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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.

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