Speaker: Kelvin Mason
Date: 28th February
Kelvin and Anne Newcombe who did the introductions
Kelvin Mason is a lecturer from the Horticulture Department at Sparsholt College, Secretary of the Hants Federation of Horticultural Societies, and an established garden club speaker.
We were expecting expert and comprehensive advice and we were not disappointed.
He spoke for an hour with no slides but held our attention throughout. Ref: 25th April 2012
Kelvin said his talk was going to be about the general growing of a range of vegetables.
He emphasised that the preparation of the ground should have been done in the Autumn, the ground cleared of all the old crops and the soil improved. Spread manure on top of the soil and let the worms take it down. (Lots of guilty looks appeared in the audience!)
His detailed knowledge of soil structure and ways to improve it included advising members on how to enrich the soil with organic compost and provide aeration.
Kelvin explained the pros and cons of single digging, double digging and the “no dig” methods of cultivation. He is an advocate of deep digging to get the oxygen into the soil as roots take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide.
He also advised using a “green manure” which should be sown after the bed has been cleared in September.
We learnt that choosing the correct variety of seed for our particular soil and conditions would provide the best of vegetables.
When making that decision it is important to distinguish between growing for showing or for eating – large show specimens do not always equal tasty vegetables.
F1 hybrids are bred for disease resistance and for commercial use so that cabbages for instance all mature at the same time, so we should sow only a few seeds at a time.
The soil should be at least 4ºC to be warm enough to start sowing. Use a soil thermometer, listen to the weather forecast, and observe when the weeds start growing or alternately sit on the soil with your bare bottom and judge if it is warm enough!
Only cultivate the top two inches of soil as greater depths may be too cold and the sprouting seed may not have enough energy to get to the surface.
When the soil is warm enough, about March/April time Kelvin advised sowing in drills and to water the bottom of the drill before planting, never water afterwards and don’t sow too thickly as this avoids thinning out.
Keep the weeds down either by hoeing or hand weeding but don’t stand on the beds to weed as this compacts the soil. Kill top pests by hand or use biological/organic controls, and don’t crush carrot tops or the carrot fly will smell them.
F1 hybrid carrot seeds don’t smell of carrot. Don’t have too many narrow beds as this wastes soil, ideally 15’ long x 4’ wide with paths of 15/18ins between.
Rows should be 6” apart or less depending on the vegetable.
Regular weeding should be carried out in the Summer, every 7 to 10 days as the weeds reduce the yield of the vegetables. Pests appear in May/June so pick off the caterpillars and look out for the eggs. Spray for aphids and use biological control.
On the subject of irrigation, Kelvin told us he never waters any vegetable, but if you do, water must get to the roots.
Peas and broad beans should only be watered after they flower, runners and French beans need to be kept moist and need a lot of water, as do cabbages and lettuce.
Carrots, onions, beets, courgettes, marrows, tomatoes need regular watering as do early potatoes but don’t bother watering main crop potatoes. Water sweet corn when the flowers go brown.
Kelvin answered our many questions and gave us a lot to think about and remember but our vegetables should be magnificent if we follow his advice.