A tour of the Growing Areas
22nd Jul 1998
Even though my onion beds have been ravaged by the dreaded fungal disease White Rot, or mouldy nose as it's sometimes called, I am still hopeful of being able to stage at least a set of three onions which is nothing short of a disaster really when you think of all the hard work that goes into the growing and bed preparation for onions. The bad thing about this disease is the fact that you never know when it"s going to attack the plants next. I have seen it killing off onions over 16 inches around, so I may well have more trouble on the horizon.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this disease, it manifests itself first with the outer leaves turning yellow and eventually collapsing; when you pick up the onion, it will hardly have any roots left on it. The base of the bulb will also be covered in a fluffy white mould and a closer examination will reveal small black bodies among the mould. Not only does it attack onions but it can also devastate leeks, shallots and garlic with equal enthusiasm and the general cure is to leave the beds free of the Allium family for a minimum of 8 years, hence the term "8 years quarantine" is often used.
The next growing area is the first of two 12 by 8 foot aluminium greenhouses; the first one has twelve tomato plants along one side and the other side, which is effectively my growing cabinet, had the 8 ounce onions in it.
The tomato plants are really doing well this year and I have reverted to growing them by my old method using a bottomless 9 inch ring culture pot on top of a Levington gro-bag with a bottomless 5" pot situated to one side of the larger pot. The idea is that you can feed and water the plants on top of the 9" pot as well as through the 5" pot. This can be very helpful when the gro-bag is full of roots foraging for nutrients and moisture.This year I have only one plant per Gro bag so the growth rate is tremendous. Don't forget that at this time of year a fully grown tomato plant with trusses of fruit needs an enormous amount of water. Failure to apply sufficient moisture at the plants' roots at any time will definitely show up later on as a black leathery spot on the underside of the fruit called Blossom End Rot. Be on the look out for side shoots as it never ceases to amaze me how, with as few as 12 plants, you can often miss a side shoot that grows unseen behind the main stem. I feed regularly now at every watering using Chempak Tomato feed which had some glowing reports about it in the Gardening Which magazine.
8 Ounce Onions
The 8 ounce onions have now been harvested and are currently in the garage drying out. The variety Toughball is very good but I am also very pleased with the new variety that I"m trialling which could well become a winner at the highest level.
The next greenhouse is where I grow my Cucumbers. These are grown in the same way as I grow my tomatoes, apart from having two plants in each gro-bag, but still using the ring culture pot to grow the plant through. My cucumber seedsw were sown on 15th June and are now making some nice strong plants. There's no doubt that the best quality cucumbers are always grown fast so that they still retain the flower when harvested and this can only be achieved by maintaining near sauna conditions for them with plenty of warmth and moisture to create a very humid atmosphere.I know that Charles Maisey, who is amongst the top growers of cucumbers, uses a lot of straw around the base of his plants and this straw is kept moist throughout the growing season.
The varieties I have grown are Carmen and Femdan (four plants of each) and once they are really growing away, they will be fed regularly with a high nitrogen feed such as Chempak 2. As the greenhouse in which they are growing has permanent benches, the gro-bags are positioned on top of the bench. For the first 3ft 6inches or so, until they meet the glass, the cucumbers are prevented from fruiting and all the side shoots are removed. This will give a much stronger plant as it will have a strong root system well capable of supporting the fruit later on. The main shoot is then trained along the length of the greenhouse on canes and is allowed to start fruiting approximately a month before my first show date.
Preventing Sun Scorch
Both greenhouses have been shaded using a green plastic mesh to prevent sun scorch. This mesh has to be of the right density as you don't want the light to be blocked out too much, preventing optimum growth. An alternative to the mesh is to use the white Coolglass which does the same job; it is rain fast but can be washed off at the back end of the season. Both greenhouses have the yellow sticky traps placed in amongst the plants which not only give me an indication of the arrival of the white fly but also kill them off.