Winner of 11 Chelsea golds and awarded an MBE!
Preparations begin for next year's shallots
Over the Christmas period I'll be planting up exhibition shallots in mypolytunnel, starting with 15-cell trays of Levington M3.
I have some nice bulbs for planting, but again I lost a fair few to soft rot around the neck and root plate. It's difficult to know what's causing it, but top grower David Thornton believes that the disease enters through the root plate. To combat this, he removes a thin sliver off every shallot root plate with a sharp knife, leaving a moist tissue, which is dipped into fungicide then planted immediately.
Although there aren't many pesticides available for amateur growers, the wettable powder fungicide Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control might help.
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Shallots are very hardy but I'll keep them in the doubleskinned part of my tunnel, which offers extra protection should temperatures drop significantly Because they're growing in a cold environment, I'll make sure the compost is kept just moist. They'll stay there until late February or early March.
I'm planning to plant them out in steel troughs that are 4m (13ft) long and 30cm (12in) deep and wide. After drilling some holes in the base for drainage, I'll fill them with good top soil and Levington M3. Let's hope 2016 is a better year.