Page 28 - ALG Issue 4 2019
P. 28

     other news
 Growing for showing – part 1
  Phytophotodermatitis on the plot!
No, it’s not a new unusual vegetable but a hazard that can result from handling foliage from certain plants with exposed skin. Most gardeners are aware of the problems caused by contact with Giant Hogweed, but, after clearing some tomato foliage one summer, my arms came up in an itchy rash with raised blisters. Once the inflammation had cleared, I was left with dark pigmentation where the blisters had been, which took some months to fade.
The chemicals from the foliage had caused my skin to become ultra-sensitive to sunlight; this is known as phytophotodermatitis and is caused by a range of allotment plants – see below:
• Parsnips • Tomatoes • Carrots
• Celery
• Fennel
• Dill
• Parsley
• Limes/Lemons • Figs
To avoid problems, wear
protective clothing or
gloves when handling
material from any of the plants above, especially in sunny weather, and wash with soap and water if the sap gets onto your skin. Soothe any blisters with a cool compress and keep them clean and unbroken in order to prevent infection.
If you are new to showing flowers, fruit and vegetables, you may just harvest the best produce you have on your allotment or garden and enter it. If it
is good, you may well win depending on the competition. For small shows this is fine, but sooner or later you may become competitive and keen to win some first prizes, especially if there are three or four keen growers on the site or in the village.
To increase your chances of winning,
it pays to grow for the show(s), and
any surplus produce can be eaten so
it is not wasted. Any winning fruit or vegetables do not have to be large and coarse as these do not always win, especially if judged correctly. There are a few classes that need to have large specimens, these being the large onion classes, biggest pumpkin or marrow, or longest runner bean. With most classes, quality is more important; potatoes, beetroot, tomatoes, apples, and many others too large a size is a detriment rather than an asset.
So, what can you do to increase your chances of winning first prizes, or red cards as many exhibitors call them? The first thing, as with any good growing, is planning. You need to order the seeds, sets or plants to ensure you get what you want and they are ready for sowing and planting at the right time. You also need to know the date(s) of the show(s) you wish to enter. There is little point in sowing your peas to harvest in July if the show is not until mid-August or later, although you can eat or freeze them!
You need to find the date of the show(s) and know how long it takes to get the crop from sowing/planting to harvest; then work back from the date of the show to find the sowing date. Sowing is then likely to give the maximum yield of crop when required. It is not perfect as the weather can be a major influence but it is a good start!
Another point is that some crops – peas and potatoes being examples – are available as early, mid-season and lates so in their case it is important to choose the right cultivars. The earlies will be harvested and eaten before a September show, although if stored correctly some will keep in good condition and can be used in more than one show!
Once you have your plan and dates
you need to choose the right cultivars (incorrectly called varieties in the seed catalogues). With some crops like
fruit, this is less important but with others certain cultivars will consistently produce quality produce of a uniform size. Examples include beetroot Pablo, tomato Mechano, pea Show Perfection and runner bean Stenner. It is not essential to grow these cultivars but it can definitely help. If you have cultivars you like and are happy with, especially if they produce uniform crops, then stick to them.
Kelvin Mason
Look out for Part 2 in issue 1 2020.
   How far back do you go?
2020 sees the 90th Anniversary of the National Allotment Society. To celebrate, we will be looking back at the history of the NAS – but what about the history of your allotment plot or site?
Send us a snapshot or two that you feel defines your allotment’s history, and your photos could feature in our 2020 Anniversary editions of the magazine.
Decades or months, your allotment doesn’t have to be many years old to take part!
Submitting your images:
• Weappreciatethatolderimagesmaynotbeavailableinthebestresolution
but suggest that 300dpi high resolution photos are best.
• Providecaptions–Whenandwherewerethephotostaken? •
  28 Allotment and Leisure Gardener

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