I’ve lost count of the exact number of blogs I have compiled in the past two years or so, but it’s certainly over 50, pretty much all of them fisheries related. I have been patiently waiting for the opportunity to put pen to paper extolling the virtues of another of my great passions; the production of vegetables both for eating and for displaying on the show bench.
Back in the old British Waterways era, before the day job took up 50, 60 or sometimes 70 hours a week, my wife and I were a half decent vegetable growing combination. This culminated in us wining the prestigious Percy Thrower points cup at Shrewsbury Flower Show on two occasions. For the benefit of younger readers, Percy was one of the first celebrity gardeners.
I am not sure who precisely in the Trust came up with the idea of boats in bloom but a good idea it certainly is. When asked to produce a display of vegetables in pots for the upcoming Crick show, it was a challenge that I could not resist. To be honest, I no longer have the spare time to really do the job justice. Therefore, I intend to cheat slightly by borrowing a few of the display items from the man whom I consider to be one of the top half dozen vegetable growers of the last 30 years, namely the great John Branham. As a young nipper, John learnt to fish at Tring Reservoirs. These days, John is a retired full time gardener and chairman of the National Vegetable Society (NVS) to boot. He has forgotten more about vegetable growing than I have ever known. Who would make up the other members of my top half dozen growers? In no order, Sherie Plumb, Medwyn Williams, Peter Clark, Andrew Jones and the up and coming youngster Marcus Powell.
The fisheries team primary focus at Crick will again be the fish tank display. The public take a great interest in our display of live freshwater fish and if last years’ experience is anything to go by, we will be packed out on all three days. Will the vegetable display be of equal interest? Having a wide range of vegetables ready to eat by the end of May is not really a practical proposition for most gardeners, myself included. My aim for Crick is to put on a half decent display of veg grown in pots in various stages of development (that will fit in my car) to try to demonstrate what might be possible. Hopefully, it will get a few people talking and trying things out for themselves, whether that be in pots on a boat or in their own gardens. Hopefully, you will end up being surprised at what can be grown in pots and confined spaces.
As I write this, six weeks or so before the Crick show I am hopeful that I will have something half decent to display. The weather has been unseasonably warm with the temperature in the greenhouse on Sunday 9 April exceeding 30C. This, coupled with the bright sunshine has increased germination rates and growth speeds which has in part made up for some early procrastination on my part. But more recently we have had frosts to contend with and who knows what weather may might throw at us.
As a general point, always buy the best quality compost that you can afford for putting into pots or other containers. I have found that the cheap brands are cheap for a reason, i.e. they are poor quality, probably missing the trace elements necessary for good plant growth such as magnesium needed to make the chlorophyll which absorbs sunlight. Vegetables grown in containers are always going to need a more regular watering regime than those grown in soil in the ground. In dry spells its sometimes feels as if you are doing nothing else other than watering.
Here’s a few more suggestions - feel free to download this if you wish.
No article on vegetable growing would be complete without proper mention of the specialist growing society, namely the NVS. As I mentioned earlier, John Branham is the current chairman and Medwyn Williams MBE, who has won an incredible eleven Chelsea gold medals, is the president. Please don’t demand your entrance money back at Crick Show if my display is not in the same league as Medwyn’s!
There are not that many certainties in life (death and the mortgage payment day being the two I have so far identified) but a third absolute certainty is that my efforts would not keep Medwyn awake at night if he found himself competing against me.
When I first joined the NVS a decade or more ago, my results improved dramatically. Most branches have a series of talks throughout the year where knowledge is freely shared. I don’t think I have ever been to a talk and not picked up a useful tip or two for my troubles. For more information please go the NVS website.
The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.See more blogs from The fisheries & angling team