Parsnips and Tomatoes
17th Feb 1999
My four beds for growing Parsnips were completely emptied out towards the end of October last year and a far more thorough job was carried out on them having seen the way that Jack Arrowsmith from Brecon grew his astounding specimens last year. Those parsnips that were exhibited at the Welsh Championships last September were undoubtedly the best that I had ever seen. Not only were they big in every sense, they also had superb quality slowly tapering down the long smooth tap root. They were grown in 45 gallon oil drums, one on top of the other to give him the length required, but I shall cover this in greater detail when I visit Jack this Summer in order to write a special article on the way that he grows them which will be featured later on this year.
As I made a decision to grow my parsnips in raised concrete block beds two years ago, I am therefore unable to have two 45 gallon drums on top of each other, I therefore decided last year that my way forward is to go deeper. Each bed was therefore emptied out completely of concreting sand which was my growing medium and the rock hard bottom was further removed to a depth of eighteen inches. Some sand was then added and the bottom was thoroughly forked over adding the sand to the soil as I went along. This now gives me a minimum clean depth of sand of 5ft which should allow me to pull up some top quality specimens.
Believe me this was hard work, eighteen inches might not appear to be a lot of soil, but when you have to barrow it up hill from the bottom of my garden to fill my trailer four times over, the volume of material was a lot. So much in fact that after I had finished the four beds, there was only enough sand left to fill three of the four beds so I had to import some more concreting sand to fill up the last bed.
Jack says he sows his seed around this time so mine are going in this weekend and the mix that I intend using is going to be the one that Jack used to grow his phenomenal set of three at Brecon. One point to remember though, Jack has constructed a wooden structure to cover over all his drums for both carrots and parsnips and the whole framework is covered with polythene. This polythene stays over them right through the season and certainly seems to have produced the goods last year.
The mixture is as follows - 4 gallons sieved soil from his onion bed, 2 gallons of fine sand, 2 gallons of sieved peat. To the above 8 gallons of mixture he adds the following nutrients 7 ounces Superphosphate, 6 ounces of Sulphate of Potash, 6 ounces of Carbonate of lime (ordinary garden lime) 1 ounce of Hoof and Horn. This is without doubt the strongest mix that I have used for parsnips, but if it works for Jack then it should work for us all, only time will tell.
The above mixture is then used to fill the bore holes that have been made with a steel bar, each hole will be at least 5ft deep and approx. 4" across the top with three seed placed on edge in each station about three eighth of an inch deep and covered with the same mixture. If you haven't got any polythene or glass covers then cover each station individually with some bottomless glass jam jars or plastic lemonade or water bottles with the top and bottom removed to from a hollow cylinder. These are kept in position and prevented from being blown away by pushing a split cane down the side into the sand and tying the plastic tube to the cane with some string or wire.
It will soon be time to sow your tomatoes, particularly if you want to have a go at the mid August shows and without a doubt the variety that was winning everywhere up to a few years ago was Goldstar. It's no secret that with tomato growing, the man we all have to beat is Charles Maisey from Pontyclun Mid Glamorgan, he has won at National level on numerous occasions. Charles believes that there will never be a better tomato for the showbench than Goldstar, sadly however the variety is no longer commercially produced. I have been able to get hold of what must be the last batch of this seed so that you too can have a go at growing this variety which tastes good as well. I have limited stock available at £3.00 for ten seed plus 75pence post and packing. Send your order to Llanor, Old School Lane, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, LL61 5RZ.
Should this variety be sold out, and unless you tell me differently, I will substitute it with the newer F1 hybrid variety called Solution and Trevor Last, another top tomato grower says this one could be as good if not better than Goldstar in the future.
Regarding the sowing of the seed at this time of year, do make sure that when the seedlings are ready for potting on from their seed tray in the propagator that the greenhouse temperatures don't drop below 55°F otherwise their growth could be checked severely. Tomatoes hate having their growth checked and can often take several weeks to overcome it, wasting all the initial work of sowing early. If you haven"t therefore got the facilities for maintaining the above temperatures you would be better off delaying the sowing for a couple of weeks or even consider buying some plants from a fellow grower and exhibitor; if at all possible.