Clearing up the Vegetable Plot + Cauliflowers and Parsnips
29th Sep 1999
It's that time of year once again when most of the vegetable flower shows are over and we must make the maximum use of any good weather to clear up the vegetable plot.
In the Onion Beds
The large exhibition onions were removed during July and were replaced with three different types of cauliflower that were timed to be ready for the National Vegetable Society Championships at Tunbridge Wells. The three cauliflowers were all sown on 2nd June and by the weekend of 11th September, the NVS show date, the Beauty variety were all ready. Memphis and Liberty however needed slightly more time.
There's no doubt that growing cauliflowers in the above manner is an excellent way of producing quality curds whilst at the same time utilising your polytunnel for two crops. They certainly loved growing under cover as the foliage was large and I had to take care when walking between the raised beds as the leaves were crossing the paths. I shall certainly be growing more cauliflowers in this way next year, but you must be prepared to pot them on into at least a five inch pot whilst waiting for the onion bed to become free.
The cauliflowers were not planted in one go, but as and when the onions were removed and as they achieved the desired size. Watering was no problem as the seeping hoses were already underneath the black and white polythene cover on the bed and growth was quick.
Cabbage White Butterfly
One problem I did have was the initial unfriendly visit of the cabbage white butterfly; these have been worse than ever this year and swarms of crawling caterpillars started to invade the crop. So devastating can these be that when I left the garden on a Friday afternoon to visit the Welsh Championships, by the time I returned the following Tuesday, there was a reception committee of caterpillars waiting for me, busy munching away and nearly devouring one complete plant. An immediate spray with Tumblebug did the trick, but it just shows how vigilant one has to be, particularly if you go away for a long weekend.
The cauliflowers are now all finished and the next task is to completely clear out the whole bed. The plants are all removed together with the black and white polythene, the seeping hoses washed and rolled up to be kept until next year and the heating cables in the soil also carefully removed to be utilised again during February next year. One important aspect to remember if you are growing cauliflowers in the onion bed is that they can take up all the nitrogen within their reach as they are hungry feeders. It's important therefore to have your soil analysed so that you know exactly how deficient the beds are going to be.Make sure that you also clean up any bits of old onion leaves from the surface as well as any weeds and then thoroughly soak the soil using Armillatox at the manufacturers recommended rate. I then leave the soil until late October when I start to prepare the beds ready for next year.
The parsnips grew well this time with hardly a sign of the brown marks along the roots that totally destroyed my best parsnips last year. The new variety Paragon with its straight sided roots did well and looks like a very promising vigorous new variety. The brown marking is a problem that occurs when you are using the same sand in your beds or drums year after year. The rotting down of the tiniest root hairs within the compost in the bore hole seems to be creating this problem. The answer is to bore out every old bore hole using a plastic 4 inch diameter drain pipe, at least 4 ft long which, in theory, should prevent this problem. It doesn"t seem to affect the carrot to such an extent, but even with carrots that have been grown in the same compost for over 8 or 9 years I would still advise having clean sand brought in.
My father's drums have been growing carrots, parsnips and long beet for so many years that the growing medium doesn't resemble sand any more and it's more like a soily compost. His long carrots and parsnips were badly marked this year so my son and I are going to empty the whole lot, spreading it over his vegetable plot and then re-fill the drums with fresh concreting sand. The same applies to the 12 forty gallon drums that I have at Jim's garden, so I will order 10 tonnes to be delivered there and the remainder, if there is any, will be taken to my fathers in my trailer.