well grown.