Stourport 2010

Stourport 2010
Winning vase 5x 'Sarah Louise'

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!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Toughballs are through...

Toughballs onions are just germinating now ready for the 8oz class. I've turned the lights on today aswell. All that's under there is the Toughball in the propagator and some pot leeks.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Plotting our progress...from storms to sweetcorn

Well... here we are another week has passed. This week has been a bit of a mixed bag weatherwise. We've had some lovely warm days and yet we've also had severe showers and thunder storms!- summer must be here! Just a few photos today to chart the progress of the plots:-
This is the new plot we took on this year. I've kept the middle section covered as it has a lot of couch grass. I shall probably leave it covered for 12 months to try and kill it off.

As you can see the top half looks great! I've only planted the spares we had this year- shallots, a few onions, a row of beetroot and some spuds.

This morning I went down and planted some spare sweetcorn plants we had. These are 'Incredible' (variety) from Wilkos- strong young plants nevertheless.

Inside the bottom tunnel back on the old plots... These toms are from Japan and are truly purple! First year growing these so will have to wait to see if theyre worthwhile.

I'm not happy with these leeks this year. I didn't intend to show these this year. They were kindly given to me by a friend. They will however, despite having some evidence of leek moth, be used to their full potential in the kitchen.

The xanth beds are looking promising. There are some strong breaks now on the plants. I tied them all up yesterday before the storm came. These beds next year shall be used for some show stuff and will be covered with an environmesh tunnel...

Had a scratch around in the top tunnel and the garlic is looking good. By the end of the month I shall probably have harvested these and planted some later tomato plants in their place.

The parsnips are exceeding all expectations this year- they are easily 12-15" high already as you can see from the photo above. In front of them is a later sowing for smaller roots in the winter.

Tried rooster spuds this year and i'm pleased with how they are growing. The tops are the strongest tops I've ever had on spuds. They did have comfrey leaves lined along their planting trench and I do wonder whether this has given them a kick...

For all interested I am giving a talk in August entitled 'Duck Pools- A garden divided'. It takes a light-hearted and sometimes humorous look at my garden at home and the allotments. I describe it as an eclectic mix of flowers fruit and veg. Its held in Stourbridge and visitors are more than welcome... Contact me for details.

At the end of a busy day there is nothing better than our first harvest of charlotte spuds from the new plot. It just goes to show the ground isn't too bad considering it hadn't been cultivated for a while. These were delicious cooked with some sprigs of mint...
See you next week!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

"Casting a clout cus May's nearly out!"

I've been thinking about how i'm going to do this blogging business and have come up with an idea. Im going to try and do a weekly update rather than try to post as and when I can. With this little  bit of discipline I'm hoping to keep everybody up to date with what's going on here.
It was a plot morning today and this started with putting all the polycarbonate sheets back into the roof of the greenhouse and to start planting the cucumbers in there. I take the roof panels off in the winter to allow the rain to soak the soil in the borders. The black buckets are to prevent the plant stems from getting too wet and rotting and the pipes are for directing the water to the roots where it's needed.
In the big tunnel we have leek moth! Never had much of a problem with it before but its come in from somewhere! I have sprayed and i'm hoping its stopped the little sh*t in it's tracks...

Planted the squashes out today aswell. They are all 3ft apart each way. They are a mixture of butternut, marino di Chioggia, autumn crown, little gem and justynka.
They have alittle Vitax Q4 mixed in the planting hole and a good soak and that's it.


Garlics coming on well in the to tunnel now. The bulbs are just starting to swell so now is the time to keep them well watered and not let them dry out.

Strained my first batch of comfrey feed today. This is for the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines; I will be feeding this alongside a purchased tomato food throughout the summer 4 cups to a watering can so its the colour of weak tea.

Sweetcorn 'Rising Sun' has been planted also. About 15" apart; I have managed to get 20 in this bed next to the self blanching celery. Like the squashes, these have had a dressing of vitax q4.

Last day in May and I've picked my first lot of onions! These are obviously Japanese onions planted back in September in the big tunnel. They've grown steadily over the winter and have come out clean and pest free. - definitely worth growing under cover...

A view across the tunnel beds. There are three beds, all of them new in this year. Each bed is backed by espalier apple trees in the making.

This bed is the self blanching celery. There are two varieties here, golden and green. You can just see where one ends and the other starts. The key here is plenty of water and, this year, plenty of slug pellets!

Moving onto the next bed we have celeriac. Again this is one for plenty of moisture which, inevitably encourages all the neighbouring slugs and snails. So liberal amounts of pellets are put down and the rows are regularly hoed. This not only prevents weed growth but also creates a dust mulch which slugs do not like to slide over (slide? crawl? slither? - or whatever slugs do!)

A view from the tunnel beds looking up one of the plots towards the top tunnel. In the middle of the picture are the cordon sweet peas, bordered by French marigolds.

Behind the sweet peas is the new fruit cage- destined to be covered with netting...

This is inside the fruit cage. There is a row of cordon redcurrants (first year cuttings) and in front of them is a row of 'Elsanta' strawberries- looking good for Wimbledon!

I'll end on this beautiful pear tree. I'm sure you'll all agree its a fantastic colour on these immature fruits. The ripe pears are green with an equally charming warm rosy blush...Its making my mouth water now so enjoy and check back next weekend for the next instalment! Thanks guys Adam.

Friday, 23 May 2014


So so busy with work that I haven't been able to post as regularly as I like. A (pushy) friend of mine always puts me back in line when I haven't posted so thanks to him (again) here is another fresh post...
This year i'm growing some sweet potatoes in the big tunnel. I refuse to pay the price that some companies are charging for rooted slips so I have grown them myself instead. First of all I purchased a bag of sweet spuds from Aldi and planted them into pots of John Innes and placed on the heated bench in the greenhouse. Within two or three weeks there were throwing a wealth of shoot which I detached and rooted in 3 1/2" pots. They are now planted through black membrane in one of the beds in the tunnel. I shall be regularly watering and feeding them as they are a hugry/thirsty crop.

This time of the year you realise your greenhouses and coldframes aren't big enough. Its always a constant juggling game here when there are trays and trays of things that need to be hardened off.
The big tunnel down the allotments is handy to have and acts as a huge coldframe and certainly helps ease the green congestion at home!
Ive been busy in the garden at home as im giving a talk/presentation for our gardening club in August all about our garden. So ive been doing work on the Japanese rockery, woodland stumpery and the new 'Monty's garden'.
Tommorrow if its not too wet im going down the plots so ill try and remember to take the camera and get some snaps to post on here. Things are growing well now. I think the allium leaf miner has got into a couple of rows of setton onions as they look terrible and are dropping like flies! Celery and celeriac is planted out and enjoying the rain. Leeks in the tunnel have got signs of the moth! The early spuds are just showing signs of flowering which, luckily, has coincided with this rain which will help swell the forming tubers- mother nature can be compliant sometimes!