Stourport 2010

Stourport 2010
Winning vase 5x 'Sarah Louise'

Friday, 9 December 2011

We've had some real rough winds this week which have ripped all the panels out of my polycarbonate greenhouse; torn polycarb sheeting off the top of my shecafe which had been wired on and nailed. Despite this, i know our northern friends are experiencing much more inclement conditions with snowfall and gales.
Had a break from it all this morning and took John the Baptist and John Boswell (known from now on as The Boswell) to  see a mate of mine and to see his setup at home and then down to his allotment some 400 yards away.
My mate is Mick Poultney. Some of you may know him from when he appeared on BBCs Great British village show where he entered with his pot leeks. Some of you avid exhibitors, such as Simon (smithyveg) should know Mick from the likes of Malvern and such shows and, of course, the DA of the NVS.
Mick starts his leeks and onions off in the loft (hidden away from the missus) under a lamp and with bottom heat. God knows what his missus would have thought if she'd have come back to find three strange blokes climbing the stairs of her semi detached! Boswell thought it was a sex party but we were all disappointed to discover there were no half dressed women waiting for us when we got to the top!
Mick had got a nice lot of both blanch and pot leeks growing. Some from our Northern growers and some from Jimmy Dirden from Wednesbury. Hi onions had just been pricked out and were from Peter Glazebrook seeds. After the disappointment of no fun and frivolity with the opposite sex we moved down to Micks allotment where he is Chairman. Going through the powers that be, he recently developed a piece of waste ground from the council and has created several allotments for the disabled. One plot is all kitted out with raised beds for those in wheelchairs and with a wheelchair-accessible polytunnel. The other plot is for the 'walking disabled' and they too have their own polytunnel. Mick informs me work is still very much in progress and with his team of volunteers fast diminishing; the work will be carrying on for quite a while. But here is a pic to show how much hard work has gone into the project so far;l

With John the Baptist being very much a newbie to the world of show produce he was very interested in Micks methods- he left no stone unturned. He now knows Micks methods better than Mick himself!:
Mick is also chairman of Colley Gate gardening club (formerly Cradley gardening club) and having moved show venue Mick has had to move their trading sheds down to he allotment site. So, being an opportunist i took the pleasure of purchasing a bag of Levingtons M3 and some Maxicrop for a very good price. John the Baptist had a good spend and i know he was buying things he'd never even heard of until today! However, a good day was had by all and it was nice to have a look at someone elses plot for a change!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Brum, Brum!

Took a day off from the plots today and caught a train withsome friends to Birmingham City Centre to go and have a look at the German Christmas market there. We have been the last three years now and it's beginning to become somewhat of a tradition for us! It was a cold day with us having our first real significant frost but the sun was out and it was dry which was the main thing. Being as cold as it was, the famous Bull situated outside the Bullring had even put on a nice wooly jumper.
In desperate need ofsomething warm to drink we headed for one of the German bars, knowing something alcoholic would be available. As a change from the usual Gluhwein i opted for a very homosexual-sounding 'Men's Dream'. New to me, this drink turned out to be krakoa rum and cream- what a bostin drink! As you can see from a very merry me:-

...And a very merry Dad and John...
Well, its back to work tommorrow with more xmas trees to deal with. Should have the full 900ish total in by now and i'm expecting it to be a busy weekend with trees and wreaths.
The lights were nice in Brum, very festive. I bought some funny marshmallow things that got scoffed as we walked round and a stupid bird whistle thing that didn't even whistle. However... i did manage to get a photo of this rather dapper young man:-

Quite a handsome chap isn't he? Don't know who he was though!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Leeks and worm poo!

I cant believe twelve months have passed and its time to start the leeks off again. For the second year running i have ordered my blanch leeks from David Metcalfe (Pendle Improved) and i have some that Paul NVS kindly sent me. They are all under my T5 8 tube flourescent growlight with bottom heat and air temperature of no less thn 10oC.
Naturally, they look a little limp at the mo as they've only just been potted up. I'm using evergreen potting pro mix at this stage before moving onto M3 during the subsequent pot changes. Something i always like to include in my leek and onion mixes is wormcasts which, last year, i bought from a garden centre in the sale at £3.49 a tub. Now, however, they are £13.00 full price! So this is my back-up plan:
This is my own compost out of my wormery. This is in the greenhouse drying off a bit as its quite wet and 'claggy'. When its dried sufficiently i shall run this through i sieve before adding it to the compost when potting on my leeks. Another addition is SEER rockdust; a product which i've had great success with over the years.
And now to plug the great institution that is the NVS...The National Vegetable Society. A society that has something to offer every vegetable grower amateur or professional. Showman or not. Its full of like-minded and very helpful growers from across the country. Two very kind members i've had dealings with this year are Helen and Paul. Helen has kindly sent me some of her pot leeks and Paul his blanch leeks. My thanks go out to them. Cheers Guys! There is a great website for the NVS which is also home to their online forum where members can chat about their various growing techniques etc. If you are not a member (and i strongly advise becoming one) then there public pages also have some cracking advice and tips.
So whether its to talk about leeks, lights, onions or worm poo have a look at the NVS website today and see what you're missing...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Pheasant Plucker

 I'm not the pheasant plucker,
     I'm the pheasant plucker's son,
     And I'm only plucking pheasants
     Till the pheasant plucker's come
You try saying it even before you've had a few!
Yesterda a good mate of mine rings me up with a very appealing offer of an oven-ready pheasant shot the the previous day. Well, how could one refuse such an offer? As it happens the pheasant arrived plucked and cooked. My mate had kindly done everything leaving the bird ready to be devoured.
I appreciate some people may find this sort of thing distasteful or offensive so if you feel as such and are reading this...GET A LIFE! After all it's n ature and we are top of the food chain.
Nobody loves the countryside as much as i do and i feel no anxiety of a pheasant now and again.
And, after all, its all good cos the feathers go on the compost heap and all thats wastedare the bones.
Such circumstances reminded me of the above song...go on see if YOU can say it without straying.LOL!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Top tatties...

Following a request from a certain seed potato supplier (mentioning no names...) i thought i'd dedicate this post to the one and only JBA seed potato merchants. I've never gone anywhere else for my tatties purely because the quality has always been spot on from JBA. Here are some pics of my various sets of tatties from this years shows...
These were a small set of Sherine.
Blue belle has been very consistent this year and has earnt me a nice deck of shiny red cards. Anyone who hasn't grown it before, please do so as they take some beating.

I came second to myself with this set of 'Amour'. Again, a very reliable variety and i have it on good authority that this is the one that was winning at the nationals. They're not the best set shape wise but the condition was good.

And finally, this was a set of 'Sherine' that i incorporated into a collection that was awarded a red card. As you can ...hopefully...see the spuds had a beautiful natural bloom, looking as if they had been polished.
All these spuds have been grown in polypots using only peat and nothing else. Maybe a dollop of FYM in the trench that the polypots sit in and that's that! Despite alot of growers losing the majority of their crop to scab rendering it unshowable, i still managed to find at least two good sets of each variety.
So, hats off to JBA potatoes for their first-rate service and top quality spuds. In fact i have already ordered next years seed.
P.s Iain- you can give me that £5 when you see me or just knock a hefty chunk of next years order!Lol!

Friday, 18 November 2011

John the Baptist...

Earlier this year a chap i'd never met before came walking round the allotments looking, on the off chance, for someone who grew and had some spare xanth plants. Needless to say he found me after several people mentioning 'the young lad on plot 1' and i was more than happy to oblige. We got talking and he told me he had one and half plots several miles down the road. His name was John Knight now known as 'Knighty' or 'John the Baptist' and is a major in the salvation army and, funny as it seems, only lives in the next road from me! Naturally we have become very good friends and i have now given him the showing bug. Only yesterday i went up to his plot to see him and he had built a new xanth enclosure and dahlia frame, raised troughs for his onions and leeks and had a regimental line of half barrels lined up for his stump carrots.
I really wanted to encourage him so way back in April i sorted him out with some spare blanch leeks i had and told him which shows to put in for as a newbie. He has a a few successes and the bug has really bitten him now!
John hasn't got any form of lights or heating and these leeks were just grown outside under a make shift cover so he has done well. Each and every time he speaks to me he has built something else or has sent for another show veg catalogue! At just over 70 years old it just goes to show you can never be too old to join the showing game. If you know anyone who might have even the slightest flicker of interest in growing for show do all you can to encourage them. They'll get a lot of pleasure out of it but you'll get twice as much from getting them involved.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

It's been a while...sorry folks!

WOW! Its been about 8 months since my last post- i hope somebody missed me! I cant believe where the time has gone. As gardeners yourselves, you know as well as i do how busy it can get at times but this year everybody seems to have been asking me to help them out or to do this or to do that. Only this friday just gone i was planting 9000 daffodil bulbs with a local primary school in the local park. It seems i shall be getting involved with yet another school gardening club and my commitments as vice chairman and letting officer continue to eat away at any spare time i seem to acquire.
Anyway enough about that, first of all i want to send my best wishes to Smithyveg (Simon) after his recent scare. Here's hoping that little Oscar soon gets better mate!
Seen we last spoke, the show season has finished and what a year i've had. I entered 8 shows in total and came away with at least one trophy from each one. Also, i was awarded best in show at three of them. I've been in four newspapers with my winning leeks and chrysanthemums. Even Garden News phoned me last week to see if i was interested in having a xanth ad in next month- didn't bother far too expensive for me!
My collection at Belbroughton.

Collection at Chaddersley Corbett.

Vase of five 'Cornetto' at Stourport. Awarded most points in xanths in the whole show- well pleased.

Best in show with these three 'Gental Giant' dahlias.- that was a great surprise. These plants grew over 6ft tall! They were an absolute nightmare to cover as i hadn't intended them getting this tall!
Finally, i'll leave you with a picture of my 'Bluebelle' spuds. My tatties have done brilliantly this year and have stormed the shows. I grew bluebelle, sherine, amour and winston. 10 bags of each and had no problem in finding at least two sets of each variety...

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Spring has sprung...

Well it has been a while since I posted my last entry but I'm back and wow have things grown! My welsh seedling and Cumbrian leeks are now in 5 litre pots. They are still in the protection of the heated greenhouse with a minimum temperature of 10c. I shall plant into their final positions in the tunnel direct from these pots. I shall then start blanching the plants with damp course.
Native di niort shallots are hardening off, potatoes are chitting marvellously I just have to sieve the remaining bags of peat for the polypots. I have sprouts, red cabbage and calabrese ready to pot on. Just pricked out some cabbage minic ole and kalibos. Vent onions are growing away in 6 packs and derek raw onions are in 3" pots. Peter Glazebrook onions are far from heavy but have about 6-7 leaves and are in 1litre pots.
Xanths are romping away after a slow start but I'm happy as I've spoke to several national growers and they have struggled for cutting material as they've lost alot of stock.
Dahlia cuttings are just rooting after losing a lot as they just went black. This happens to me every year when I try to take the cuttings nice and early so I find it much more practical to take the cuttings later on when they are less inclined to rot and more inclined to root.
I'm sure you'll agree hasn't the weather been fantastic of late and things have really shot up! The cordon sweet peas are ready to be planted and I have another batch to sow. Largest sunflowers are just germinating. Parsnips in the barrels are through and looking quite strong seedlings. This week I shall be sowing sweet candle carrots and planting out spring sown broad beans. Got coffee morning down the allotment Wednesday morning and off to see a fellow shower and grower in Worcestershire on Thursday to have a nose and see how his stuff compares with mine! I will post some photos soon but camera had to be sent away as it was faulty so I have a lot of catching up to do with my photo taking.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Stumped for time...

It's been a while as i've been really busy and, as always, one thing leads to another. Since the last post i've had two tonne of sand delivered which has enabled me to get my stump carrot set up complete. 45 gallon drums cut in half and filled with sand placed on top of raised bed of well cultivated 'fluffed up' soil. I shall bore the holes and use levingtons f2s. I aim to sow end of march. Variety Sweet Candle.
Had a nice find today! John took me to a manure heap that is only a 5 minute drive from the allotments! And i never knew it was there. There's some lovely well rotted stuff and some fresh so it is ideal for immediate use and for mixing with the compost heap. You can pull the car right up to it aswell- i shall be visiting this oasis more frequently from now on me thinks...

Made a few sowings this week: Peppers, tomato 'Cedrico', Sprouts 'Bosworth', aubergine 'Black beauty' and celery 'Redstar'.  Still taking xanth cuttings, will start dahlia cuttings in the next few weeks aswell.
Potted on Welsh Seedling into 6" square pots this morning. All leeks are on 12 hour light cycle and looking remarkable good for it- the biggest leeks i've had thanks to the new T5 growtubes. Peter Glazebrook onions are starting to motor now after a slow start. Had a small outbreak of thrip on some of the leeks so have started spraying with Dynamec (thanks Mr Trim!). Booked my tickets for the Edible garden show held at Stoneleigh Park this week for 18th March. Should be a good day out, looking forward to going over to the NVS stand where, i recently discovered, Smithyveg will be helping out so can't wait to see some friendly faces.........and Simon!

Good growing !

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I've got worms!!!

The first signs of life from the Hative Di Niort shallotsare now clearly visible! I shall pot them into 2/3ltr pots once the roots emerge from the bottom of the pot and put them either in the cold greenhouse or in the polytunnel.-starting to need the room now! These are from a mate of mine and i would like to think that they will end up on the showbench hopefully at the district show. Who knows eh?
Potted on the welsh seedling tonight into Levington M3 with a few added extras. One thing i am trialling this year is wormcasts and i think they're working. Since i've used them the leeks and onions have really perked up and are exhibitng a lovely fresh green colour. As you can see from th photo great roots aswell. The roots hit the casts and really go for it and it doesn't take them long to fill the pot. The most important thing when growing leeks and onions for show is never let them stop growing by either leaving them in thepot for too long to become potbound or letting them dry out. Any check in growth now will have devestating results later on... You have been warned!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Progress pics...

These are some of the leks i had from Steve Wright. Cumbrian on th left, welsh seedling on the right. Tommorrow i shall be putting 6" pipe lagging on the blanch leeks to increase the blanch then as they grow i shall increase the length.
The derek raw onions are doing reasonably well considering i left them with a friend for three weeks while i was on holiday. Still got half a seed tray left but finding it hard to throw them away. Theres far more than i need so i shall probably end up giving them away.
I'll leave you with a few holiday pics...

Could this be my next venture??? I hear John Trim into sailing. Have to get a few pointers Ha! Ha!

Me and me best mate Cassy. Shes 17 this year and has been a loyal companion for every single one of those years- heres to as many more as she can manage!
And last but least theres always got to be one prat at christmas...

Monday, 10 January 2011

It's been a while people- i've been in Kent for the past three weeks but now i'm back and eyes firmly fixed on the shows. First one being only 7 months away!!!!
While we were away the sh*t weather dealt us a burst pipe which flooded half the house and we came back to a freezing cold house because the boiler decided to flunk. Bl**dy weather got alot to answer for. Still:
talk about sh*t on a man while his down- The ozzies are having a crap summer AND now they've lost the Ashes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Personally i can't stand cricket but its nice to have something to celebrate- wiping the smug grin of the ozzies face is good enough for me!
Managed to get my 8oz onions sown when i got back. Growing vento this year after failing miserably last year with golden bear. Sown them in levington f2s as i do all my seeds. Now on sand bench with bottom heat. Same with shallots. First year ever that i'm trying them from seed. Trialling ambition which i know has had some success onn the showbench. However, not being one to put all my eggs in one basket, i am also growing hative di niort and jermor from bulbs. These have been planted into 3 1/2" pots and placed on greenhouse shelf to forget about for a week or two. I've also potted some leeks into their second pots into M3. Potted welsh seedling and cumbrian. Pendle improved yet to do.
Reckon i've got one failure already this year- the heavy onions i sowed from Peter Glazebrook germinated great and looked promising when i went on holiday but when i got back half of them look like they're about to kick the bucket and the other half dont look a picture of health. They look really thin but i have been advised this is the result of them growing under lights. Whether they suffered not being under lights whilst i was away?
I must post some photos but just havent had the time to take any yet! Hoping to take some xanth cuttings this week while i'm off so will probably post some then.