This year I achieved an ambition, the opportunity to enter a horticultural show, the RHS Tatton show in Cheshire in late July. No, I am not a sole entrant with a stand exclusive to myself. I am joining in with a larger group of people from the borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester,UK, all of them allotment holders who are submitting a joint entry. Nor am I the man in charge, we are led by an experienced woman. We are all vegetable growers, and we are submitting a variety of beds.My bed is a three sisters bed, one that combines maize [sweetcorn] beans and pumpkins in companion planting. To be fair, we have a policy that no one person owns a bed. I am growing for my entry, but others can include their plants. It is important not to make the bed exclusively yours, as planting can go wrong and we all need back up.
There is more to a show than the public see. There is a preparation period of several days when the stands are set up. There is also a period when they are dismantled. During these periods there are rules that you must follow. You need a pass to get on site. and anyone on site at these times has to wear a high visibility jacket and a hard hat. On the show days we have decided to wear a uniform of a polo shirt emblazoned with our logo. I have yet to be told which days I attend on, but they have ordered a shirt for me, so it seems that I will be there when the public are on at least one day.
Growing pumpkins is my greatest challenge at the moment. I have my allotment, but it is an exposed place that is not great for sensitive, warmth loving vegetables. We are in the Mersey valley, about a mile from the river, and as flat as a pancake, so the wind comes along the thirty miles from the Irish Sea without impediment. I have solved [hopefully] the pumpkin problem by growing under protection, and they seem to be doing well. The wind recently took out my polytunnel, so I cannot grow there until I can replace it, but I have created protected beds composed of pallet collars one atop the other and covered with large sheets of strong corrugated plastic.I hold them down with bricks and large pieces of wood.
Before growing in the raised beds I helped them on in a growhouse and a propagator, which I keep at home and where I can tend them more easily. I transferred them when I thought that they were ready.
It is not widely known that all show plants are in black polythene bags. These are placed in the ground and then covered over to make it appear that the plants are growing directly from the ground. The bags have small holes at the bottom so that roots can extend out. I am using these for beans and sweetcorn, but the pumpkins require bigger bags, so I am using polythene sacks. Into each I have placed fifty litres of organic compost. I will need to feed them constantly as pumpkins are heavy feeders. Moving them when show day comes is going to be tricky, so I have placed pieces of wood under them so that I can slip supports underneath when the time comes.
Watering is a big matter with any container vegetables, so they will need much attention. This means that in the week after next when I am in Cambridge for work I will need to water well before going and maybe get some help.
I must admit that I am apprehensive. I always have a fear that nothing will grow and that my plants will fail. They rarely do. But having support from others will be a great help.