Stourport 2010

Stourport 2010
Winning vase 5x 'Sarah Louise'

Monday, 27 May 2013

Bank holiday Celery...

Well we've had some lovely weather over the bank holiday weekend with plenty of (warm) sunshine about. The dutch hoe has been out in force creating a 'dust mulch' which helps prevent weeds and moisture from the soil evaporating. Bank holiday Monday was sunny too but there was a strong wind and if theres one thing that does damage- its wind.
We went down the allotments on Monday to plant my celery and first lot of caulis and ended up adding aubergines and French beans to the planted list. Im growing 'Morning star' celery this year and I've planted 13 plants in one of the raised beds:
Celery all boxed up ready to go down the plos...

This is how they started...

First lot of caulis ready to plant out...These are 'Memphis'

A bit short on cucs this year so I managed to pick up these two for a pound down on the local carboot...
One of the kelsae plants I've got to plant out. There must be about a dozen or so.
Trying grafted aubergine 'Scorpio' this year having had very limited success with seed raised plants. These have been planted in one of the raised beds in the tunnel.

I make 9" collars to wrap loosely around my celery once its planted out. This helps draw the sticks NOT blanch them- it is too early to be thinking about blanching them yet.

Got our DA meeting this Thursday where David Metcalfe will be talking to us about various aspects of growing in containers, with straw and exhibition veg. Hopefully we should get some new members along too.
Managed to get all my xanths planted on Saturday and tied up. Luckily I have a shelter which is surrounded by windbreak netting because after todays gales I think they would have been stripped! Haven't managed to get a photo of them yet so more on that later...
Some good news- the editor of Simply Veg magazine (NVS) has asked me to do a series of articles for the magazine. They will be entitled 'Growing Pains' and will document how a younger member of the NVS grows for exhibition and will hopefully help to encourage the younger generation to garden and join the NVS...


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Better late than never...

I went along to the Malvern spring show the other weekend and have been asked to put some photos on here from the weekend's events. Unfortunately I was that busy looking round and chatting to folks I knew that I didn't get much chance to take photos. However lucky for you guys I did manage get a few shots...
The National veg society's overall display in the hall. Consisting of both flowers and veg. They deserved a first for this.

Mick asked me if i'd take a photo of him talking a load of crap... or was it compost? - he's definitely got too much time on his hands... all that chopping?!*?!

The NVS always do a good display on their stand. There was some beautiful veggies on there and tomatoes at this time of year!

Wherever I go there's always someone who wants their photo taken with me! Let me introduce you to the new Chairman and Secretary of the West Midland District Association (NVS)...

Moving on... we had our first committee meeting last night at the Swan Inn Fairfield for our new D.A. I'm pleased to say we have 6 fantastic guys on the team who i'm sure will help Mick and I to push the popularity of the D.A. One of them is a good friend of mine, John Guest from Kidderminster, who I now know follows this blog! John's a lovely down-to-earth guy and is one of those people you feel like you've known for years. John is now our raffle secretary ad members secretary- he's a good egg and a great asset to the committee.
Our next meeting is the 30th May (next Thursday) and our speaker is David Metcalfe who will be talking on growing veg in containers, growing with straw and touching on growing for exhibition. I personally have heard David's talks and I know he is an exceptional grower, having dealt with him for the past three or four years. The meeting is held at Fairfield Village Hall near Bromsgrove and starts at 8pm. Each meeting we have a good raffle and refreshments are provided. There will be the opportunity to purchase/order NVS polo shirts etc on the night so please do come along with your wallet and help us raise the money we need to keep the association going. NVS members are free and visitors will get their first visit free- thereafter they will be required to join the NVS and receive the benefits of membership. Anyone interested in our meeting please email me for more information....

Friday, 17 May 2013

Opening up a can O' worms...

If you don't currently own a wormery I strongly recommend you get one. I've had mine for several years now and use the finished compost (called vermicompost) in most of my potting mixes. It has many benefits but the two i'm most worried about are 1) It significantly boosts the beneficial bacteria (microbial activity) in the compost/soil which makes for a healthier plant and 2) It increases the water retention in the compost whilst still maintaining a free draining medium.
Anything that you put in a normal compost heap can go into a wormery- only in smaller quantities. You wouldn't feed a baby a three course meal so don't do it to your worms either! - they only have small gobs...
I add all our kitchen scraps, teabags, green weeds, straw ( to maintain the correct nitrogen:carbon ratio). Wormery manufacturers also say you can add bread an small amounts of pasta and rice but I never have in fear of attracting vermin. However I do add from time to time, chopped seaweed (ideal if you live near the coast), rock dust ( worms love it) and, in small amounts, manure ( rabbit, horse, guinea pig etc). Try to avoid pig, poultry or cow manure as they are either too wet or too strong.
This is the wormery I use. You can get it from wriggly wrigglers. It comes with everything you need to get started including bedding, food and worms!

If it looks like its too wet I just add a couple of handfuls of straw...

...and then mix it in with a handfork.

We have a bucket near the kitchen to which we put all our kitchen scraps etc. The straw at the bottom is to soak up any excess moisture from the scraps.

This is the good stuff ready to use. Often referred to as 'Black Gold' this is what I incorporate into my compost when potting on. Its teeming with life which encourage healthy pest-free plants.

 bucket is placed under the tap to catch what they call the 'Leachate'.  This can be used as a diluted liquid feed.

When you think that there are companies out there selling wormcasts at 12-13 quid for a small tub it's worth investing around £60 for a decent sized wormery so you can produce your own unlimited supply. After 5 harvests it will have paid for itself and everything after that would be a bonus!
Below is a link to the RHS webpage all about wormeries and what to add/leave out:

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Malvern Spring Show...

I still look like this only with more curly hair....

Tommorrow (Sunday) I shall be attending the Malvern Spring show. Please if you see me wandering about come over and make yourself known- i'd be more than happy to meet you...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

A new addition to the family,,,

I'm lucky enough to have a new addition to my 'growing for showing' armoury this year in the form of a new tunnel 26ft x 11ft x 8ft. Its a DIY tunnel but very sturdy and im sure it will earn its keep when filled with my onions and leeks. Obviously, for those of you who know me will know I'm unable to do very much due to my big op I had back in February so I was unable to grow any of my one leeks or onions. However, a good friend of mine kindly gave me some of his good stuff the other week consisting of 3x pot leeks, 3x Pendle Imp and 3x heavy onions.
These will be going in the tunnel borders. Each will have a pinch of myccorhizal fungi in its planting hole.

The tunnel itself. The posts on the west side are to train three espalier apple trees.

This was taken earlier last month when the Hative Di Niort were planted out. Du to the circumstances the bed is covered with weed fabric but next year when i'm back to 100% health and showing big time the bed will be covered with black/white polythene with soaker hoses underneath. At one end of the tunnel I am going to raise two water butts to a height to enable me to operate the soaker hoses from them, gravity-fed.

Peter Glazebrook's heavies planted in the middle bed with a pinch of myccorhizal fungi and being watered with my compost tea.

Im currently in the process of cutting vents into the sides as it get too hot in there somedays. I roll them up and temporarily fix them up with all weather tape. However I have a more permanent plan involving double sided tape and Velcro!
The door is also meshed to allow plenty of ventilation. Also looking into solar fans! By the way- the grey drainpipe pieces house slug pellets which keep them dry during heavy rain so they last longer plus, the slugs and snails tend to congregate in them and then meet their maker!
The tunnel houses a 4ft wide centre bed which has been filled with garden compost, topsoil and plenty of mushroom compost. There are also full-length beds down both sides which will take a row of blanch leeks and a row of pot leeks. However this year I only have a few so i'm growing several unusual varieties of tomatoes in there aswell along with melons and grafted aubergines.
All that's left to do in there is to set up the watering system and then erect something to support the flags of the leeks for next year but more on that another day...

Monday, 6 May 2013

Cuppa compost tea?

Having spoken to my mate Mick Poultney (another NVS chap) about compost tea I decided to give it a go. So it was just for me to go and gather the necessary equipment. Luckily I had a 5 gallon bucket going spare so all I had to buy was a cheap and cheerful fish pump, an airstone and natural molasses (must be unsulphured! Get em from Holland and Barrett for about £1.99 a big jar). I know Mick uses his homemade compost from his bins down the allotment to make his 'brew', I make mine from my own vermicompost from my wormeries at home. Both brews are rich in bacterial and fungal activity and benefit the microorganisms in the soil. The finished brew can be applied neat as a root drench and as a foliar feed. Here's how to do it:-
5 gallon bucket with airstone connected to the fish pump,,, filled with water and let it bubble away for a couple of hours to remove all the chlorine from the water,,,

The cheapest fish pump Wilkos sell- about £8 I think.

To the water I then add a couple of handfuls of my vermicompost in an old pair of tights, several tablespoons of unsulphured molasses, a drop of maxicrop and liquid fish emulsion. Then let the water bubble away,,,

After a few hours you'll see plenty of bubbles start to congregate around the edge of the bucket (A sign of life!)

Depending on temperature, your brew should be ready in 24hrs. Youll know when its ready because it will have a frothy head on it like a good beer! Make sure as soon as you remove the air source the microbes will start to die within 6 hours so use it as soon as its ready.

You can use your brew on anything whether it be flowers, fruit, herbs or vegetables. I'm using it this year on my show celery and hative di niort shallots along with mycorrhizal fungi. The microbes in the tea will colonise the plant and help to prevent pest/disease attack and other fungal problems. Used as a root drench it will give the microbial activity in the soil a big boost, therefore improving root growth and yield- Everyone's a winner!
I've been doing a little trial in the greenhouse on my exhibition celery, treating half with compost tea and mycorrhizal fungi and half without. Already I can see a difference- the treated plants have a stronger root system and look greener too.
I would seriously recommend you have a go with both compost tea and mycorrhizal fungi and you will notice a difference. Although Mick uses modern manufactured brewers I have had unlimited success with the methods here at a fraction of the could too...Go on give it a go...

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The National Vegetable Society

I have been a member of the NVS for several years now and have travelled as far as the New Forest to attend NVS shows. Now, much to my delight, I have been asked and I have accepted to be Secretary of the new West Midland D.A. Unfortunately I missed our very first meeting as I was still in hospital but our second meeting is coming up 30th May. Our guest speaker is my friend David Metcalfe who will be covering subjects such as growing with straw, growing in pots and caulis. The venue and times for anyone interested:
Fairfield Village Hall
Opens 7pm for an 8pm start.
We run a good raffle and have things to sell throughout the year. Our chairman is my very good friend Mick Poultney (compost guru). He informs me there was over 70 people there at the first meeting proving how popular the NVS is becoming.
With so many NVS members in one room, you have a fountain of knowledge at your fingertips- all you need to do is turn up!
Hope to see you there and I shall be posting some pictures from our next meeting...

I'm back again but i'm half the man i used to be!

Best in show collection

Competing against my very good friend Derek Walker
Unfortunately I haven't been able to get on here for some time as back in February I was rushed into hospital with severe lower abdominal pain. Having gone through several scans it was decided I had something called incerception of the bowel (or summat like that!). I was told it was life threatening and I was rushed down to surgery immediately. The op took 2 hors longer than expected due to different complications. Anyhow I was released after a fortnight with an open wound infected with E coli! I could hardly walk and had lost over 2 stone and had very little appetite. My skin rejected the staples and when removed at home by the district nurse the wound dehisced (completely opened)... you could see the internal stitches and everything!!!!! AAARRRGGGHH! So to cut a long story short im here at home, off work, not able to lift, bend or anything like that. I get so tired quickly but I am moving about more now and the nurses are coming in every other day to redress the wound.
So I apologise to my regular followers who may have thought I had given up on this blog.
Having sat at home with plenty of time to think I have reconsidered my decision to show less and have now got several things growing for the shows this year including celery, onions and shallots. Needless to say my mum is doing the allotment under my supervision (lol) until im fighting fit again which im told is going to be a long while yet.
I will post some pictures of these things soon now I have more time on my hands so please bear with me and hopefully I can build interest back up on this blog... bye for now....