Caulflowers and Wonder Mesh
12th Sep 2007
strong>12th September 2007 Cauliflowers and Wonder Mesh
We are now into the last furlong on the exhibition scene with only a few weeks to go until most of the biggest shows will have been and gone for another year. In my case, it can’t come too soon, it really has been a pretty difficult season having to contend with everything that the weather has thrown at me. The biggest disasters have been on the field where the potatoes were the first culprits to be devastated by blight quickly followed by, what would appear to be, an army of rabbits munching away through hundreds of Cauliflowers, Calabresse, Savoys, Sprouts, Red and Green cabbages.
In the end, in order to prevent any more devastation, I invested in some Wonder mesh which is a very large fine nylon netting that measured about 50 metres in length and 15 metres in width. This was nearly sufficient to cover 6 long rows of my second sowing of cauliflowers with one row having to be left just outside the edges of the mesh. Yes, you’ve guessed it, the while row was munched away over night, but the remainder were left intact underneath the Wonder mesh.
As it’s the first time in at least 75 years since this particular piece of ground has been turned over, I thought I would do things this year as organically as I possibly could with the base fertiliser dressing for the Cauliflowers being Fish Blood and bone. The netting was rolled back twice to keep the weeds under control by hoeing through them before they became too large. The other added beauty of the nylon cover is that the actually mesh size is small enough to prevent the cabbage whites and any other flying insect from causing damage to both the developing curds and the roots.
I sowed five varieties at the same time to cover both the NVS Welsh Championships and the forthcoming NVS Championships at Malvern. The varieties were Cornell, Memphis, Minneapolis, Beauty and Tetris. In order to get really good curds they need to have some Nitrogen added, I scattered some dried blood around each plant just before it rained and left it to be washed down to the roots.
Though modern Cauliflower varieties have excellent foliage giving you a good curd cover, don’t totally depend on it. As we are growing for exhibition you will be looking for specimens that are about 8 inches or 200mm across, solid and perfectly white as were the winning three grown by Jim McCartney and staged at the Nationals in Pembroke last year. You need therefore to pull the foliage together and tie them with string before the curd is exposed to daylight.
Whilst I appreciate that the Wonder Mesh that I have is a commercial product, and for field use, there is an equivalent amateur product called Enviromesh. I have used this extensively in my garden and have built cages to cover the stump carrots with them which has worked really well. It pays to spend a little money to buy in some tanalised roofing battens to make the frame work as well as some galvanised steel angles that you can buy from your local DIY to which you screw the battens to.
The mesh can then be cut to fit the frame and stapled on to it, make sure that you have the staples quite close to each other to keep the mesh tight on the frame. I have now had mine for over five years and they are still doing a great job. The other excellent benefit for me of having these frames is the protection that they offer from strong winds. Living on the Isle of Anglesey, sticking out into the Irish sea, were regularly exposed to some quite severe gales. So bad were they a few years ago that over 50% of my long beetroot seedlings, which were about three inches tall, were completely severed off at soil level.