A song by Elvis Costello released in 1978 – forty years ago, where did that time go. Back in the day I used to go and see him a lot, mainly at the Nashville Rooms at the top of North End Road on the corner where it crosses the A4. Later I went to see him as such diverse places as the Palladium and the Festival Hall. When I met Jeni 16 years ago I said that she’d get to see Elvis Costello a lot, and guess what – she hasn’t seen him once. We had tickets to see him in a Hunters’ Valley vineyard many moons ago, but something happened and we didn’t get there. Recently he came to the De La Warr, but tickets were over £50 each and after paying a couple of quid at the Nashville Rooms it just didn’t seem right. The time has passed.

Talking of ticket prices, Dionne Warwick is the playing the De La Warr later this year – not my music at all, much too easy listening, and the ticket prices are £75 each. Perhaps it me, but that seems ridiculously high – she can’t even pronounce Warwick properly.

Anyway, enough ranting about ticket prices, a rant about the Chelsea Flower Show. Why is it that so much time and attention is paid to the show gardens. There are only about 10 of them each year and each of them is analysed down to the last blade of grass. If as much analysis had been spent on brexit we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today. Perhaps it’s me but I haven’t ever gained any inspiration from the show gardens. I think it’s an exercise of throwing as much money as you can as something – each garden must cost at least £100,000 each. It’s the ultimate example of style over substance. And when the TV pundits try to outdo each other with their use of superlatives, I shudder. Joe Swift, Carol Klein, and Mark Lane are particularly grating – to me it’s instant asbos to them and banished to room 101. Poor Monty seemed to look on totally bemused.

In contrast, I find that the specialist nursery displays in the marquee area totally inspirational. With a fraction of the budget they turn out much superior displays - for them it’s all about the plants not the style.

Something interesting which did come out of Chelsea this year is that the winner of the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year 2018 was Mr Fothergill’s Optigrow seeds.

This is from Mr Fothergills blurb:

“Optigrow is a revolutionary, non-chemical seed priming treatment that uses only water and air to get the seed biologically ready for germination, breaking dormancy prior to use. It is then quickly dried back to a storable state for packing, just like any other seed. The treatment means seeds wake up and get underway within hours of hitting the soil. Not only do Optigrow seeds promise superfast germination, they are also proven to produce vigorous seedlings able to out-grow competing weeds. Extensive trialling of Optigrow seeds under garden conditions has consistently produced more uniform crops, better harvests and quality vegetables. There is also evidence that germination becomes possible under a wider range of conditions, allowing gardeners to sow Optigrow seeds in colder, warmer and drier conditions than the ideal.”

Wellll, some hype. They have been available in our Shop this year, but they totally passed me by. The range of seeds varieties available at present is limited, and they are more expensive than the existing seeds, but I’ll give them a go next year to see if they live up to that hype.

Back on the plot everything is growing apace now. There is a particularly large crop of strawberries this year. Last Friday we picked over three pounds of the variety Marshmallow. This was off second year plants – the flavour doesn’t seem as intense as last year but the yield is exceptional. I’ll take cuttings from the runners later this year to plant afresh for next year.

I’ve also harvested my first golf ball size beetroots and my first courgettes of about three inches long. The Golden Acre cabbages sowed in January in modules and grown in the greenhouse border have nearly all been harvested, with great results. The All Year Round cauliflowers also sown in January in modules and then grown in the greenhouse border, have, in contrast, been less successful. I think it’s been far too hot for them recently and the heads have nowhere reached the size they should. But a nice serving anyway.

Every year I’m always pessimistic of my sowings of parsnip seeds. This year because of the cold and wet conditions I delayed sowing until May 4th. Nothing happened for three weeks, and then last week the seedlings started to appear and now I have a full row of seedlings.

Elsewhere, I harvested the last of last years leeks, and the same day planted out this years seedlings. I think leeks are a special crop – they are easy to grow, disease resistant, available all through the winter, and are very flexible for use in cooking. The two varieties I sow are Elefant and Below Zero, both recommended.

Something which has been a disappointment this year are the Shakespeare onion sets which I planted last October. These are normally very reliable, but this year they have been running to seed. I guess it’s because of the weather conditions. A cold, wet winter and spring, and then the more recent very hot dry spells. I’ve taken the seed heads off and will see what happens next, whether they’ll keep growing or just linger. We tried adding the seed heads to a salad but the intense onion flavour was just too overpowering.

Also happening at present is successional sowings of salad crops, caulis, cabbages etc plus preparing the brassica bed for winter. This includes erecting the netting frame and providing sturdy stakes for the Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli.

The broccoli plants I find are particularly susceptible to being blown over by winds during the winter and need very strong supports. Netting the plants is essential. The cabbage white butterfly will make a beeline for the plants unless protected. This happened to the cauliflower plants I have in the greenhouse – normally they are harvested before the cabbage white appears so I don’t need to cover them. But this year, I guess because of the hot spells, the cabbage whites landed on the plants nearest the greenhouse door and during the week I noticed a large army of caterpillars feasting on the leaves. Oh well, something for everybody.

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