About Me

Monday, 31 March 2008

postheadericon marrows and courgettes

My marrows (table dainty) and courgettes (tosca) have just been planted in some cells which i have covered with some polythene. You can just see them at the back behind the hanging basket plants:

Watch out for any mice!!

postheadericon Large cabbage/cauliflower

My large cabbage are growing away nice and i have about 25 of these to plant out which will all require protection from slugs, birds and rabbits.

I have quite a few other cabbage in and some cauliflowers for eating. Cauliflower's for show need to be planted later and this depends on when your show is. It is notoriously hard to get good cauliflowers on show day, they are either to large, to small or don't match. In theory if you have a golf ball size cauliflower two weeks before your first show it should be just right on show day. The only way to ensure you have cauliflower's ready is to A: plant them at the correct time and B: plant as many as you can. Depending on what variety of cauliflower you grow will depend on when it matures, i personally grow mine 70, 80, and 90 days before the show. I do find that growing them under cover in a tunnel produces excellent cauliflowers, yet when planted outside they seem to be pretty poor quality. I don't have much room left inside the tunnel so i will fit as many as i can inside and the rest outside.

postheadericon Pot leeks update

The pot leeks seem to be picking up but they seem to have a lot of virus in them (the yellow streaks in the leaves). The roots look much better now and they have been in there 5 inch pots for about 2 weeks now. Many leeks have virus in them and it tends to grow out as the season progresses, but if its still there at a mature stage it really does render the leek useless as it just looks awful.

postheadericon Carrots

My short carrots are in, you may be saying thats a tad early for short carrots but i grow a re-selection variety of a chantenay red core carrot that reach quite a size and tend to take longer for the stump to actually form. They are not as long as other short carrots and are a lot stumpier and carry more weight at the top than the bottom, reaching in some cases 5 inches across at the top. They always look great on the show bench next to all the ordinary stump carrots, they also grow very uniform so making a set should be very easy.

Ive also managed to get some of my long carrots in before i ran out of sand, so the rest will have to wait until next weekend.

I'm growing a re-selection of "new red intermediate" long carrot which i rate as the one and only long carrot to grow for showing. This variety produces long heavy roots perfect for the show bench.

The mix i am using this year posted on Simon's blog (smithyveg) is David Thornton's mix and is as follows:

45L sieved compost (Irish moss compost)
15L vermiculite
10L sieved coarse sand (silver sand)
6oz Vitax Q4
3oz Lime
3oz Seaweed meal

I have used Westlands Irish moss compost and silver sand in the mix, this is all passed through a shredder 4 times and sieved. (man does vitax q4 stink).

postheadericon shallots planted out

Finally managed to get the shallots planted out at the weekend (well 60 of them anyway). The weather has not been kind and it just seems to rain every weekend so the ground was still wet but its now or never as I wont have time to plant them for another 4 weeks so they are in. They should be ok even tho the ground is not ideal because its wet it will settle down.

Before planting i applied some calcified seaweed and some seaweed meal and they are growing in a medium manured soil based ground. Shallots are tricky to grow to a good standard and its really about timing. You need to thin them down to 4 and ensure they have space to grow by teasing them apart, when the time is ready i will show you this. At the end of the season it is crucial that you pull them at the correct time when new shoots are still forming to avoid double growth (pregnant bulbs), this can also happen with a sudden uptake of nutrients so do not feed your shallots and ideally lift before any heavy rain when at the correct size to avoid sudden growth.

When it comes to thinning them down you can save any thinning's that have roots on them and plant them in a pot, they will produce nice picking shallots.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

postheadericon Updates on everything else


Still in the propagator, will prick out once they are strong and growing away soon. Not all these of these germinated, but i have two other batches just coming up for later shows.


My main parsnips in the tunnel have now been thinned down to one with my second batch that are a week later thinned down to two.


Really need to be planted out now, the pots are full of roots and the ground is prepared for them it just needs to dry out a bit first.


10 Cedrico looking pretty good so far in there 3inch pots. Slight leaf damage probably from the sun, shouldn't effect them.

Everything else:

Some leeks for the allotment, rosemary cuttings from last year, sprouts, cabbage, shallots from seed, later leek seedlings. flower plants etc moved into cold frame.

postheadericon Onions update

The onions are coming along well and i have quite a few batches to choose from. My largest onions will be planted outside in the raised bed some time in April i expect. The heat inside the tunnel has been a problem already with the leaves going soft on hot days so cooling has been used to harden them off and keep the direct heat away.

Some larger pictures when clicked:

postheadericon Carrot bed preparation

Carrots soon need to be sown so we have been busy preparing the beds, pipes and barrels. So far we have used 6 ton of sand and it really doesn't go far.

Here are the short carrot beds in the tunnel that we finished off at the weekend ready for planting:

The long carrots will be planted in pipes outside in a raised bed of sand and also some will be planted in the tunnel in barrels where ever i have some free space.

Any left over carrot or parsnip mix will be used in the allotment. I use a steal bar and push it into the ground and conical it out as far down as the soil will let me and fill it with the mix. These wont produce high quality carrots or parsnips for the show but they will still be good specimens for eating as long as they are kept moist.

postheadericon Another Leek Update

Over the easter bank holiday I've lifted the collars on my leeks by turning the collar around and they are looking really good. Here you can see the pendle leek bared down, you will notice the flaw in this strain of leek and that is it tends to shaft being slightly thinner at the bottom than the top. This is just the characteristics of this strain of leek which can only improve through reselection over the years, such as the pendle improved leek that medwyns is growing this year. The welsh seedling have gone through the same processes over the years and through reselection the bulb on the bottom of the leek has disappeared.
(click picture for large view)

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

postheadericon Picking shallots in

Some of my picking shallots went in last night which i will use for showing. These could have been directly planted in the ground i suppose but the idea being that i have easy access to them, don't provide them with many nutrients (to keep them small) and thin them down to one when the time is right, so they will stay in these pots until i feel they are the right size to harvest.

Monday, 17 March 2008

postheadericon Pot leeks

I'm a bit disappointed with my pot leeks this year, i never grow many as i don't have the room and normally just grow them as extra veg and show them if they make the standard. These are belsy blue from bulbils that i ordered before Christmas. They don't seem to be doing much and the root structure isnt great, they also seem to have lifted quite a bit already and the leaves don't look good either. In the picture they are at the back in 3 inch pots, i think they may have got a bit cold but we will see if they pick up or not.

postheadericon Parsnips thinned

I have thinned my parsnips down to the two strongest at the weekend and you can see the rough leaves just coming through.

Some people like to leave it later than this to thin, but mine are inside the poly tunnel and less likely to die on me. It is important when you thin that you don't disturb the other seedlings and water well before you pull any out to avoid leaving the roots behind.

postheadericon Cedrico tomatoes

My tomatoes have been potted up into 3 inch pots and are looking good, my selection of gold star plants will be here in April so they look on par.

All my tomatoes will be grown in tomatoe bags inside the poly tunnel and i hope to get another good crop this year. One important thing i forgot to mention is space, once these have grown to a reasonable size (before the leaves touch each other in the pots) they need lots of space between each pot so they can get plenty on sunshine, you will find they go leggy and tall if you don't.

postheadericon Leeks potted up

Well i finally managed to pot my leeks up this weekend into there final 5 litre pots and i have to say they had a very nice root structure, infact could have been repotted a few weeks earlier. It is important that you don't let your leeks or onions especially get to pot bound as at this stage they are really running low on nutrients in the soil based compost they are in. If you find you don't have time to pot something up that needs it then feeding is required at least once a week.

Now the leeks are in there final pots it wont be long before they fill these and at this stage they will be perfect to plant out. If i were planting these inside the polytunnel they would go in easter weekend and would have been potted up 3 weeks before this so the roots have a chance to fill the pot. This is why i potted them up slightly later this year as i want to hold on to them a bit longer until we get the warmer weather to plant direct outside in the raised beds.

You will notice i have slightly pulled the collar up the leek at the base and this purely for air circulation to avoid any rot. Now is also the time to ensure that the leaves are growing in the correct way so i still lightly support them but encourage them to lay down or the leaves will twist and so will the leek.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

postheadericon Parsnips ready to thin

Parsnips this weekend will be ready to thin down to the two strongest. I then leave these two until the rough leaves come and i know that both are healthy at which point i thin them down to one.

postheadericon Leeks update

I changed my mind last week and decided to collar my leeks. The reason being, they had grown out of the old method in girth so fast and i didn't have any bigger pipe lagging on me at the time. The leeks are really growing fast now and i need to pot these up this weekend into there final pots.


Welsh seedling:

postheadericon celery/ tomatoes seedlings

Propagators are so handy and germination is so fast, my celery and tomatoes came up at the weekend and are looking good.

postheadericon Onions in final pots

My onions at the weekend were potted off into there final 4 litre pots. Normally id pot these off into 7inch pots at this stage but the root systems were so good i felt id save myself some time later in the season and do it now. I also find potting on large onions into there final pots a nightmare if they are to large, so i think this is perfect to avoid any damage.

As you can see i use telescopic supports that come with various size rings, 6 in total i think. I don't have enough of these as they were on sale when i bought them, I cant find them anywhere else; so if anyone knows of any where let me know.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

postheadericon Onions for the allotment

Here's a view of some of my onion plants for the allotment. They are sown later so they benefit from greater light and heat levels without costing a fortune. I grow quite a few variety's but they will all be for eating as they don't get much attention once planted, they either grow or they don't. Problem with having a massive allotment is weeds are near impossible to control with any sprays you get from your local garden center, so we don't bother and hope it grows. I have 2 tunnels full of onion, leek and shallots from seed to prick out, pot on, water and plant out..quite a job.

postheadericon More seeds in

My first batch of celery has been in for about a week now so should be up within the next week or two i hope. This year I'm growing for the first time the new hybrid variety's "Evening star" and "redstar". I have always grown "Ideal" but sadly it just doesn't produce the quality sticks required to beat these new hybrids. Ideal has plenty of sticks and plenty of length but the thickness of the sticks is just to small for my liking. So this year will be a new experience with my celery as the new hybrids are more vigirous i just hope i have the timing right for each show. Celery can go over the top very quick or even go to seed on you, there really is only 1 maybe 2 weeks in its prime condition for showing before it losses that fine quality.

My tomatoes are also in, sown march the 1st and the variety is "Cedrico". I only grow 10 plants from seed and i order in 5 vegetative cuttings of "Gold Star" from medwyns. I grow these in one of the polytunnels along with some other tomatoes for eating and some cherry tomatoes.

postheadericon More on leeks

It wont be long now before we can start to think about planting out. This year my leeks will be grown outside in my raised beds. I feel growing them in a polytunnel can be risky due to high levels of heat and the increase in pests. So this year will be a test to see how well they will get on outside.

Here are some pictures of my leeks with the collar off:

The Pendle leek:

The Welsh Seedling:

You cant really see it from these pictures but the welsh seedlings are quite a way behind in girth compared to the pendle leek but they are going up nice and i wont push them much more than this before i finally plant out. I have also been spraying my leeks with liquid derris to kill any nasties which we have had quite a few this year already. I also tend to spray my leeks with a weak solution of armillatox to helps to prevent thrip damage.
Sunday, 2 March 2008

postheadericon Parsnips

I have 25 parsnips that i have planted inside one of my polytunnels "gladiator". Today i notice they have just popped up germinating in 2 weeks. This is extremely good and again the seed is medwyns. You cant see them in this picture as it was taken when i planted them 2 weeks ago so i will post that up tomorrow along with the mix i used and the method in which i plant.

postheadericon Shallots

Last year i lost all my shallots due to the heavy rains so i didn't have any for stock for planting for the next year. Considering hative de noirt shallots work out to be around one pound each it cost me over one hundred pound to replace them. It could take 2-3 years before i start seeing excellent shallots again. I am also growing 10 aristocrat shallots this year so we will see how they do.

postheadericon Onions

Onions at this time of year will now start to really grow away well and the difference in a week is amazing. I planted my onions a little later this year as my first batch i felt were not very good so they are slightly behind but are looking good. Here you can see them under the grow light in there 5inch pots.

I have several batches and hope to pull each batch 3 weeks before each show for perfect skin condition. Some will be planted in the polytunnel and others outside in the garden and the rest in the allotment.

postheadericon Collaring leeks

Many years ago i use to collar my leeks with pipe lagging from day one to force them up. This caused several problems.
1. The leek would blanch from an early stage leaving it very vulnerable.
2. Collar to soon and girth is sacrificed for length leaving you with a bent weak leek.

I have found that leaving them alone gives you the best results. My leeks arrive sometime in December (this year Dec 3rd.) and i don't touch them until late February early march and at this stage i apply a small piece of lagging at the growing point to give them some length before plating out later in the season. I find that some leeks do need pulling up early to get the length and this is a great way to pull them up without blanching them. My first actual collar will not be applied until i actually plant the leeks out in the bed.

postheadericon My Leeks so far.

This year I'm growing two strains of leek "The Welsh seedling" and the current world record holder "Pendle". I bought both as young bulbils from medywns (11 of each) and they have come on really well from day one. The Pendle leeks especially have flown away and within the past week the welsh seedlings have caught up so it will be interesting to see which i will select for the shows.

I grow all my leeks in John Innes number 2 which does slow them down but gives you a much finer leek come show time. I normally start the bulbils off in some levington multi purpose compost to get them off to a good start but from there on John Innes number 2 is used until i plant out. Not everything has gone to plan and i lost 3 Pendle leeks to virus/fungus? which is a lot of leeks to lose considering i am only growing 22 for showing this year. The ones i lost all looked slightly weak but still reached the size of my pinky in girth, but then started to go orange at the bottom and once one leaf came off the barel just disapeared until i was left with this mess.

I grow my leeks and onions under a 600 watt powerplant pro mantis metal halide grow light which i have on a timer for 16 hours a day. This is reduced as the season progresses until i eventually put them on normal daylight. I also have a few solar powered fans to help keep the air circulating. Under this i have a soil warming cable covered in sand and my leeks are sat in large watering trays to avoid any direct heat.