Alex’s Ramblings Aug 2019

August ramblings

As I sit here, looking out of the window we are experiencing a sharp and heavy shower. Given the amount of rainfall we have had this year, any is welcome. We have had to endure some very high temperatures which has meant watering the greenhouse twice per day and vegetables weekly.

One effect of the hot weather has meant that the ornamental garden is a little advanced from where it should be at this time of year and pollinators are taking full advantage. Bees of several varieties are enjoying particularly Echinacea and they spend hours on the cardoons. We have counted nine varieties of butterflies in the garden this year, most of which we have identified failing with a couple. We have identified: cabbage white, red admiral, peacock, gatekeeper, comma, painted lady and small pearl bordered fritillary with one blue and one orange that we are unable to identify. This is the first year we have noticed so many different varieties and I like to think that my choice of planting scheme has much to do with this. I shall be consulting the appropriate information sources to identify which addition pollinator friendly varieties I can plant in my garden in the future.

The greenhouse is in full production and we are harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers (six today). Chillies and sweet peppers are coming on at a pace and it will not be long before we are sampling those. As mentioned above, I am having to water the greenhouse twice per day. It also helps to splash the central path to keep humidity levels up. You should have pinched out the growing tips of your tomatoes by now. It is usually recommended that you do this after the fifth truss but I am a little greedy and do it after the sixth truss. You should also continue to pinch out any side shoots forming in the leaf axils of your tomatoes and feed regularly. One thing I have noticed this year is that my main tomato crop of Sungold appears to be producing much larger trusses of fruit and those toward the end of the truss are the size of peas when ripe. All that I have done differently this year is use different compost but I know from talking another gardener in the village, he is experiencing the same phenomenon.

In the vegetable garden I have bent over the top growth of my onions and will be lifting them out of the ground to dry and ripen in about another ten days. Contrary to last year, I’m expecting a fine crop. Shallots have already been lifted and are drying prior to storing.

In the rest of the vegetable plot, we have had visits from a badger. He has destroyed the broad bean crop and then turned his attention to the sweet corn. I have erected a barrier around them but knowing how tenacious badgers can be I’m not entirely confident that this will deter him. Runner and French Beans and carrots are now in full production and having made successional sowings, we expect to enjoy these for many weeks. The second sowing of mange tout is now producing while the first sowing has now been dug up releasing the ground for me to sow swede. We are picking courgettes on a daily basis and salad crops continue in a most productive manner which we are enjoying immensely. After a sluggish start, the squash plants have put on a growth spurt but signs of fruiting are slow to show. Let’s hope we don’t get any early frosts!

Work in the ornamental garden is confined mainly to dead heading and weed control. Roses have had their second feed of the year and we are hoping for many more blooms. We continue to feed sweet peas but for some reason, this year stems appear to be unusually short.

Summer pruning and fruit thinning of my cordon fruit trees is complete and I’m looking forward to a reasonable but not as good a crop as last year.

Finally, the Society’s highlight of the year, the annual flower show and country fair takes place later this month on the 31st. Armed with a schedule which you should have by now received you can start planning your selections for entering. The principal aim of The Society is to promote gardening and a large entry from as many gardeners as possible will let us know we are being successful in that aim and encourage us to stage future shows.

As usual I list a few pointers for entering:

  • Complete the entry form included with the schedule and ensure you submit this before the cut off time as shown in the schedule. You will be issued with an entry ticket for each exhibit.
  • On the morning of the show you will need to start early with the aim of getting your exhibits tabled in the marquee before the cut off time of 10am when judging will commence.
  • Dig and collect your exhibits. Ensure they are clean with no trace of soil. Use some damp cotton wool or a very soft toothbrush to clean them, being careful not to damage any specimens. Onions and shallots should have their foliage removed prior to exhibition to about two or three inches (5 to 8 cms) for onions and one inch (3 cms) for shallots, bent over and tied neatly with a piece of raffia. To save time on the day, it is best to do this a few days beforehand.

A few tips on exhibiting:

Generally, it’s all about catching the judge’s eye:

  • Exhibits should be as uniform as possible.
  • Try to ensure they are undamaged.
  • The number of examples should be as per the schedule. If three carrots are asked for, three are required. Don’t try to pull the wool over the judge’s eyes. It will not work.
  • If the schedule asks for exhibits on a plate or in a vase, do as asked. It will make a difference.
  • Table your exhibits in the allocated space so that it is prominently displayed.

Specifically

  • Best collection of five varieties of vegetables. Exhibit in a pleasing container in accordance with the dimensions asked for.
  • Best collection of herbs, will probably best exhibited in a container capable of holding water, vase, glass etc.
  • For carrots and beetroot, leave about two inches (5cms) of foliage.
  • Onions are best shown standing vertically, To do this, cut some half inch (1 cm) deep, rings from a cardboard kitchen roll or similar, and use these to stand the onions on.
  • Shallots are traditionally shown on a plate of fine sand which will hold them in place as arranged and make them attractive to the eye. Pickling shallots should be able to pass through a one inch (2.54cm) ring
  • Runner and French beans are traditionally shown on a piece of card covered in black cloth.
  • Sweet corn should have the foliage peeled back to display the cobs.
  • Tomatoes must have the calyx attached to each fruit.
  • Cucumbers should be of as equal size as possible
  • Leeks should have their flags (greenery) gathered together and held with an elastic band or similar.
  • Marrows, courgettes and chillies should have a quantity of stalk intact.
  • Garlic should be trimmed

As for fruit:

  • Do not polish your fruit, particularly plums which must be shown with their “bloom.”
  • Exhibit them with stalks.

I think that’s enough to be going on with. Don’t forget, it’s a local show designed primarily for members and non members from the vicinity of Wellow. Above all, it is meant to be enjoyed by all who take part. Don’t feel that your produce is not up to standard. You may well be surprised by what wins an award. It’s about participating and maintaining a tradition that is now 70 years old. Please enter as much as you can and help us all to have a terrific and enjoyable show.

Good gardening,

Alex

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