Tips on Growing Vegetables for Showing - Part 2
15th Jul 1998
I shall continue this week with my theme of taking you around my vegetable garden, giving you hints and tips on how to treat the various vegetables as they now approach maturity. It always amazes me how fast time seems to go by when talking in gardening terms. It only seems like yesterday when I started sowing my carrots etc. and very soon they'll be harvested, bringing to a close another growing for showing year.
Seeding Plants - Long Carrot and Onions
Last week I finished with my leeks in the Polytunnel and before I move on to the next bed, I forgot to mention that, right at the far end of the leek tunnel are my seeding plants; both the long carrots and the large exhibition onions are grown there for seed production. The onions will by now be in full flower and it"s important to make sure that as many flowers as possible set seed and I do this by daily going over the seed head with a cotton wool pad that I keep dry in a polythene bag. The carrots also have similar treatment by using the palm of my hand over the flowers as well as giving the plant a shake to set the pollen. At this time of year both doors at either end of the tunnel are open day and night and this helps to bring in the flies and the bees which also help to set the seed and as they have gone to seed much earlier than any that would have bolted in nearby gardens, there is no real risk of cross pollination taking place.If you have got an onion that you have put down for producing seed, it's important that you now remove the outer layers of skin that will more than likely have gone rotten and can affect the root plate of the parent plant. When removing this soft, evil smelling mass, take care that you hold the base of the onion stems quite firmly as any turning motion when removing the outer layers of skin can tear the roots of the onion and prevent it from producing seed to its optimum.
The next bed along is the last on the left hand side of the garden and is the only area now that has not been constructed as a raised bed. The first section this year was used for growing my own selection of Aristocrat shallots that I sell in my seed catalogue. Two rows of fifty shallots were planted and thinned down to two per cluster. A couple went to seed and a few went double but apart from that I had some really nice specimens that are now drying out on the greenhouse staging covered over with some fleece. If they retain their shape then I might have an opportunity of staging a dish which is something I haven"t been able to do for many years.
The next two rows are my own selection of Show Perfection peas. There are 60 plants in total being grown on the cordon system similar to the way that sweet peas are grown for exhibition purposes. Cordon growing means tying the leading shoot as it grows up 8ft canes that are spaced 9 inches apart. As the plant develops the tendrils are removed as are all the side shoots. When the plant is around 3 feet tall you can then consider leaving the flowers on the plant to form the peas. After they have set around six to seven pods per plant, the leading shoot is then removed so that the plant's energies are directed towards the full development of the pod.
The Show Perfection pea usually take around 90 days from sowing the seed to the full pod but this can vary depending on where you live. For Ron Macfarlane for instance who has grown some fine specimens of peas down in Pembroke they take 85 days whilst Charles Maisey in Glamorgan takes the same time as me. For Dougie Hampton who lives at Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire and who has won the National twice with peas and been second on four occasions, it takes 105 days. This means that there's nearly three weeks difference between Ron and Dougies sowing dates an important factor if you are aiming for a particular show date. Ron's plants will take between 21 to 25 days from full flower to full pod whilst Dougie's will take 30 to 35 days.
The next growing area coming back up from the bottom of the garden on the right hand side is the second polytunnel where the four raised beds are growing the large onions. This year has been a real nightmare for me as I have been really gutted with the White Rot. I must have lost nearly a third of the onions this year which means that I have a severe problem that needs addressing between now and next year. The disease started last season for the first time ever, and as they are new raised beds, I will either have to clear the soil out or get a contractor in to sterilise them using Methyl Bromide. Methyl Bromide needs special equipment for its application and may only be used by professional operators trained in its use and in accordance with the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) guidance notes. As the beds are really in good heart, I shall probably revert to the latter; even though it's a highly toxic halide fumigant, methyl bromide is the only chemical in my mind that will clear the beds once and for all of this terrible disease.