Travelling the country and visiting other growers gardens
12th Jul 2001
The beauty of travelling the country fairly extensively to visit other growers gardens is the enjoyment of learning something new or seeing something being carried out differently but very successfully. Last year I spent a few days with Jim Kirkness on the Borders of Scotland and Jim then took me around to see a few of the top vegetable growers over there. As I am now the current chairman of the National Vegetable Society it was so gratifying to see the comradeship and warm welcome that seems to emanate instinctively from one grower to another.
This happens of course, not because of me, but because of this magical bonding that seems to occur when people join a society with the same interest at heart. Although having suffered health problems over the past couple of years it was a treat to be accompanied to every garden by Bill Rodgers the current President of the Scottish Branch. More importantly though Bill (together with his late brother Bob) is remembered by most people for the way he undoutedly improved the growing of large onions for both exhibition and for the heavy classes and for the way he imparts his vast knowledge so freely to anyone who cares to tap into his wealth of knowledge. Although Bill no longer grows onions, he would be the first into the gardens and inevitably it would be the onion or leek tunnel that he would head for first. It just shows that real gardeners never give up their hobby, just like the old army saying that my father in law used to tell me repeatedly - 'old soldiers never die, they just fade away'.
It was on my visit to Jim Williams, Scottish Branch chairman of the NVS that I saw Broad beans being grown on the cordon system for the first time. It"s not new by any means but it is certainly a system that I have always been aware of but never attempted. This was mainly because at national level of showing, there are no classes for Broad Beans. I have on many occasion won at the local County show with them but they have always been grown in the ordinary way. By ordinary I mean that the seed would be sown in a shallow trench, about a couple of inches apart, and then left to grow on with the tops being removed when the plants are around a meter or so high.
Because the ground is such good heart I can manage to get beans (using my own re selected seed) with ten beans per pod and have had the odd twelve beans per pod. At Jims the beans were cordon grown up eight foot canes and in the same manner as I would normally grow my show perfection peas. The idea is to concentrate the plants energies on totally producing quality well filled large pods with no side shoots to sap the plants strength. This means that the plants are very strong and powerful as every side shoot is removed as it develops and, as with peas, the main stem is tied at regular intervals to this strong cane.
When at Jim there were numerous beans on every plant and the main shoot had not been stopped at that time. Usually of course, particularly in my case, I stop the plant at a meter or so in order to prevent black fly congregating on the soft tender leading shoots. However Jim sprayed his with a suitable insecticide to prevent any black fly from colonising. There is no doubt that the beans looked particularly well and must be an excellent way of producing even larger pods. This year therefore on my two long rows that I sow fairly early for seed production I have grown 6 at the end of one row in this manner to see how they will eventually perform.
The one problem that I have at my friend Jims garden where these are grown, is the wind, there is very little protection there so I had to make sure that the 8ft canes were well secured. They are now well ahead of those in the rows and are certainly looking as if they will produce some excellent beans.
The Scottish Branch of the NVS is certainly hard working and their newly elected Secretary, Grant Cathro, who has just taken over this extremely onerous task from George McSkimming who did such an excellent job for many years, is continuing with organising their Annual Seminar. This all day Seminar from 10.30 until 17.00 is held on Saturday 17th November in the Cowan Centre, Stirling and the registration fee for the whole day is just £5.00, this even includes their famous buffet lunch!
If you want to know more about growing vegetables and more particularly, you feel you can contribute to band of hard working enthusiastic fellow gardeners, then just turn up on the day. If you like what you see, then why not join there and then, I never regretted joining and I have literally made hundreds of friends throughout the society; don't be shy, remember the old saying Ďa stranger is just a friend you don't yet know.