IT'S THE WEEKEND: Newport grower of giant veg, Ian Neale, shares secrets of success
4:12pm Monday 19th August 2013 in News
It’s not every day you get to chat to Snoop Dog's favourite vegetable grower, about the tricks of growing giant marrows, but that’s exactly what I did when I asked world record holder, Ian Neale, to teach me how to grow award winning vegetables.
Mr Neale, 70, of Langstone, Newport, who lovingly nurtured a mammoth 85.5lb vegetable to claim a Guinness World Record, met the hip-hop star Snoop Dog in Cardiff two years ago, who asked the gardener to tell him the secrets if his success.
“I had never heard of him to be honest, but my friend had so I went along to meet him in Cardiff and gave him some advice on growing, and I gave him some root grow.”
The retired farmer who grows swedes, carrots, parsnips, marrows and melons, amongst other vegetables, advises growers to invest in a polythene tunnel or some sort of protection for the vegetables so that they can be planted earlier in the season giving them longer to grow.
“You can start planting now as long as you give the plant some sort of protection because if you were to plant outside to early it just wouldn't grow as well,” he said.
Mr Neale also advises gardener's not to be disheartened if their plant doesn’t grow as a lot of it has to do with the weather.
“It depends on where in the country you are growing as different soils and climates affect it,” he added.
“For example I can't grow leeks as last time they had root disease.
“Sometimes it goes to seed, that’s the trouble with the big stuff, when it reaches a certain size it is going against nature so you just have to hope it doesn’t go rotten.”
Mr Neale who will be participating in the Rhondda Heritage Park show on September 7 and the Malvern Show on the 28 and 29 of September offered advice to people wanting to take part in competitive growing.
“The best thing is to keep the biggest and heaviest stuff for the more prestigious shows.
“My best advice is no secret- you have to have good soil, good seed, good weather and good luck!”
Mr Neale who puts his own success down to dedication to his plants, and the right seeds also believes that most of his knowledge has come from trial and error over the years.
“I like to experiment and try something new every year,” he told me.
“Many people use fertilisers that come ready mixed but to grow giant vegetables you need certain chemicals.
“At the moment I am using straight fertilisers such as straight nitrogen, and potash but you have to know what you are doing, you have to be able to look at the plant and know what it wants.
But that all comes with time, so I asked Mr Neale if he could create a beginner's step by step guide to growing a giant vegetable.
“The easiest thing to begin with is a marrow or parsnips and carrots, if you get protection for them,” he said.
“It is best to start growing the marrow at the end of May and the first step is to get the right seeds.
“I would recommend seeds from suppliers such as Picador Parsnip F1, or Medwyn Williams who gave me the seeds from Alaska where the giant swede came from.
“Or you can visit websites such as www.giantveg.co.uk.
“It costs about £5 to grow including seeds and fertiliser.
“You should plant the seeds in a pot about April time and plant them outside after the frost, making sure that the ground is prepared.
“To prepare the ground you should make sure that it is well dug, about two spades deep and use a hybrid fertiliser.
“Then you should just let the seeds grow.
“Then 35- 40 days before the show set them up by pollinating them.
“During this whole process you should make sure to use around 40 pellets every ten days.
“Personally I use chicken manure pellets.”
Mr Neale also recommends talking to other growers at shows and in allotments, as many of them discuss their vegetables and offer tips and advice for the season.
“I think it’s important that your knowledge of good growing doesn’t die with you.
“I have had some friends who have let their knowledge go to waste but not telling anyone when they have passed away.
“I do have one or two more secrets but I will tell someone before I go!”