Tuesday night saw the inaugural meeting of #BritishVeg on Twitter. #BritishVeg is the younger sibling of #BritishFlowers (Monday nights 8-9pm), and is a new movement in the veg growing world led by Tamsin (@Bosleypatch) and Stephen (@Victoriana_NG). But, while it might be the new kid on the block, #BritishVeg was soon in full flow – with ideas, questions and lots of helpful advice being exchanged.
After a round of introductions – veg growers are very polite people don’t you know, the conversation turned to the challenges faced by vegetable growers over the past few months. Weeds were the first challenge to be mentioned, swiftly followed by the weather. The long, cold winter and a slow start to spring means that the season is weeks behind. Growers are adapting to the difficult conditions by starting crops off in modules ready to plant out when the weather improves. This led neatly on to a discussion of using polytunnels to protect crops from poor weather and to extend the season.
The idea of seasonality also prompted a discussion of customer expectations – home growers are asking for tomato plants in March, and chefs are wanting locally grown carrots out of season. There were suggestions that the gardening magazines, which are published a month ahead of time, have contributed to this.
Pest problems and solutions, especially for wireworm, were also discussed. Tamsin, who is currently battling a huge infestation of wireworms, suggested bating with potatoes and a herbal spray of black elder and sage, along with careful crop planning. Other people are using nematodes to help control slugs and carrot fly, and most are keen to use non-chemical approaches for pest control.
There was plenty of practical advice – discussions of whether it’s warm enough yet to plant tomatoes and chillies out in unheated polytunnels and greenhouses. And some recommendations for the best squash varieties to grow, ‘Crown Prince’ was a favourite with most people.
While the weather has made things difficult over the last year, there have been lots of positives too. There’s been a resurgence of interest in locally grown food, which can only be good for British growers. The important thing now is to work with this interest, and promote both British vegetables to shoppers and British grown plants for home growers.
So there you have it, a whole hour of veg talk… and not a mention of straight lines!
If you are a veg grower, large or small scale, why not join us next Tuesday between 8-9pm on #BritishVeg. Subjects for discussion are cucurbits and how British growers can capture the current interest in locally grown vegetables.