Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Too late now!
In life you are often faced with situations that seem at first glance to be one thing, which may look quite threatening, but in actuality turn out to be something totally opposite and entirely benign. For instance, (and I use this example and location entirely at random) if you saw a group of middle-aged white people in a field below the magnificent Malvern hills, standing around a table full of fruit cakes, your natural reaction, understandably so, would be that they were all converted ISIS terrorists determined to ruin the Malvern Show and all that it stood for. A closer look, and it takes some doing believe me, would reveal a bunch of friends merely having a laugh and a joke and taking the piss out of the cooking of skills of some of their number, but I have to accept it’s an easy mistake to make at first glance.
Some garden creatures are similarly maligned, such as ants and woodlice for instance. People often blame them for things not growing so well because they see them crawling all over their suffering plants, but woodlice only feed on rotting detritus (unlike me they don’t have big enough gobs you see!) and don’t cause the damage in the first instance, but rather take advantage once a plant has begun to rot. Ants are probably farming aphids for their bodily fluids if you see them, and likewise are not to blame for a plant not growing so well, although the aphids they are milking and managing probably are. So it pays to try and think logically when faced with an issue so that you can treat accordingly. For instance, for the past few years now I have really struggled to get globe beetroot seeds to germinate and I couldn’t work out why as I always found they were one of the easiest crops I ever grew. I was starting to blame the seed suppliers, or else slugs were nibbling them off before they had chance to establish properly as I was still getting some come through albeit there was extremely sparse germination. I was even wondering if mice were nicking the seed but there was never any soil disturbance so it couldn’t be that. I ditched Pablo a couple of years back and tried one called Cardeal with no change in success rates so I had to sit down and try and work out what I was doing wrong. In the end it turned out to be what I was doing differently. In the past I had always opened up a seed drill and thoroughly watered it prior to sowing the seed. For some reason I’ve yet to fathom, I stopped doing that, sowing the seed into the open drill, covering it over and then watering. I’ve gone back to that method this season and hey presto I’ve started to get much better germination rates. It’s often recommended in gardening books that you soak beetroot seed overnight before sowing to encourage it to break dormancy, and I think my pre-watered rows may have been doing a similar task.
You need to have a lot of globe beetroot to be able to pull a matching set of 3 I always find. They’re total bastards to match up. You can pull 3 roots up with the same diameter but then find they are all totally different when viewed in side profile. One will be flat bottomed, one will be ‘pointy’ and another may be forked or misshapen. I reckon I would have had to pull upwards of 20 for each of the 2 sets pictured below, 3rd on the open side at Malvern in 2015 and 1st on the open side at Dundee also in 2015. Neither set filled me with great delight I have to say, but it just goes to show you have to be in it to win it.
Some growers go to great lengths to grow them for exhibition, doing boreholes in much the same way as you would for carrots and parsnips to ensure a nice long tap root. I find that too much trouble for what is only a 15 point veg and can usually get some decent roots from various raised beds with a deep root run, if I can get the damned things to germinate that is. One thing you must ensure is they never go short of water, that the shoulders are covered as much as possible to prevent corkiness, and that you spray them to stop the mangold fly in its tracks. This critter will soon tunnel through the leaves and slow down growth considerably. Flea beetle is another pest that can be problematic, but I find Hallmark stops them both and leaves me with nice clean foliage. Globe beet need about 15 weeks from sowing to showing, and surprisingly, they need a lot of nitrogen feed for a root crop.
So like I said, try and think logically around a problem and don’t jump to quick conclusions. And, instead of threatening the cake bakers of ISIS with extermination perhaps you ought to ask them for ideas on making the World a happier friendly place instead and see what they can contribute to the community rather than condemning them to a life in the shadows?