Saturday, August 09, 2008

Extreme gardening

At the Telegraph, Marcus Berkmann reviews Michael Leapman's appealingly titled new book The Biggest Beetroot in the World: Giant Vegetables and the People Who Grow Them. (I thought Leapman's previous book The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild was very good - there is a negative Amazon review at that link, but it seems a clear case of poor fit between book and reader!) Giant vegetable slideshow, from which the picture at the top is drawn.

Graham Harvey has a fuller report at the Times:
Gerald Treweek, a retired coal miner, raises his world-beating onions by hydroponics - nutrient solution. They don't grow in soil but on an artificial medium in tanks. Every so often they're flooded with nutrient-enriched water, then allowed to dry out before the next dousing.

Peter Glazebrook, a former buildings surveyor, grows his onions perched on top of compost-filled barrels, their stems supported by a home-made structure built from bamboo and rubber rings. Joe Atherton, who works in a plant nursery, grows elongated carrots in lengths of guttering fixed at an angle of 45 degrees.

Clive Bevan raises his long cucumbers inside women's tights. Apparently this allows them to expand in all directions. When raised in the more traditional sock they're liable to touch the end, lose heart and stop growing.

Ian Neale - a nursery owner who once grew the world's biggest beetroot at 51lb 9oz (there is no metric system in the world of giant veg) - gets his monsters off to a good start by feeding them rock dust, essence of pig slurry and a material called “dinosaur fertiliser”, from a “big pile on the top of a moor in Yorkshire”.

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