Anyone who follows me on twitter will have become used to Saturday pictures and tweets about the progress or not in my greenhouse. On the 28th March I began (week 1) and here we are at week 26 – half a year later. Lockdown and the pandemic in vegetables and the occasional flower.
I have not used this blog for personal things, with odd exceptions; a sort of retail related Welsh rugby story (yes I’m still bitter Alain Rolland) and the death of my father (which is also rugby related). So this is an exception, but there is a (minor) retail component.
I am doing this because week 26 seems a good place to stop and twitter is not expansive enough for some reflections. I am stopping because the future week 27-40 something reporting the miserable state of the greenhouse is too much, even for me. But as they say, I’ll be back. And this time probably from February not late March.
We always grow things and I like doing it from seed; normally and mainly tomatoes and chillies. But this year as we thought through the pandemic in March we expanded into a wider range and added potatoes, beans, courgettes and tried a few other things. We normally get our seed from the wonderful Real Seeds and already had tomatoes (Galina, Dr Carolyn Pink, Ethel Watkins, Red and Green Zebras), chillies (Pretty in Purple) and courgettes (Verde di Italia, Biopees Golden and a Patty-Pan) in hand. As lockdown hit us we added potatoes, runner beans (we had Czar from Real Seeds) and peas/broad beans from Suttons, as others had no stock due to increased demand.
Pretty much all of these worked; Maris Peer, Arran Piper and Charlotte potatoes, Scarlet Emperor runner beans and Sutton broad beans and peas. Burpees Courgettes and Patty-pans were disappointing. Some old beetroot and radish seeds failed. Our herbs, again from Suttons, worked brilliantly (thyme, basil, sage, coriander, rocket and some lettuce).
Doing all this helped me get through the lockdown; I was one of the fortunate ones to have such an outlet.
As I said we saw a lack of product in many online stores and Suttons took their time but came through. Garden Centres of course were badly hit by lockdown. We used a local one to get some pots and compost and they were brilliant in delivering (Torwood Garden Centre). They took orders by telephone and next day delivery happened like that. We’ve visited since they’ve been allowed to open, and they’ve done an impressive distancing job.
The other thing we started (not before time) due to lockdown was composting. We had to wait for our composter due to high demand, but it seems to be working.
My flower sideshow saw our Nemesias and Rudbeckias really work, but the star of the show has been single dahlias from seed. Never done that before and they’ve been brilliant.
In terms of retail spend I suspect I have spent a little less than normal though it is hard to assess. The composter was an addition. I missed going to garden centres and lockdown and thus avoided temptation, but we did buy things we needed online or over the phone. Service and availability was understandably slower and lower than normal but we got everything in the end. Retail coped, but the cost one suspects in lost sales has been high especially as so many garden centres rely on their café. Perhaps though if people have had a good experience of growing from home they will continue next season.
And for my trusted gardening followers, there may be occasional tweets from the greenhouse, but then I may well be back once I start the new season.
This is not totally without a retail dimension Leigh!
Some twenty five years ago I was asked to work with the tomato growers of the Clyde Valley. This had been an enormous horticultural industry for a hundred years until the oil crises hit their costs. And the fact that the Dutch became brilliant at marketing.
Various top down approaches had been tried including moving them all to Mossmorran to get cheap heat( bad idea as it was good light that was a greater priority). Anyway I designed a process of engagement called SOS Clyde Valley tomatoes where they identified the solutions to their problems. We brought in experts to help them learn, much as we did with you at Can Do Places. Cut to the conclusion ,they created a company called Scotland’s Tomatoes which became the first branded salad vegetable in Britain and the first quality assured one as well. They achieved a staggering 40% increase in margin and it saved them. The branding also became a landmark in IP cases.
So there you go!
A byproduct is I also know a lot about light levels, sugar levels, varieties and the difference between soil grown and vermiculite grown tomatoes.
Best wishes Iain
Sent from my iPhone
I remember being fascinated by a film I saw a few years ago on the history of the tomato industry in the Clyde Valley and the way it had declined. I had no idea about how huge it had been. It was about the time Clyde Valley Tomatoes were being formed and developing; sadly of course they are no more.
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