Diaries for Gardening Work
28th Dec 2000
The period between Christmas and the New Year is always a busy one for me and I have to be thankful for it as well, it certainly helps towards getting rid of some of the Christmas excesses. I shall be very busy on two fronts this time, at home the leeks will require potting on to their five inch pots whilst at the Bangor University glasshouses, there will be loads of work to do.
Thankfully I keep a really good diary of my gardening work and now is the perfect time for any of you who haven't got one to purchase a type that has at least two days per page. This will allow you to write down all the important things that you need to record.
In my case they have become invaluable, particularly while I have to juggle my sowing dates with Chelsea flower show in mind whilst at the same time I have to also consider sowing dates for my August September shows.
From now on at Bangor I shall have to start staging my four foot long by six inch diameter plastic pipes for growing all the long roots. I will use over a 100 of these pipes and believe me they do take an awful lot of filling. This year I have ordered some Levington F2 compost with added sand and this will, for the first time, be used directly with no added fertiliser to fill the bags.
Every year at Chelsea I always stage my long roots in triangles of six, starting with three at the bottom then two and finally the best root on top. Next May I hope to improve on that by staging them in triangles of ten starting with four on the bottom. This means that I have to grow more but as the pipes are very expensive to buy, I shall use some wheely bins to grow them.
Last year I discovered that the college, in years gone buy, had purchased some of these wheelly bins for experimental purposes and I found them not being used in the storage area. Last year I used a dozen of them and they had all been drilled at the base so there was no problem with drainage. I sowed some long carrots in them around the end of January and I was able to harvest some really top drawer material, these dozen will be re used this year with 4 roots per bin giving me an extra 48 to select from.
My blanch leeks at Bangor are now in 7 inch pots and will be given their first collars in a week or so time. One thing to realise is that nowhere in Bangor is there any soil that I can grow my vegetables in, consequently I have to grow all of them in containers of various shapes. For instance the long roots in pipes, my short carrots in half drums, leeks in pots being continually potted on right up to a 14 inch diameter pot.
This coming week I shall be sowing my parsley, this is not as easy to grow in pots as one would assume and how you water it is crucial. It certainly doesn't like to be over watered and likes to be kept on the dry side if anything. Some of the peppers will also be sown as will the chillies and aubergines.
The Parsnip that I intend to sow is a brand new variety that I had trialled last year for the first time called Polar F1. This is the third and last in the current breeding programme from Bejos and by the reports I have had it could be the winner yet. This breeding programme started off with Panache F1 and this was followed by Paragon F1. At the time of printing my catalogue I never had sufficient seed of it so it's not listed. If you do fancy having a go at this very heavy type parsnip the cost is £3.00 for a packet of 200 of the largest available sieved seed. Send to Medwyns, Llanor, Old School Lane, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey LL61 5RZ.
Large Exhibition Onions
The Large exhibition onions for Chelsea are this year grown from bulbils that developed naturally on the seed head and when this happens it"s inevitably at the cost of seed production as the plants energies are diverted to the bulbil rather than to the seed. I have had bulbils before but never any as large as the ones I planted this year, they were so large and heavy that the onion head actually bent over whilst still fresh and green. I only had two heads that did this and the bulbils were so large that they wouldn't pass through a pickling shallot ring and were over two inches in length.
They were started off during August and are now in five inch pots with five and six leaves on them, all supported with green plastic plant support clips attached to split canes. As these are similar in every way to a bulbil or pip from leeks they will therefore be identical in every way and should produce some very uniform shaped bulbs. If I can manage to grow them well they will actually grow to a good size as well. One of my problems over the past five years has been harvesting some really large bulbs for staging at Chelsea, and even though the growing conditions are near perfect, they always end up being over watered.
Method of Growing
This year, after a chat with Mel Ednie, the World record holder for the heaviest onion at 15lb 15½ ounces, I am going to change my method of growing them. When the onions are going to be well rooted in their five inch pots, which will be in the next ten days or so, I shall start to construct a bed on top of one of the benches using some planking material to a height of 9 inches. The benches are all 4 ft wide and the raised bed idea will be 10 ft long. The particular bench that I hope to utilise for this job has a base of strong inch square galvanised meshing and this will first be covered over with some Terram. This is a strong civil engineering material that is used on wet ground to allow water to drain whilst supporting soil.
The bed will be filled with a mixture of 50% Levington M3 and 50% coarsely sieved soil from my exhibition onion bed at home, some Levington slow release nutrients called Ficote 70 which has a ratio of 14:14:14.will also be well mixed in to the bed. The release of the balanced plant nutrients from Ficote 70 is temperature dependant with the nutrient release under warm conditions accelerating in line with the plants growth rate. The nutrients are available for at least 3 to 4 month under covers. I am hoping that this element of slow release will keep the plants ticking over for a longer period.
The plants will be selected to have the same size and shape and hopefully any excess water will all drain away much faster than in pots plus the fact that the roots will have a free run inside the growing box. I will let you know through the season how they perform.