Growing and Showing
John Carver, chair of our district association of the National Vegetable Society, awakened me this morning. He’s one of those ‘morning’ people whereas I have more in common with Nosferatu, the undead! He wanted me to print up some leaflets and take them over to Nantwich for a NVS stand at the Nantwich show. He’d only been approached the day before and had been constructing the stand at 6am. Devotion and dedication are the appropriate words, I think.
Dropped over with the leaflets at 4pm and was amazed by how big the show is. Huge marquees for foods, dairy products, some fine looking cattle and lots of farm machinery. Most of that is a little large to use on my allotment!
To the point – I get there eventually ? of this missive. There is a vegetable show at the event and as is usual at these things, the judges go round before the event opens to the public. Now I don’t want to sound boastful but I was surprised by how many of the entries I could have given a run for their money.
My French beans would have stood a chance, my courgettes likewise and my Ailsa Craig onions could, I think, have got a first. The onions on the NVS stand were, of course, perfect. Large, even and beautifully presented.
I asked John Carver why he hadn’t entered himself and gained an insight to his thinking. He would, no doubt, have swept first prizes but would have demoralised those trying and killed the show.
Bit like an Olympic athlete entering the school sports day’s Dads run.
Still, it has encouraged me to enter some competitions. I think a lot of people don’t enter competitions, not because they think they can’t win but because they fear looking really bad against the competition.
Watering the Vegetables.
Down to the plot in the evening and out with the hosepipe. The leeks I put in the other day haven’t picked up yet from the shock of being transplanted, so they got an extra soaking. The cauliflowers seem to be happy though.
One minor success amongst the brassicas is my calabrese. I came home with a full carrier bag of nice looking spears. I’ve just cut the top off because I understand that the plants will produce a second flush of side shoots. I’m not desperate for the space so it can do no harm to find out.
The rest of the brassicas are improving, I think the load of fish, blood and bone has boosted them along. Too late for the cauliflowers on plot 5 but the Romanesco seems to be doing well so far (fingers very crossed).
It’s too hot and dry for runner beans but I did pick a portion, they seem good. I would always recommend runner beans to new growers because they will give a crop even in poor seasons and poorly prepared soils. Give them a well-prepared soil, plenty of water and you can feed a small town on one wigwam of seven plants. Being legumes, they improve the soil by adding nitrogen and the foliage eventually gets composted as well.
One worry with runner beans and many other plants, is that they require pollinating insects and there has been a catastrophic decline in bumble bees in recent years This year it seems really noticeable. We need to be aware that we are part of an ecosystem and do what we can to help rather than hinder. Even daft things like re-using carrier bags, replacing normal light bulbs with low energy bulbs and not leaving the tap running when we clean our teeth help. Not a lot, but it doesn’t take much individual effort and the collective effect is large. If everyone in the country sent me one penny, no-one would notice the ‘loss’. I however could retire on the six hundred thousand pounds. You see how a little change can have a big effect?
Each crop you grow on your allotment helps the planet. No damage to the ecology from fertiliser run off, over use of herbicides and pesticides and no ‘food miles’.
I’m now down to three plants, two Golden Dawn and one Black Beauty. We’re getting something like 10 courgettes every few days, which is more than enough. I did see a strange sight in Sainsburys yesterday, a lady actually buying courgettes! I told her to pop along to our allotment site and we’d give her a wheelbarrow load for free.
Had a chat with one of the new this year plotholders and showed him the difference between the same crop on different soils. The maincrop potatoes on the well fertile soil of plot 29 have foliage about 50% higher than the same varieties on the less fertile soil of plot 5. The sweetcorn is about a foot higher on plot 29 as well. I think I’ve taken a lot out of the ground on plot 5 and now it needs an input of manure. In other words, I’ve been living off my capital and it is now running out. This autumn, I intend to deposit a load of muck into my soil bank.