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Friday, August 18, 2017

Scabby dabby not so do

It was as I feared and suspected. I emptied my spuds out last night and immediately it was evident I was going to be struggling to stage any spuds as bag after bag revealed spuds that were decimated by scab. Good size, nice shapes, but scabbed up to sheer fuckery. I’m now at a loss as to what caused this, I’ve used the same compost as previous seasons and the bags were never allowed to dry out. Or were they? Tuber initiation occurred at around about the time of the heatwave so perhaps the water never really penetrated to the bottoms, and indeed a few were quite dry whilst others were wringing wet. I did managed to salvage a few showable sets, some with very minor scab lesions, but at least I’ll never have to fuck around growing spuds this way ever again. My hat goes off to those growers like Sherie Plumb who stages umpteen incredible dishes every season.

On Facebook pages I’ve noticed some growers bemoaning the recent downpours as their long roots ‘will be ruined’. What they mean is that the sudden deluge of water into a dry-ish growing medium will make their roots take up a lot of water very quickly with the potential of splitting. This is the reason I water my long roots frequently, ensuring the sand is kept moist a few inches down from the surface. Doing this means you’re less likely to suffer splitting in my opinion although I did lose this otherwise superb carrot last season.

Also on Facebook a discussion was taking place about a set of onions that had been disqualified at a recent NVS show for being a few grams too heavy, and how this was perhaps a little unfair. I have no sympathy for the exhibitor, a very experienced one, but the same would go for a less experienced one too. If a rule states 1kg-1 ½ kg then if you’re over then the judge has no option to but to disqualify you I’m afraid. Discussion commenced on whether the judge’s scales would have been calibrated and whether some leeway should be applied, but if you start going down that route then it’s a dangerous game, for how much leeway do you apply, and what if an exhibitor is a few grams over that, do you apply leeway on the leeway? No, the exhibitor should have harvested his bulbs smaller to ensure he was under size. If you measure them at home and they are bang on the weight you are running the risk of being NAS’d if the judge has you a gram or two over, so it pays to give yourself some wobble room. Someone else commented that you could not expect an exhibitor to weigh his onions to within a few grams which struck me as a contender for the wankiest statement of the week, for a decent set of digital scales doesn’t cost much and you should have a set if you’re serious about the hobby. I have my own set of digital scales which I’ll be taking with me to judge a show tomorrow afternoon. When I say I have a set of scales, they’re my wife’s kitchen scales but they’re very accurate and I’ll test them with a weight before I leave to make sure they are still on the money. She’s away on a hen do this weekend so she’ll never know.

Last weekend I increased the collar length on my celery to 19” and that will be that for this season. They are currently around the sort of size I have shown them at in the past so with 4 or 5 weeks to go until I need to lift them I’m happy I’ll probably be exhibiting the biggest celery I’ve ever shown, all I’ve got to do now is keep them clean. I’d not grown any celery for a couple of years because of a comment my wife had made, which was, and I quote, “why are you bothering with celery, you’re shit’. This was a tad demoralising I have to say, but when I dragged her down the garden the other day for a look she was quite impressed so that’ll do for me! I do have one claim to fame with celery, in that I once beat Trevor Last, a top celery grower, at Malvern. I was placed 3rd and poor old Trevor was disqualified. The reason? Apparently, he hadn’t even entered the class and therefore couldn’t be judged! My pathetic specimens did look a bit stupid next to Trevor’s rather good ones, but fuck it, I got the ticket and he didn’t!

At most local shows there will be the lucky dip class, usually termed ‘any other veg’. I say lucky dip because you ask 10 different judges and you’ll get 10 different answers as to how they might judge ‘aov’, because you might see radish against caulis or pot leeks for instance if the latter two don’t appear in the main body of the schedule. It has been suggested that you mark according to their points value, then use a ratio to work out a percentage score. For instance a judge may mark the radish at 8 out of the 10 points on offer, giving it 80% of a perfect score. You might then score the caulis at 15 out of 20 thus giving it only 75% in which case the radish wins. This isn’t a system I would employ as it doesn’t make allowance for the degree of difficulty in growing the cauli, and it would have to be a very poor specimen indeed for the radish to beat it if I was judging the class. However, 18 pointer veg and even 15 pointer veg would certainly be able to beat a 20 pointer if they were grown well and the 20 wasn’t. One vegetable often overlooked is the humble aubergine which, like tomatoes, cucumbers and runner beans is classed as an 18 pointer and can be a useful ‘go to’ for the aov class. I do find it difficult to get a matching set as it quite a difficult crop to grow, the main problems being that you need to grow several plants to get sufficient fruit for a match which can be difficult on an already crowded plot, and the spiky stems which often pierce your fingers quite painfully when you’re tending to them. I’ve been picking the embryo fruits off my plants all Summer as I didn’t want them too early but I’m now leaving them to develop in the hope of having a few for the September shows. At Derby Show last season I exhibited this one in a collection class that only needed 6 single specimens.

Finally, if you’re into showing I can think of nothing better than a whole weekend in a hotel discussing the hobby with like-minded growers at Medwyn’s annual seminar in November. This year yours truly is giving a talk, details below, and if anyone wants the full costs and arrangements drop me a line and I’ll forward them on. I may try and persuade my good pal Craven Morehead to accompany me but the vain twat doesn’t usually like to be seen in public with me as I’m the only person in Britain who is as handsome as him.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Patience is a virtue, envy is not

This time of the year for the veg showman, and the growers of long roots in particular, is like that scene in Braveheart, the one where that fine Scottish fella Mel Gibson and his clan of tartan bollock brains are waiting for the advancing English. Many of them want to reveal their dastardly plan early but Gibson makes them wait until the last possible moment before pulling up their row of spikes and piercing the gallant Englishmen’s horses and basically cheating their way to victory, as is their way, especially when it comes to cake competitions. At this time of year the temptation to pull the odd carrot or parsnip for a looksee is unbearable, especially if you think you may have some decent specimens, but it is an urge you should resist at all costs, as you may pull one of those roots you might be relying on to make a set in a few weeks’ time. Once pulled, a long carrot or parsnip can be replanted but they will lose freshness and won’t grow anymore, so don’t do it, you have been warned!

Having said all that I did pull one of my long carrots at the weekend. It was a very small one that had developed a double crown so it was never going to be any good for showing, so I decided to get it up to see if it had travelled all the way down, without any forking, and to gauge the skin finish. I must say I was very happy on all accounts. If all my others are this shape and finish, albeit much bigger, then I shall be a happy bunny come show time and will hopefully have a chance of being in the tickets at the biggest shows in the country. My long carrots are looking quite heavy shouldered already so all that remains to be hoped for now is that they carry their weight evenly well down the root. Of course without x-ray vision and for all I know that might have been the only decent carrot in all the fucking barrels!!

After the piss and panic last week over the stump carrot crown rot problem, all appears to have calmed down. Getting any diseased ones up and spraying the remainder with Signum  seems to have arrested the problem, and the bed now looks healthy. They aren’t the biggest but I’ll be happy if they’re at least stump ended, as the fresh sand I used this year should at least mean I don’t have any cavity spot, a problem I experienced for the past couple of years.

All my onions for the 1-1 ½ kg class are starting to ripen on wood shavings in my garage. I managed to get 9 all at just over 17 ½ “ circumference so now it’s a case of seeing whether they all look the same once ripened, but I am hoping to have a set of 5 at the National. It’s highly unlikely I’d be in the tickets as I expect that most classes at Malvern will have at least a dozen entries, and this’ll be one of them. Despite not harvesting until late July I didn’t suffer botrytis because the double pot system meant I could water the bottom pot and keep moisture away from the bulb in the upper pot.

My Tasco onions for the 250g class are also starting to colour up nicely, but this is a class that will have anything up to 30 entries at Malvern so you really do have to have perfectly matched little bulbs, and despite growing over 100 I only have about 40 to choose my sets from, the remainder either being too small or not a good enough shape.

I will probably be looking for my best set of 4 to keep back for the Millennium Class at Malvern, that is assuming I can also find 4 potatoes that aren’t scabbed up to buggery. I will be emptying out the bags this coming weekend, once they have been out of the ground for a fortnight meaning the skins are now hardened and there shouldn’t be a risk of them skinning during handling. The Millennium Class calls for 4 each of 250g onions, tomatoes, globe beet, potatoes and stump carrots and is a class I would love to win a ticket in. With this in mind, and with a little under 6 weeks to go my tomatoes are starting to ripen like never before, not something I’m too chuffed about as I’m usually waiting my first red tomato at this time of the season, but they’ve come very early for some reason. I picked a large tray last week and ‘staged’ the set below on my kitchen table. Just to keep my eye in you understand.

This means my competition ones are going to have to come from the 4th truss and above in all probability, so I shall be thinning out the trusses over the next few days, getting rid of fruits with the potential to cause neighbouring ones to have flat sides. It’s a bit of a leap of faith to sacrifice perfectly good looking fruits but it does reward you with better shaped ones come show time and I guess as I’ve ticketed in the last 2 Nationals it proves I do know my tommies! Below you can see how a truss is thinned, before and after.

I thought I also knew my cucumbers but this season has been a baffling one thus far. My plants have been very slow indeed to get going, just sitting and doing nothing for what seemed like several weeks after planting. I’m usually chopping them back to keep the sideshoots in check by now but thankfully they are now starting to get to the eaves of my tunnel when I will start to train them horizontally so I am still hopeful of getting some cucs on the bench at Malvern. All fruits forming on the vertical vine are picked off before they have chance to develop, and it’s only once they are able to hang down from above that they’ll be allowed to swell and grow. A big plants means the fruits develop quickly, from a 2” long cuc you should have one of showable size in about a fortnight.

At the weekend I’ll be judging my only show booking for this season, at Burbage near Hinckley, Leicestershire. This will be the 5th year I’ve judged the veg here and it’s always a nice little show to judge with several classes taxing the brain, especially tomatoes, runner beans, onions as grown and rhubarb. With that in mind I’d like to appeal to all growers to show a little decorum after judging rather than throwing a hissy titfit befitting of a small child because a result may not have gone your way. Judging of vegetables is not and never can be an exact science, despite the written guidance of the NVS and RHS, especially at the highest level when the very smallest of faults can be the difference between first and second. Some days it may go for you, others it might not, but proper men (and women) will take defeat on the chin with good grace and think forward to the next show with a smile. Sometimes growers are blinded to the faults on their own exhibits and prefer to concentrate on the faults of those that have beaten them, sometimes justifiably, but more often than not the correct decision has prevailed. Either way, it happened, get over it. To question a result and try and denigrate someone in their moment of glory, or to issue veiled threats over the internet just marks you out as a total cock, not the experienced and helpful older showman you might pretend to be, and it’s nasty old tossers like you who are one of the reasons why I’ve decided to walk away from showing.

Shrewsbury Show 2017

I really am going to have to quit some of the gardening pages on social media that I am a member of, due to the incredible stupidity of many of the idiots that dwell there, they really do wind me up. Over the weekend I saw someone spell potato haulms as ‘orms’, leafs instead of leaves, and Jurgen Klopp instead of big, poncy, clueless Kraut.

Anyhoo, over the weekend it was Shrewsbury show where the Midlands Branch of the NVS held their annual Branch Championships. I’ll just let the photos tell the story for this post. Incredible quality and don’t forget this is an early show. There’s going to be some incredible stuff on the benches in September, that much is certain.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Just when you’re thinking everything is looking tickety boo on the showman’s plot something always seems to happen to bring your hopes and dreams crashing back to reality. Imagine watching ‘An Audience with Ken Dodd’ on the tellybox, laughing away, not a care in the World then some fucker pulls the plug and replaces it with Coldplay in concert. That’s the sort of extreme swing in emotions I suffered two nights ago, from happy to suicidal in seconds. I’d noticed a few of my stump carrots were starting to look less than perky, in truth something that occurred last season but they soon came round after a feed. This time they hadn’t responded so I decided to expose a few shoulders and discovered quite a few were suffering from crown rot, a new one on me.

I had to pull a total of 11, leaving me about 100 or so, which sounds a lot but if any more of those succumb then I’m seriously depleting my chances against guys who grow several hundred. Doing my research crown rot is prevalent in warm and damp conditions which we’ve certainly had a lot of this summer. For the past couple of days it has bucketed down which isn’t going to help the situation that’s for sure, but it is due to brighten up later when I shall be giving them a spray of a product called Signum which is supposed to offer moderate control (on this and many other conditions for different veg), so I hope to stop it getting any worse at the very least. Hey ho, there are worse things that can happen in life, such as…..

Growing 40 bags of potatoes that all appear to be completely covered in fucking scab. I got the first 20 bags up over the weekend so they could dry off in my garage for a couple of weeks to allow the skins to harden before emptying out. I did have a crafty peek at some of the tubers and whilst the size and shape appeared to good I was really struggling to find any that weren’t badly infected. A similar thing happened last season but then I discovered there were clean and infected tubers in the same bags so I’m hoping  for a similar outcome this time. Scab thrives in dry soil conditions so I can only assume the bags have dry spots and any tubers growing there are affected whilst clean tubers can grow away side by side with them in damp areas. Just a theory but keeping the growing media uniformly moist in growbags can be more difficult than you imagine so I think there may be some mileage in the idea. If there are some tubers with only minor markings I will try and use them as they can be rubbed off if care is taken. Indeed, the set that won me a 3rd at Malvern last season did contain a couple of tubers with minor scab lesions that were almost invisible after cleaning. Invisible to the judge at least!

I’ve now planted all my kohl rabi for the National Class 26, over 100 plants. If I don’t manage to stage a set of 5 after that then I may as well give up growing for showing. Oh, hang on, I am! These need to be protected from pigeons as they will nibble the new leaves (hence the pea sticks at random angles), and a carpet of slug pellets is also essential. I have 2 varieties, Kref growing in the tunnel and Kolibri growing outside, and with 6 and a half weeks to go to Malvern surely one of my 4 sowings will be timed to perfection and I can be crowned National German Turnip Champion, which will be a wonderful thing to have inscribed on my tombstone. Just below World’s Most Annoying Twat.

My long beet in pipes seem to be growing well but they are now on a weekly feed of Chempak 8 as they need to start bulking out, the roots only being about an inch in diameter currently. As with long carrots you need to check the crowns for any side growths, and I have been making sure they are watered often as long beet do like to be kept moist. Other than that this is one crop that has grown relatively trouble free thus far.

Which is something that cannot be said for globe beet. For as long as I can remember globe beet have always grown at vastly different rates from the same supposed F1 seeds. From the same sowing you can get roots that reach size in 6 or 7 weeks whilst the rest can take up to 15 or even more, so it does mean you can be several weeks from show date and have lots of good show size roots that can only go into the kitchen. A couple of weeks ago as I was bemoaning this fact once more, staring at several that already needed harvesting, I wondered whether they could be saved for a few weeks at the size they’d reached. I decided to experiment by lifting them, thus effectively stopping their growth, cutting off much of their foliage and replanting them in deep holes to see if they would be any use come show time. I’ve done this at the end of the season when I’ve been faced with several dozen roots and basically just heeled them back into the soil until required for cooking, and I’d remembered that they don’t grow any more in size but central leaves do regrow. We shall see if this proves successful, but I’m fairly confident it will be good enough for local showing at the very least. As more roots reach size I’ll continue lining them up and them pull them out just before the show to make the sets. At the moment I don’t see any reason why this can’t work.

One crop I am quite pleased about this season is celery, which has responded well to a compost top dressing (thankyou Mr. McLeod) and is now starting to bulk out nicely. I’m only growing 16 plants and this weekend I will be wrapping black plastic around the cardboard collars to aid the blanching process. Next week I will switch from a high nitrogen feed Chempak 2 to a low nitrogen feed Chempak 8, a couple of scoops every week until showtime. The key to growing decent celery I’ve recently learned is when to strip your outer split sticks back in order to keep the plant swelling and to ensure it’s as rounded in profile as possible. For now, I’m taking them all out, all around the plant to keep it even, but a couple of weeks before the show I’ll leave them on to act as buffers. These will be taken off at lifting, the idea being (hopefully!) that there are no split stalks underneath those. Something I’ve not always found to be the case. I may be relying on celery for some of the mini-collections I’m hoping to do this season so I’m devoting a bit of effort to these from now, just in case my spuds let me down. Who knows, I may be able to get my tickling stick out again before the end of the show season.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Cosy Powell drumming home

I was talking to my good mate Craven Morehead the other day (great looking bloke, superb grower, massive cock) and he has asked me to help him do a book on growing to show as there isn’t a decent one out there that appeals to novices and experienced growers alike. Admittedly there is one by a chap called Derek Brooks (hey I wonder if he’s the same arsewipe ‘D Brooks’ who put negative feedback on Craven’s Carrots at Dawn reviews on Amazon?) but quite frankly I’ve had more enjoyable and interesting days watching a freshly painted wall dry whilst having Hitler’s Mein Kampf read out to me. I did have a copy of it but it really was so shit I gave it away so there’s a definite market out there for a book on the hobby that isn’t coma inducing.

All in all we haven’t had too bad a Summer I reckon, although there will always be someone in deepest, darkest Ingleton that will never be satisfied with the weather. In fact, if wet fannies were falling from the sky and landing on his face he’d probably moan about the taste. Yes, we had that really hot spell in late June/early July when the whole country was sweating like a Scotsman watching Crimewatch, but we’ve also had some decent rain showers so there should be some good stuff at the shows over the next few weeks. This is sure to make winning a ticket at the highest level shows even more difficult so growers will have to be really critical about their exhibits. If there are any faults then you’ve probably got no chance as the judges at that level will be micro-analysing every last vegetable in their deliberations. A tiny scratch on your cucumber could be the difference between first and second or even no ticket at all so whilst everything is now growing well in all probability, there are still things you can be doing to make sure your stuff is as perfect as you can make it. This involves daily checking, constant vigilance and attention to detail. At lots of village shows and certain NVS shows just north of the Isle of Wight you can probably chuck any old shit down and win however.

I visited Marcus Powell’s allotments in Buckinghamshire last night and he is most definitely going to be in amongst the tickets as he has some fabulous looking stuff. Last season he won the prestigious collection class with this display, so apologies in advance if you’re eating.

His blanch leeks in particular stood out yesterday, and his celery weren’t far behind, with several sowings at different levels of progress to cover the many shows he does. It was interesting to listen to him as we went through his different crops talking about what he does with each one, we all do things slightly differently but there’s always something we can learn to make things better, so listening to another grower is one of the most worthwhile things you could do if you want to win that elusive red card.

I was gratified to see that his caulis and runner beans for Malvern were at the same stage as mine, as my caulis had been decimated by pigeons shortly after planting out but have now recovered pretty well. My runners seemed to be painfully slow this season, but again were on a par with Marcus’. However, he had some superb runners just starting to crop for the Midlands Branch Championships at Shrewsbury next week and the thing that struck me most were the length of his flower trusses, they were well over a foot long. Mine get to 8 inch if I’m lucky. Must be different soils, or the half strength Viagra he feeds them on. He takes the other half to stop himself falling out of bed.

One of the many jobs I shan’t be missing from next year is growing quality marrows to show. This involves tying them up canes inclined at an angle so that the developing fruits hang down away from the coarse foliage, much as you would do for cucumbers. Making the framework for the canes is a job I invariably rush, which means they often collapse at inopportune moments. After high winds yesterday I suffered a breakage in a couple of the canes high up which will require fiddly repair work whilst getting scratched up to buggery from the plants themselves. However, it hasn’t affected this rather superb looking fruit (var. Blyton Belle), which is rugger ball sized, and I have several others grapefruit sized which should give me a matching set for Welsh Branch in early September. Growing like this means they colour up all the way around and you don’t get that flat discoloured side you do when they grow on the ground.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Lukaku Pogba Lindelof Matic

Another thing that winds me up about social media gardening groups is when you advise someone on a particular insecticide/fungicide for a problem and some new-age, ecowarrior, knobthwaite cockfondler pipes up about making sure you have a valid sprayer’s licence, full body protection with nipple softeners and plastic cocksock etc etc etc. Oh do me a favour, go put your head between two rounds of bread and make yourself a cunt sandwich. I actually know someone who has a sprayer’s licence and I have serious doubts that he manages to put his own fucking shoes on each morning, so having a licence is no guarantee that you’re able to use chemicals wisely. If I want to use chemicals I’m gonna use ‘em so unless you’re gonna get the PC Police out to raid my potting shed keep shut yer fecking cake’ole. There’s also nothing quite so good at getting the organic keyboard warriors going off on one than to mention a glyphosate based weedkiller manufactured by the apparent evil corporate bastards at Monsanto, it really is great fun winding the twats up. However, they will often recommend their own home-made concoction that has had no scientific testing done and which, as far as I can tell, is an acid. I think I’ll stick to Roundup personally. Gallons of it. So fuck off.

Moving on, Epsom salts are fast becoming my ‘go to’ solution in the garden when a plant looks a bit out of sorts, especially when it comes to greenhouse tomatoes. A couple of months ago my plants were almost yellow but daily sprays with an Epsom salt solution have somehow greened them up into decent looking plants with heavy crops of fruit promised for show time. However, I’m not stupid, this is the 2nd season in a row that this has happened. Despite flooding the soil prior to planting to mimic winter rains and flush through any excess fertilisers there is obviously an issue with the soil in the border that the tomatoes grow into, so I’ll be sure to change the whole lot before next year. I may look to have a crack with some compost tea as an alternative, something that Gareth Cameron has had brilliant results with and which would be preferable to lugging a couple of tonne of soil around.

Before the season started I was wondering what small fruited tomato to grow for show, having grown Marshalls’ Montello for a one off competition at Malvern last year. I’ve grown various varieties down the years with varying degrees of success, including Harlequin, a small fruited plum variety, to gain a 3rd place ticket at the National. Unlike other vegetables there appears no single cultivar that rules the roost so this season I plumped for Strillo which I had seen win at the highest level before. And I’ve been picking fruits for the kitchen for a few weeks now, but the plants still have many to come so I’m hopeful of having some dishes to show during September, including my local show where the small fruited class has, in brackets, (not plum), so I could never enter Harlequin. The only downside I’ve found with Strillo is that is does have a tendency for the fruits to split, even before they’re fully ripe so we shall see.

My Evening Star celery are progressing reasonably well aside from the usual slug issues. On advice from a former celery National champion Paul McLeod I’ve top-dressed around the base with some fresh compost to encourage further rooting, and this weekend I’ll put some black dpc collars around the cardboard ones to shut out all light. At the moment they’re on 18” collars. I haven’t decided whether to put a 20” collar on yet, as I may just leave them as they are and try and get them to bulk out. From now on they just need water, water, water, but I will start feeding with Chempak 8 in a couple of weeks time, plus a feed of sulphate of potash 3 weeks before the shows to harden them up a bit.

And it’s taken a few years since the retirement of the great Sir Fergie but it now looks like Manchester United will shortly be back ruling the roost if recent signings are anything to go by. Despite a few relatively barren years when, to be quite honest, United have been playing completely wank, they still managed to win more trophies than Liverscum, Manchester Shitty and Totteringham Hotshite combined, to become the most successful club in English football history.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tales of internet idiots

I have to admit to being a bit addicted to social media but it does wind me up considerably that it is often a portal for a myriad of cock-juggling thundercunts to show the World just how stupid they are. For instance, the post below was posted on one of the many Facebook gardening pages that I subscribe to for various reasons. The photo is of a sunflower and I guess if you’ve never seen one you wouldn’t know what it was, although the spelling and grammar of this particular poster does seem to suggest he/she is thicker than a very thick plank that has been left in water to expand so it’s even thicker.

Once posted then basically the race is on for the first person with ‘knowledge’ to post an answer and to pass him/herself off as the Grand Hortimaster of the group. Once done, that should be a fucking end to it, but no, you will usually see anything up to 50 or 60 identical answers saying it is a FUCKING SUNFLOWER FOR FUCK’S SAKE. Everyone who posts ‘it’s a sunflower’ after the first correct answer is basically a total bell-end from Upper Bellendsville.

However, this can sometimes work in your favour. I once followed a post started by a chap who had taken on a plot with a very old and large greenhouse with a brick wall base. He posted a photo of a leaf shoot emerging from a border right next to the whitewashed brick wall asking group members to help him identify it. He mentioned that it had a huge woody root that he simply couldn’t budge. Bit of a clue there don’t you think? Alas, no. At least 40 ‘experts’ posted confidently, one after the other like a row of idiot dominoes, that it was a volunteer potato, probably as a result of a previous crop not being fully cleared. The poster thanked everyone and said he looked forward to an early crop of spuds, right up until the point that I intervened and said it was not a potato, that it was quite clearly a fig, which you could tell from the leaf shape which bore no resemblance to that of a potato, although the fact that it had a woody stump was also a bit of a giveaway (by this time I was taking the piss out of the soft cunts!). At this point several people posted to vehemently disagree with me and insist that it was definitely a potato, although one or two did concede that now they had zoomed in on the photograph it could possibly be a fig.

For fuck’s sake, these morons all have votes, and they would probably choose that terrorist sympathising doggyknobber Corbyn!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where my shit's at

There really is nothing like competitive growing to bring out the inner wanker in people, and this is non more personified than in the worlds of giant veg and chilli peppers. I’ve been dipping in and out of various websites and forums devoted to these two aspects of horticultural competitiveness for a few years and they probably have higher percentages of illiterate, whiney tosspots than any walk of life I’ve ever encountered. Reading some of this garbage kept me highly entertained during my recent holiday, especially where it sudDENLY CHANGES INTO CAPITAL LETTERS FOR NO APPARENT FUCKING REASON.

Chief fucktard in the world of oversized and largely inedible vegetables is a twat called Scott Robb from Alaska who has the world record cabbage to his name, and who insists on calling it a sport not a hobby. Gareth Fortey has been running for several years and does a brilliant job raising the profile of the hobby, but his website and Facebook page are constantly sniped at by this mullet-haired moose-shagger with his constant bleats about rules and regulations over what should or shouldn’t be allowed in weigh-ins. Giant veg should be the easiest of competitions to judge, for if it’s the longest or the heaviest then it wins, it aint rocket science, and indeed it’s why lots of limited growers who were useless at growing proper veg, like Unsworth and Bastow for instance, gave up and converted to trying their hand at ‘giants’. However, not for Scott Robb are cabbages with lots of offshoots, or tomatoes and marrows that have grown from fused fruits on a single stem, for these shouldn’t be allowed to stand in his egotistical opinion. Truth is the twat is just afraid of losing his world record to someone from the Motherland.

In the world of hot chillis the arguments are even more bizarre, with some growers even offering to fight others. For fuck’s sake, a chilli is a chilli is a fucking chilli but there are Facebook groups with thousands of members all trying to outdo each other by developing the hottest chillies that look like my dead grandad’s wizened willy. Recently a chilli pepper called Dragon’s Breath hit the news claiming to be the world’s hottest at 2.1 million Scoville units whatever they are. Quite why anyone would want to eat a chilli so hot it could give you a heart attack is totally beyond me, but someone claimed to be selling them and managed to convince many of the gullible fuckwits to part with 15 quid per plant. This sent some anonymous clown called Ashy Moko to go on a crusade to shame these growers, and he appears to have devoted his recent life to this task and involved university professors and other reputable tradesmen in the process, embarking on an incomprehensible paper and email trail to prove his point. He has hundreds of followers all proclaiming him to be their hero. Jesus H Christ….if you spent 15 quid on an unproven plant, you’re a thick cunt, get over it, file it in the life’s experiences folder and get a life.

Anyhoo, after 5 days away from the plot it’s always a relief to come back and find everything is still ticking over nicely, although there are always one or two issues that need immediate attention. After taking advice from Gareth Cameron on 1 ½ kg onions I decided to cull them at 17 ½”circumference to be on the safe side. This meant at least a couple of them would probably reach this size whilst I was on holiday and I would be relying on the mother-in-law to do the honours, which she was absolutely terrified about. As it transpired however, growth slowed meaning she didn’t have to wield the secateurs and I was able to lift the first one on my return Friday night, with another one following Sunday evening and another one now ready for lifting tonight. I have another 5 or 6 swiftly approaching size so I’m hopeful of staging a set of 5 in the 1-1.5kg class at the National in late September, something I’d never have imagined possible on my white rot infested plot, but thanks to my double pot system I’ve proved to myself there are alternative methods to produce quality veg. Once the bulb reaches the size I require I strip any split skins back and remeasure, leaving it to grow a bit more as you would have undoubtedly reduced the size by the stripping process. Once lifted I cut a long neck which will be reduced after tying, trim all roots flush with the base and give the bulb a good clean to wash off any dirt. When dry they are stored in wooden boxes on coarse sawdust shavings, in my garage with sheets of fleece draped over them to ripen slowly. I don’t bother talcing onions anymore because I always felt a bit gay doing it. Job’s a good’un.

My spuds have been a big disappointment this year, the foliage having struggled for several weeks, suffering from yellowing at first (probably magnesium deficiency) and then dark blotching which has rendered them very messy looking and they haven’t reached a good size at all so I’m not hopeful of there being a decent crop of tubers beneath. Those that I have exposed appear to be riddled with scab so it’s going to be touch and go whether I have any to show this season. I’ve now stopped watering with a view to lifting them in another couple of weeks, although we had a biblical downpour on Friday night, drenching the peat which may in itself present problems for harvesting when you’re trying to get the skin lenticels to close down and the skins to start hardening. Growing spuds in bags is certainly not something I am going to miss when I finish with showing later this year.

My onions for the 250g class are mostly all up now and after topping and tailing as for the large onions they are tipping the scales at just over 250g which should be perfect once prepped for show, as they will lose a few grams in weight. They all look identical at this point but as sure as eggs is eggs they’ll all ripen to different shades of brown and picking a set of 3, 4 or 5 is never as easy as it should be.

My celery are looking healthy despite the usual slug nibbles. One thing I’ve discovered is that Slugclear is a total waste of money and doesn’t appear to work for me so it’s back to a carpet of pellets from now on. With 7 or 8 weeks to show time I just need the plants to bulk out now and it’ll soon be time to switch to a Chempak 8 feed for that process.

Now is the time your French beans should be popping through for the mid and late September shows, as they need 8-9 weeks from showing to showing. I’m going to be growing these in the tunnel where my onions were, but first I’ll need to give the bed a thorough drenching as I’d been allowing it to dry out in order to reduce the chance of botrytis on the onions. The variety that everyone grows is one called Hawkesbury Wonder and I’ve been saving my seed for a few years after Ronnie Jackson kindly gave me some. At all NVS Branch shows this season there is also an extra class for a bean supplied by Marshalls called Satelit with big prize money so I’m also having a go at that one with a view to getting an entry at the Welsh Branch show. Feedback from other growers indicates this is a very fast grower.

My Carmen cucumbers have been struggling to get going in the tunnel,  due to the heat I’m assuming, and I have lost a few to stem rot but they appear to have sorted themselves out now and I am training them up the wires to the tunnel frame where I then train them horizontally. I will pick off all small fruits as soon as I see them as I want a large plant before I allow any fruits to develop further. The idea is for them to hang down from the roof supports away from the foliage so they don’t get scratched. It also makes them easier to manipulate so they are nice and straight, and facilitates the measuring process also. Here is a photo of my tunnel from last year.

In other news there were recently appeals for gardeners to count the amount of butterflies in their gardens. I posted the attached on my Twitter feed.

Somehow the Butterfly Conservation knobs got wind of this and gatecrashed my account. I think they know my position on their fluttery little twats now.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Not everyone's cup of tea but.....

....there was a cracking episode of Naked Attraction on the telly box last night.

I'm off on me hols for a week so try not to miss me too much!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Shit happens

Pigeons. What is the point of them? No, really, what is the actual fucking point of fucking bastard fucking pigeons? I’ve always been troubled by the feathered fucktards whenever I’ve had young brassicas planted and had to resort to all manner of defence systems, but a couple of years ago settled on sticks placed around the plants at random angles, after reading that pigeons don’t like things above their heads as they think it might be a predator. I was highly sceptical at first but fuck me backwards it actually seemed to work. Or at least it did, because this year the little shitbags have obviously got over their fear and are eating my caulis with a vengeance. Next year when I have more time I am purchasing an air rifle with a view to killing as many of the fuckers as I possibly can, purely for fun, and fuck the animal lovers a few doors up, they can kiss my pimply hairy arse. Whether my caulis can recover in time from this is debatable. The pigeon attack, not my hairy arse.

Potato scab. What is the actual fucking point of potato scab? I’ve sucked fucking reservoirs dry this summer in an attempt to keep scab off my spuds but during a furtle deep into one of my potato bags last night the first fucking potato that I fucking came across had more fucking scabs on it than Jim Carrey’s poxy cock. It just goes to prove that the cockwomble from Derby who told me about giving spuds plenty of water at tuber initiation (is that even a genuine fucking term?) doesn’t know what the fuck he’s on about.

I’m going to have to get my blood pressure tested before the footy season starts! My first batch of runner beans was planted out 3 weeks ago to cover my local show and hopefully Welsh Branch a week after but all my sowings since then have struggled to germinate for some weird reason, despite being the same seed and being treated the same way, sown quite deep in 3” square pots. I can only assume the tender new shoots got ‘cooked’ in the recent heatwave before they were able to emerge. Having used up all my stock I was forced to appeal to that Liverscum supporting, filthy photo texting fellow grower Mark Perry to see if he had any spare seed. He has very kindly sent me some seed which I hope will cover my later shows if I get them in quickly. He employs a bean lettering system similar to the Plumbs but I don’t know why as they all look the fucking same to me.

Meanwhile, scientists and keyboard warriors the World over are shitting themselves about a little bit of ice that’s come away from Antarctica (it’s roughly the size of Cyprus apparently), prophesying the end of the World and blaming Donald Trump for it. Now don’t get me wrong, Trump’s a total cunt, but when you’re hurtling through space at 67,000 miles an hour on a huge oscillating rock on a trajectory that is not fixed from one year to the next shit like this is gonna happen and there aint fuck all mankind can do about it. So quit whining and help me kill some pigeons you underarm dreadlocked, new-age hippy tosspots.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Stay firm and resolute!

It’s around about now that the mind games will begin. Your fellow competitors and showing pals will be texting/emailing/messaging you on Facebook etc saying that they have the best veg they’ve ever grown and that you don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of beating them at this year’s shows. Some will even try and put you off by texting you semi-naked photos of themselves (see previous post) so the best thing you can do is to remain calm and keep quiet about your own stuff. It’s easy to become nervous and doubt the quality of your own stuff if you let them get to you, but the judge will ultimately decide whose stuff is best, and more often than not your competition isn’t as good as they would have had you believe.

In truth I love all the pre-show banter, not to mention the put downs at the show itself. I well remember one of my first ever shows where someone remarked of my cabbages as I entered the marquee “They’re big brussels lad”. Other common ones you’ll hear are;

“Did you pull those carrots in the dark?”

“You’ve left the price sticker on those caulis”

“I reckon your radish will be up for best in show”

“Did you not bother feeding your onions this year then?”

“Judging by all the caterpillar damage on those cabbages you’d be best entering them in the livestock section”

A couple of weeks ago I was starting to become quite concerned about my parsnips, as they appeared to be throwing up weird side shoots not dissimilar to the way that long carrots do. This was not something I had ever have happen before so it threw me at first. I assume it was caused by the extreme hot weather we have been experiencing although I have been watering regularly. I pulled them off sideways after pushing my fingers down towards the crown (parsnip crowns tend to be much deeper than carrots) and they did come away quite easily so hopefully there will be no lasting problems, but I’ll only know for sure come harvest time. Until then they are looking otherwise pretty good, with strong, thick stalks signifying that there should be some decent roots growing down below. However, from photos posted by other growers on various Facebook pages it’s apparent that there’s going to be a lot of good parsnips on the benches come September time. You see, I am already starting to doubt myself! Bollocks.

My long carrots continue to grow well, the foliage now pushing up against the enviromesh top of the frame. It’s all a lovely deep green and because they are totally enclosed on all sides by polythene, top and bottom by mesh, it means that the dreaded carrot fly can’t get in to lay their eggs, although I also use a systemic insecticide as belt and braces. You simply can't afford the slightest chance of any damage, no matter how minute. I also make a note of going through each station every week, making sure that the crowns are covered with more compost as they will turn green otherwise and cause you to be downpointed. The only feed they get is a weak solution of Maxicrop at every other watering which I hope will enhance the colour.

My stumps Sweet Candle are also looking pretty uniform from the tops at least, and a few weeks ago several even started to push their shoulders above the surface. In one way this is good, as it means they have probably started to form a defined stump end which is something I have often struggled to achieve, so it could mean that my gamble of a simple cored hole 12” deep has paid off. On the other hand it means I have to be extra vigilant and ensure I’m ready to cover any exposed root otherwise it will go green and never turns orange again, so you have to make regular checks. Taking advice from other good stump growers I really need to make sure the bed is never allowed to dry out so I am watering every day in this hot weather. Ever since 2010 when I pulled over 100 forked Sweet Candle which I put down to insufficient water I’ve been very careful to make sure they never go dry. Remember, they are growing in free draining sand and we need to give them much more water than if they were growing in the ground.

Over the weekend I harvested the first Tasco onions for the 250g classes, pulling them when the tape measure had them at 10 ¼” circumference or 3 ¼” diameter. From the photo you will see 5 bulbs all pulled at the same diameter, but I’m fairly sure the bottom two will weigh well in excess of 250g because they are much rounder in profile. These were growing a bit deeper in the bed and so I hadn’t noticed they were swelling mostly below ground, their true size only becoming apparent when I exposed them a bit by grubbing out the soil from around them. The top three should be bang on size once the necks have dried out so the trick now is to harvest as many as I possibly can before white rot ruins everything, as I have now lost a total of 4 bulbs to this disease.

Once thoroughly dried off I’ll rub some talc on them and store in wooden boxes of sawdust in my garage, which is cool, dark and airy, ideal for ripening onions. The problem is you need a big selection as they will all ripen to slightly different hues, some will develop the odd wrinkle and need re-skinning, some may be marked in some way etc etc. In fact, of the three the one on the right has slightly lower shoulders if you’re being critical, which just goes to show how difficult it is to match veg up for showing. In fact, I'm now starting to worry about all of my veg, so I may have to start some mind games of my own. I'm just off to take a photo of my arse to text to Mark Perry.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Warning; This post contains nudity that may offend. It’ll certainly make you very, very sick.

 Apologies for an error in my previous post on kohl rabi. As Liverscum supporting ex-British tap root champion Mark Perry pointed out to me in a text Friday evening;

“You will never win the kohl rabi class. Why? Because you need a set of 5 not 4 you knob head”

I think you’ll agree, quite remarkable and admirable bravery shown there by someone who really should know better, obviously forgetting about the power of blog at my fingertips!!!

Now, moving on, we all need to know our limitations in life, whatever the situation. For instance, when I go out on the piss with my mates I carry a couple of photos in my wallet to let me know when my limit has been reached. This is the first one;

However, sometimes I may have gone too far so in that case I have to refer to this one;

The same is true with me and quality onions. Due to a mixture of not having the right equipment and having much better things to do during the cold Winter months (watching footy, watching beach volleyball, watching paint dry and wanking) I don’t grow large onions from seed under lights, instead buying them in from a supplier such as Medwyn’s. This saves time, energy and electricity whilst giving someone else the problem of nurturing the plants. Medwyn needs to be kept busy at his advanced age anyway. I ordered 10 plants which arrived mail order during April and were potted on and kept in the warmth of my conservatory until they were ready to go into the tunnel. Even then I couldn’t plant them into the tunnel border as my soil is totally infested with white rot, and as I’ve discovered many times in the past this disease can devastate your crop in days. Instead I had to grow them to harvest in large 12” diameter pots, a bottomless one on top of another for a really deep root run, the growing media being a mixture of sterilised soil, M3 and vermiculite, and it has been successful in the past where I’ve managed to get onions to over 3lbs which is plenty heavy enough for me. 

The length of the roots is a sight to behold when they’re emptied out. The internet is full of growers using something called an air pot which I have no personal experience of, basically a large plastic pot full of holes all round the sides. The idea is the root gets ‘air pruned’ when it emerges. I have absolutely no idea why you would want to air prune your roots or what advantage such a practice brings to the party, but a lot of growers are currently swearing by them.

However, I wasn’t about to experiment with something I didn’t understand in my last season of showing so stuck to my double pot system, using a metal ring supported with canes to keep the foliage upright. This promotes good form on the eventual harvested bulbs. These onions will need to be lifted by early August to have them ripened in time for the shows I do in September so I have started putting a cloth tape around them daily, and making a note of the measurements. At the moment they are all between 13 and 14 ½”, and my aim is to try and get them as close to 18 ½” as I can. They should then weigh approx. 1 ½ kg and I’m hoping to get an entry of a set of FIVE in a class at the National for the 1-1.5kg onions. At the moment they are expanding by ¼” per day, so I need to make a judgement call on a size when I think they may be all be running out of steam. It may be for example that I have to settle on 18” rather than 18 ½”, if I think they won’t all make it. The idea is to harvest one at your optimum size (there’s always one that seems to be ahead of the rest) and then harvest the others when they reach the same size, which can take a couple of weeks. They are all roughly the same shape so I should have decent uniformity I’m hoping.

My onions for the 250g class Tasco are also all starting to swell and will need to be harvested at the magic size of 83mm diameter, at which point each bulb should be bang on 250g once prepped for show, depending on the shape profile. 

I have an old cardboard template which I have used for a number of years and which serves me perfectly well for this purpose. These plants are planted in the tunnel border and are having to take their chances with the white rot, as there are just too many to mess about growing them all in pots. For the past 3 years I have used a product called Basamid on the soil during mid-Spring which has depleted the white rot but I still suffer a few losses. I have lost 3 bulbs so far and expect more will follow, but hopefully it won’t be the 40-50% of previous seasons. Last year I lost about 15%. The only possible problem I may have is that we’re going away as a family for a week in a couple of weeks and I think most of the bulbs will need harvesting during that week, so I don’t know what I’m going to do about that. I may have to give my neighbours young son a crash course in onion measuring for some financial recompense.

In the meantime, not all growers are quite as busy as I am, preferring instead to lounge around like drunken layabouts drinking cheap west country beer when they should be tending their crops. I do hope he didn’t use all that contaminated water on his tomatoes? And any serious grower would have all that useless lawn turned over to veg surely?