Failures and Successes
31st Dec 1997
Thiis week I would like to look back over the year highlighting some of my failures as well as the odd success and in so do doing, some of you might learn from my mistakes. It's still unbelievable to me at times after the number of years that I have been growing vegetables how I still manage to drop a clanger!
This year was no exception, my long blanch leeks looked the best ever in their pots and during the early part of growing season.
The problems started when I found that a number of them were bending just above ground level, the very point where you can"t straighten them at all without leaving a kink in the barrel. They weren't planted as deep as they should have been thus the weight of the foliage tends to pull the leek one way or the other. Even though I have plastic drainage rods type of pipes suspended above the leeks to take the weight off them, I realised too late that they were positioned too high so that not enough weight were taken off the flags by the pipes.
I also eased off on the watering this year in an attempt to prevent the leeks from splitting, this was a disaster because the leeks turned out to be very bulbous and I am positive that this bulbing at the base is directly related to the lack of moisture at root level thus causing a lack of transpiration and putting the leek in a state of stress.
The parsnips were another disaster from my own beds, the concrete block beds were brand new two years ago and the fatal mistake I made was to refill the beds with the old sand that was in the previous drums, material that had been growing nothing but parsnips for over ten years. About 500yds down the road I had some parsnips growing in my mate Jim's garden in blue plastic drums that had been filled with plastering or bricklaying type sand about three years ago. The same type of seed were sown on the same day, using the same mixture that I had mixed in my own garden as well as using the same system of boring the holes.
At show time, the parsnips that I pulled from the blue drums were superb as regards condition and quality, very fine smooth skins with hardly any deep grooves. When I pulled mine they were most dissapointing, plenty of size in both girth and length but nearly every one was marked in some way or other and lacked that whiteness and smoothness that makes a good dish of parsnips stand out.
When I spoke to Bob Herbert about this he merely smiled and said "It's time you emptied your beds and filled them with clean fresh sand" Well that's exactly what I have done, a major job I can tell you. The quantity to be removed amounted to about six tonnes, so I had the assistance of a strapping strong young lad to give me a hand. The bulk of the sand went to mix in with the soil from both my leeks and onion beds and the remainder went to re fill my stump carrot beds. The fresh sand was wheeled in a few weeks ago and the beds are now completed. Time will reveal if that was the reason for the browning marks on the parsnips.
It was very much an also ran year for me in the competitive classes with numerous seconds in the Welsh Championships that in reality, with so many top quality entries in each class, second was as good as a first at most major shows; indeed anyone having a card at this show should be rightly proud of his or her achievements.
Chelsea without a doubt was the highlight of the year for me and my family winning a second consecutive gold medal; and being a glutton for punishment, I'm having another go this coming year.
The strange thing with us committed gardeners is the fact that as soon as the showing season is over we seem to be renewed with vigour and passion once more and can't wait to get cracking the following year. I just hope that after all the expense of shifting and replacing the sand in the parsnip beds that I shall be rewarded with far superior specimens. They don't necessary have to win (although it would be nice if they did) as long as I am happy with the way they turn out. Exhibition growing to me is a mixture of 20% innovation intermingled with inspiration and completed with 80% perspiration; I do hope therefore that whatever plans you have laid out for next year that the results will match up to your expectations; have a wonderful gardening season in 1998.