Staging a Collection
16th Aug 2001
Staging a Collection
There is no doubt that Cauliflowers are a very important vegetable in terms of staging a collection, and if they are clean and fresh will get you reasonable points. The cauliflower is always classed as the queen of the vegetables but Mark Twain had another way of describing it 'the cauliflower is nothing more than a cabbage with college education' You certainly don"t need college education to grow it well as long as you have access to plenty of well rotted manure that's been worked into the soil during last Winter. Make sure that you have a PH around 7 so this means a soil testing or purchase a kit that you can make use of yourself.
My cauliflowers are grown in two ways, about 80 them are planted in my friends field nearly 1000ft above sea level and a further 35 are planted at home. In order to be able to accommodate the caulifowers at home I have had to juggle things around a bit as well as making maximum use of my polytunnel space. I usually grow a number of different types of cauliflower in order to make sure that I am guaranteed to have some ready on the day of the show. This year though I have changed plans and went for one variety that did particularly well for me at Chelsea when grown to maturity in only a 7 litre pot with nothing more than peat based compost.
The variety is a new one that I introduced in my seed catalogue last year called Aviso F1 and is now the accepted standard variety in the processing industry throughout Europe. The one sowing only was carried out on the 8th of May, broadcast sown in a half tray using Levington F2S (normal F2 but with added sand) and then pricked out into plantpak 40s. From these they were again potted on into 3½" pots with Levington M2 being the potting medium. These were now placed in the polytunnel next to my leeks and eventually some of these would be further potted on into 6 inch pots.
On my return from Chelsea one bed in the polytunnel had been planted up with Peas and Broad Beans and after I had finished harvesting them around mid June the ground was well rotovated and a complete base fertiliser added with Calcified seaweed. On the 27th of June 10 cauliflower's were planted 18 inches apart and as deep as possible and well firmed in. They are now looking very strong and could be the ones for the National.
On this same day I started to harvest my new Friso onions for the under 250gram class and this continued right through to the third week in July when the remaining onions in the bed were harvested and from these I shall make a rope of onions for the kitchen.
Base Top Dressing
Once the onions had been cleared the bed was rotovated incorporating some BTD (Base Top Dressing) to the top 4 inch or so layer. The cauliflowers in domino fashion approx. 15 inches apart, well watered in with some slug pellets applied for protections will allow me to stagger my harvesting period. In the intervening period I was also harvesting my large exhibition onions when they all came to the same size. As soon as they were removed, as much of the roots as possible were dug out with a hand fork and each planting hole was given a strong dilution of Armillatox and the cauliflowers planted. Last year this system worked well for me as I always had some cauliflower's that were following each other owing to the method of planting.
The cabbage white was seen flying around the tunnel from the middle of July and these caused havoc towards the back end of last season so I'm determined to keep the plants clean this time. At the moment I am carefully watching the foliage for their eggs as I have seen a cabbage white resting on them. The eggs can be below or above the leaf so a careful look around is essential. They are laid in small yellow clusters and if allowed to hatch the caterpillar can cause havoc in a few hours as he munches his ways to survival via my best products! The eggs are just squeezed between finger and thumb and this is the way I hope to control them initially. As I have said in an earlier article I have reduced considerably my pesticide usage this year and will only revert to it's use if I can't control them with my own hands.
All my big onions have now been harvested so those cauliflowers growing away in those beds will now be able to get the benefit of the seeping hoses that I laid down under the black and white polythene for the onions during March. To be honest, there will be more water going them from now on for the Caulis than there had been for the onions. They don't want too much water and I'm sure the hoses have only been on three times this season. The beauty as well of planting cauliflowers in place of the onions is that they take up all of the surplus nutrients that are left in the bed after the onions thereby, in one way, cleaning the bed out for me.
I had a look at my shallots the other day after I had lifted them around the 21st July, again I'm afraid it's back to the drawing board. The quality is fine and they are, for once, nicely round with hardly any misshapen, but the problem is they are too small to be serious contenders at national level. Perhaps this time I harvested them too soon, perhaps one year I'll have it just right, who knows.