As the days get shorter and the nights pull in we are still having some glorious weather in East Anglia to help prolong what hasn’t been the greatest summer for gardening. The mixture of fine weather and some showers towards the end of last month has certainly helped the summer bedding displays, which are still putting on a good show.
Talking of shows, at the beginning of September was the Capel St Mary Allotment show in the village where I live. This is always a great event and again we were blessed with good weather. On the Friday before the show I spent the day lifting and sorting my vegetable exhibits. This can be a joyful as well as sometimes a frustrating experience.
The parsnips and beetroot I lifted for the show were good, but the carrots were very disappointing, which I think was the result of the changeable weather throughout the growing season. The carrots will be fine for use in the kitchen, but were not the quality I had expected for use on the show bench. As a result the parsnips won 2nd, the beetroot 1st and the carrots failed to pick up a card.
Next to be lifted were cabbage, sweetcorn, kohl rabi and lettuce. The majority looked ok, but the sweetcorn, although nice looking cobs, I feared may not be fully developed. My fears were correct and these failed to collect any card. The others picked up 2nd, 1st and a 3rd.
Now the big ones, I had already sorted my potatoes and onions earlier in the week. The potatoes were washed and looked respectable. Kestrel won a 2nd in the coloured class and the Wilja won 1st in the white class. I won every class of onions, 1st as sets, and 1st in the under 250gm (8oz) class, plus 1st in the large exhibition onions with my Bunton’s Showstopper - all that washing and powdering last month paid off.
Other successes were indoor cucumbers a 3rd, outdoor cucumbers 1st, cherry tomatoes 2nd, a pair of marrows a 2nd and a 1st with courgettes. With runner beans there are two classes and these I got a 2nd for the over 30cm class and a 3rd in the under 30cm class and a 2nd for French beans.
My biggest disappointment was when I lifted my leeks, as I discovered some had been damaged by the dreaded leek moth. This pest hatches out and the larva burrows into the barrel of the leek causing damage. As a result I had to lift 22 leeks in order to get two sets of 3 leeks good enough for the show bench. This paid off as the final sets looked stunning and I won 1st prize on the bench with one set and these also won the best exhibit in the vegetable classes’ trophy. The only embarrassing thing is this trophy was donated by me a few years ago, so I won my own cup much to the amusement of my fellow competitors. The other leeks haven’t gone to waste as some were given away to friends to eat and a few have been potted up for stock to produce my leek pips in two years time.
I also entered two vegetable collections at the show, one was a salad collection which had potatoes, cucumber and cherry tomatoes in and came 3rd. The collection of 5 kinds of vegetable had leeks, potatoes, parsnips, onions and runner beans. The collection was pointed by the judges and I scored 87 points out of a possible 98 and came 2nd. A good friend of mine Gavin narrowly won the collection with 88 points, a difference of only 1 point. As a result of Gavin winning the collection and picking up enough points from other classes in the show, he took the trophy for the most points in the vegetable section with 108 points in total and I came 2nd with 100 points. So overall it was a good show and including two vases of flowers that I also entered I came away with 9 1st prizes, 9 2nd prizesand 5 3rd prizes, as well as one trophy for my leeks.
After the show finished on Sunday night all the props were packed away and planning started for next season. I’m still trying to work out how I can gain a few more points and take that cup off Gavin at next year’s show.
Back on the allotment the beans and courgettes are still producing and are being watered each night on warm days. The chrysanthemums are blooming and look great when cut and put in a vase. I’ve still got two rows of main crop potatoes to lift and then it’s a case of keeping the plot clean of weeds and bringing in the harvest.
Well that’s about it for this month's instalment, now off to pot up the pansy, viola and polyanthus plugs that have just arrived. Never seems to be any rest for us gardeners, we are always planning ahead and these plants will provide my garden with autumn, winter and some early spring colour.
Courgette Venus - 1st prize