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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.

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