Barry Newman the National Vegetable Society Chairman gave a highly entertaining yet informative talk on ‘The Modern Kitchen Garden’ at last night’s well supported meeting at Roundwood Park School.
Unbelievably 95% of our vegetables and 80% of our fruit is imported into the UK with 80% being airfreighted from the rest of the world.
Barry a keen and accomplished grower of all kinds of vegetables in his Sussex allotment over the last 25 years covered all the different types of vegetable horticulture from large open ground plots to small, densely planted plots, raised beds and container planting.
One of the many secrets of successful vegetable growing is good compost! Well rotted horse manure is best. A four year rotation will ensure continuous plentiful crops.
Barry believes raised beds are the way to go for modern gardeners as they provide better soil conditions, less digging, good drainage, fewer slugs and pests as well as being easier on the joints of elder gardeners!
Paths between beds should be made of wood chippings (or if you live in Berkshire perhaps you can afford bark!). Definitely not stone slabs as they will harbour slugs. Old railway sleepers are ideal but any type of wood is preferable to any other material.
Unusual and creative ways of growing courgettes and butternut squash were demonstrated in a series of colourful slides. Courgettes can be grown vertically on 6ft stakes with careful tying in which will increase the number of fruits whilst keeping the plants off the ground thus deterring predators. Regular picking is obviously necessary! Butternut squash was shown growing happily up a 14ft high hedge and also climbing up netting against the side of garden shed.
Container planting is a good alternative method for potatoes. Barry grows his favourite potato variety (Kestral) in small black polythene bags with holes in the ground which allows the roots to spread outside the bag. Keeping the haulms raised above the ground ensures fewer slugs and maximising cropping. They can be stored in the bags with leaves removed until ready to be eaten.
Tomatoes should be fed regularly with a diluted feed but many people are tempted to overfeed which will be detrimental to the plants’ health. Barry finds beef tomatoes and cherry tomatoes work best for him. Sun Gold (cannot be bought in shops as it doesn’t travel well) is a particular favourite cherry variety. No more than 14 fruits per truss is recommended to ensure excellent flavour.
The talk ended with some colourful slides depicting show stopping spectacular ‘long beetroots’ grown in 8ft high containers, parsnips in 6ft high containers and carrots in 4ft high oil drums!
An enjoyable and very informative evening was complemented by Bianca Badham from Earthworks St Albans who gave a short presentation on work the charity does for people with learning difficulties.
She thanked the Society for the recent donation of a £1,000 pounds which has been put towards running the Earthworks Allotment Club which works specifically for gardeners with acquired brain injuries.