Stourport 2010

Stourport 2010
Winning vase 5x 'Sarah Louise'

Friday, 13 January 2017

Potting on the Pendle

I woke this morning about 7am to find we had some light fall of snow. It was nice to see it but it didnt last long and went as quickly as it came.
Another bonus today was the free sample of biosys from Gareth at Ecothrive which arrived in with the postman. Gareth was kindly offering free samples to the growers on Facebook. It sounds a great product and one which I shall try this year. It acts as an 'instant' compost tea without the need of brewing your own.

I didn't go down the allotment today; the only bog job of the day was to pot on the Pendle improved blanch leeks I had from Gill Clark a few weeks back. They are doing well under the T5s receiving 12 hours light. They are sitting in a Vitopod propagator which provides gentle bottom heat which I find promotes some excellent root growth. I have added a short video on my youtube channel showing how I pot on my leeks. 

I popped to the garden centre this morning as weather conditions weren't great for getting on the ground. I picked up this handy little potting tray and shelf which is much better and more compact than my old one!

It came in handy for potting my leeks on. I  put all my compost ingredients in a bucket and then mix it all together in the potting tray. I always start to add some loam to the mix from the second potting. The loam usually comes in the form of sieved molehills which I collect from the field at work. Its a good lightly sandy loam which crumbs beautifully and which I think the leeks will enjoy getting their roots into.
 The main component of my mix this year is Incredicompost. I haven't used it before but it seems really good quality. It has a very high percentage of peat and a lovely fine texture with no rubbish in it.
My mix is very basic and not very scientific. It consists of 4 parts of the above compost, 2 parts molehills (loam) and to this I add some charge from Ecothrive.

To ensure the leeks don't dry out too much when i'm not around I have added capillary matting to the bottom of the Vitopod. The proper stuff isn't the cheapest but it works wonders. It has excellent water holding capacity and allows roots to take the water as and when they need it.

Sometime or another, if you grow leeks, you will probably come across the problem which I have pictured below. The growing flags become trapped by the previous flag which hasn't opened properly. It is nothing to worry about. All I do is open or pull apart the flag which is causing the problem. It has no ill effect on the leek if dealt with when you see it.

 All in all it hasn't been a bad day. Its been bitter cold but reasonably dry which has allowed me to crack on in the greenhouse. I'm hoping to get down the allotment tomorrow as I've got some well rotted manure I want to spread across the new xanth bed. I'm also awaiting some onions from David Metcalfe which i'm hoping will arrive this week. More on that later...

                                                       My growing for show youtube channel

Sunday, 8 January 2017

First erection...

Afternoon peeps! Just a short post today showing the new chrysanthemum frame going up. In the past i'd have made do with old bits of wood but I want to do everything properly and to the best of my ability this year so I've bit the bullet and bought new wood. It's all from B&Q warehouse and I must admit was very reasonable for tantalised timber. The whole lot which makes the frame came to about £40 which I think is brilliant.
The frame will be surrounded with debris netting or similar and then when the very first buds begin to show colour I will cover the top with a polythene cover which i'll also bring down the sides to just below flowering height. This protects the developing blooms from the wind but most importantly it directs at rain away from the flowers. I shall run a path up the middle of the bed lengthways and i'll get two rows of plants in there.
I must admit I got some interesting looks from other plotholders whilst I was putting this up. Rob next door asked if I was building a house! He's a good egg and his wife Jenny- they have a wonderful plot and I think its going to be a lot of fun being allotment neighbours.

Below are a few of the xanths I've grown over the years for your enjoyment but also to remind me what I'm after... See you next weekend...
'John Wingfield'

'Apricot Courtier'

Bags all on...

'Pink John Wingfield'

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Introducing the new allotment

Evening guys. As promised here is the link to this afternoons video down the new plot. I took it on just before Christmas so have had about a month or so on there now.
Click here for: New Allotment Video
The soil seems pretty good with little perennial weed other than the odd bit of couch and bindweed - nothing a bit of elbow grease cant sort out!
Just for a bit of nostalgia I've found some photos out from the past... Various exhibits I have staged over the years. I'm hoping for similar, if not better, results this year! New plot, new challenges....
Showing Leeks against friend Derek Walker of Astley Burf.

Old xanth bed

5x Billy Bell and 3x Pendle

'Cornell' caulis. Superb show variety.

One of the many display boards I have put together.

Coming back with vengeance...

Hello folks...
Well, looking back it's been over two years since my last post on here. I had chosen to take a couple of years off from showing because of work commitments etc. However, 2017 is going to be the year when I return to the hobby I love so much. Over the last couple of years lots of things have changed. I am now very honoured to be Head gardener to John Massey MBE VMH of Ashwood nurseries and I tend his 3 acre canalside garden with the help of a small team of wonderful people. Another major change has been the loss of my allotments which I had tended for over 10 years. Without going into too much detail I was pressurized into giving them up by certain members of the committee. Despite this I have just taken on a new plot on a different site and they are wonderful people and there are quite  few of my friends already on this site which makes it extra fun.
I must admit I am looking forward to entering the shows again and wiping the smile of certain people's faces... but above all i'm looking forward to seeing good friends again and having a bit of banter.
I am going down this afternoon so I will try and take some pictures to post so you can see it.
In the meantime I have had a go at putting a short video together for your enjoyment (sorry about the advertising watermark on the video- I need to find a different movie editor program).
Here's the youtube link anyway:
In the greenhouse- A quick update

Monday, 8 December 2014

Hi guys. Here's a link to a video I've just uploaded all about making my first batch of compost tea. I'm not saying this is the best way of doing it- its just the way I do it and it works for me.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Potting leeks and making trenches...

I decided to pot on the pendle improved blanch leeks I had from David Metcalfe last month. I'm moving them up into square pots of roughly 4" using a mix consisting predominantly of levington M3 to which I add 80g of Antagon (also available as adbaclife or microlife). As you can see the roots are looking nice and healthy. It is at this stage I add a pinch of mycorrhizal fungi to the planting hole.
This is the way I have potted my stuff on for the last few years. Sit the original size pot in the pot you are potting into. Then fill with compost and then simply remove the old pot and drop your plant in! Hey presto! no root disturbance.

Below: these are the pendle improved blanch leeks from David Metcalfe after repotting. They are receiving 12 hrs daylight. Bottom heat set at 15oc max and an air temp that doesn't drop below 8-9oc. Support clips are on to ensure straight growth.

Below: These are my cumbrian pot leeks. They are looking promising aswell. These are currently in 1ltr pots of the same mixture as the blanch. I don't want these too warm as they will then start to stretch and, as most will know, pot leeks should be no more than 6" from button to base.
Finally below we have the toughball onions i'm growing for the 8oz classes. Its the first time I've grown this variety having stuck with varieties such as vento. These were sown back in October and originally started life just on the greenhouse staging. However they seemed to be struggling so I have since put them under the lights. Thankfully they have started to pick up and some, since taking this photo, have stood to attention.- it just goes to show it is surprising what a bit of daylight can do!
All leeks and onions are receiving a fortnightly spray against thrip and rust. I'm not feeding as such- they have received their first dose of fish mix today and are getting regular root drenches of calcium nitrate and seaweed.
Work this week has been the celery beds for next years morning star. The ground is of nice loamy consistency already, ideal for most vegetables. However I always prepare a celery trench and this is how I do it:
First I dig a trench a spit deep. I loosen the bottom of the trench and apply a layer of shredded paper. I sprinkle this with sulphate of ammonia and then lightly water...

Then I put back some of the excavated soil to cover most of the paper...

Then a get a wheelbarrow full of well rotted manure and fill it with four gallons of water. Mix it all together until it resembles missisippi mud pie...

I do two wheelbarrows like this and tip them in the trench.
Then all I do is replace the remaining soil and leave it to settle over Christmas. About a week before planting I shall add my fertilisers to the bed and rake them in well.
This bed will house two rows of celery.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Update: Leeks and West Mids D.A

Things are growing well at the moment. At present, I have some pendle improved blanch leeks and cumbrian pot leeks under the lights. Alongside them are some 'Toughball' onions destined for the 8oz classes. The leeks have got there first lot of support clips on to ensure they remain as straight as I can get them. They are getting no supplementary feed at the moment just a seaweed tonic and calcium nitrate every fortnight at the rate of a teaspoon to the gallon. The seaweed is just a general 'pick-me-up' whereas the calcium nitrate helps to prevent white tip on the leeks and onions.

We had a talk given by Mark Hall FNVS at the West Mids D.A Thursday night which has further spurred my interest in the Millenium class, a class at most NVS shows consisting of five plates of veg to include: 4 globe beetroot, 4 stump carrots, 4 medium tomatoes, 4 8oz onions and 4 potatoes. Mark explained how, in the past three years, has been awarded two seconds and a first in this class across the country, having travelled as far as Scotland and Dorchester in pursuit of that elusive red card!
The meeting was well attended and many notes were taken down (myself included).

That's all there is to report on really. I'm currently moving my runner bean supports and building another two as I aim to make three staggered sowings next year. I've completed two bean trenches, filling them with the gladioli haulms, hop manure and shredded paper. I then backfilled with soil and topped with real old muck. A couple of weeks before planting out i'll work some fertiliser in and that's it.
I'm halfway through putting all my gladioli corms to bed. They are all more or less dried off so I'm just removing all the little cormlets, taking the old roots off and any loose skins. They will then be dusted with some sulphur and popped into the spare bedroom where they remain cool and dry.

Prepared pot leek beds today: 1. Trench dug out. (I use these breeze blocks as sides. It doesn't matter if there are small gaps in between each block as this lets any excess water drain away freely without washing the soil out with it.
I put a fork in and just wiggle it about to ensure the bottom of the trench is free draining.

2. I then line the bottom of the trench with old straw that has sat out all year to 'weather'.
3. Leafmould then goes on top of this. This is one year old stuff.- leeks love it!

4. A cupful of Antagon is then scattered over the bed.

5. The bed is then topped up with sieved topsoil. I sieve to remove any twigs or stones that may damage the growing leek beneath the soil, leaving a dent or scratch.

6. Finally I scatter a cupful of perlka over the bed.

Now I start to build the covers!