Protective Covers for Show Vegetables
27th Jan 2000
There's no doubt in my mind that the majority of show vegetables, grown to the highest standards, will very shortly be all grown under protective covers of some description. The majority of top growers are already growing their leek and onions either under glass in a greenhouse or in a polytunnel or they have constructed their own temporary covers using polythene. I have myself have grown vegetables in my polytunnel for Chelsea, peas and broad beans as well as lettuce lend themself perfectly for an early start.
I have also been growing my long carrots under glass for a number of years now and it certainly helps the young seedling to get away fast, particularly if we have a damp cold and late Spring. The next step undoubtedly will be to grow parsnips under cover, particularly after the phenomenal results that Jack Arrowsmith produced two years ago inside his home made polythene cover as featured in my special article in Garden News last year.
I have already spoken to a few growers who are definitely going to construct some type of structure in order to try and keep up with the opposition. The cover that you make doesn't necessarily have to be expensive but it does have to be quite solid to withstand any strong wind. In my garden that certainly has to be the case as it is very vulnerable to strong winds blowing down the Menai Straits and to date this year, I have already replaced over ten panes of glass in my two year old greenhouse.
Growing them under cover is certainly not new as I grew some fantastic specimens over 15 years ago in six inch pipes 4 ft long inside my old wooden structure covered with polythene. From twelve pipes that year I managed to stage a winning set of six at the NVS Championships at Southport as well as a further three in my winning collection of six kinds of vegetables. All the pipes had been cut in half through a band saw and then tied together with wires. This meant that when it came time to harvest them the pipes were lifted up and placed on a flat area and the pipes split apart which meant that the whole root system was removed intact.
This year I intend to cover my wooden structure over the two parsnip beds with a new product called Enviro Mesh which is a very fine tough mesh which will not only offer great protection to the young plants it will also prevent any pests from entering through it. This will also be used over the short carrots and should be worth it's weight in gold against the dreaded Carrot Fly as well as the Willow Aphid. Another great advantage will be the fact that your carrots and parsnips will have been pretty near organically grown without having to revert to constant spraying to keep the above pests at bay.
It is considerably more expensive than envirofleece as it is tougher and with care can be re used from year to year. I have just purchased some of this from a small company called N. A. Kays Horticulture up in Cumbria and they have informed me that if anyone reading my column wants to purchase any of this material, they are prepared to offer them a 10% discount off their catalogue price which is the price stipulated in their advert in Garden News. However should the order be under £35.00 there will be an additional carriage charge of £1.95.
N.A. Kays also stock numerous other gardening aids and their free catalogue is available from N. A. Kays Horticulture, Ennerdale View Nursery, Birks Road, Cleatormoor, Cumbria, CA25 5HT or phone them on 07803 942 919.
Weather permitting I intend to sow my parsnips towards the middle of February which gives me sufficient time to prepare all the covers as well as making sure that my components for the mixture are all to hand. The mixture will be explained to you nearer the date and is similar to the one that is used by Jack Arrowsmith so do make sure that you have the following items ready for use- Superphosphate of lime, Sulphate of Potash, carbonate of lime, (ordinary garden lime) fine grade calcified seaweed, (if you are unable to get any fine grade then prepare to sieve some medium grade through a fine mesh) Hoof and Horn.