Giant Yields – with Dean Finley

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First brickworks, now Dean Finley’s AutoPots – Bedfordshire truly is home to the building blocks of life itself. Dean is our chief architect of AutoPot innovation in the area. Under his almighty vision all manner of crop creation has been conceived, cultivated, and critically championed over the past ten years. As that colossus of the calendar, Bedfordshire Day, draws near it seems only right that we pay the county’s aforementioned boyar of big bounty a virtual visit.

Above: A writing mass of vegetal glory – pepper orgy in easy2grow modules at Dean’s Bedfordshire Glasshouse – AKA The Chilli Lab

Versed in the intricacies of a vast range of plant types, Dean has, as ever, got plenty of new crops underway and absolutely on-song at his glasshouse. Be they kaffir limes, strawberries, beans, tomatoes, peppers, pomegranates, peaches, potatoes, agapanthus, onions, cucumbers, kohlrabi, celery, beetroot, cabbage, or gourds they are invariably grown-to-order on the back of Dean’s renown – not a euphemism! However, bringing exquisitely grown, esoteric chillies to wider attention was, and remains, the founding principle of Mr Finley’s core growing activity; The Chilli Lab.

Above: Every one’s a winner! Hot Chocolate indeed – in the shape of The Chilli Labs exquisite capsicums

Insatiable demand for rare, super-hot capsicum varieties has seen The Chilli Lab explode non-destructively into a 1.4 sq acre glasshouse, capable of producing 3,500 plants per year. Dean has succeeded in bringing such once-obscure chillies as the Burmese Naga to the U.K. market – the rampant popularity of which means several major commercial growers now cultivate it a main crop. Forget Barry Pepper, Captain Morgan, or Hot Toddy, it’s the Burmese Nagas grown by Dean, from original seeds no less, that truly set the modern standard for characterful spice.

Above: Dean’s young plants rattle along in one of his easy2Propagate units

Prominent amongst Dean’s preferred means of irrigation and feeding are AutoPot Watering Systems. He has seedlings in easy2Propagate units, young plants fed and watered by easy2GO, with mature plants in easy2grow, 1Pot, XL, Auto8, and Auto9 XL modules. Given that his fully-glazed, fully-sealed glasshouse can hit the high notes temperature-wise Dean often elects to use our WhitePots in place of the standard black ones. WhitePots can, in Dean’s experience, lop at least 10ºC off root zone temperatures – a simple and effective way to keep roots at a stable and consistent heat, allowing his splendid plants to remain puissant in all conditions.

Above: Giant cucumbers in 25 L WhitePots – preferred for their rootzone temp stabilising qualities in what is, after all, quite a hot glasshouse

Control and growth inside the glasshouse. But in the world outside; not so much. Covid restrictions have, undeniably, impinged on the ability of small producers to commission plants and produce from The Chilli Lab. Unfazed, Dean set to work adding yet more strings to his growing bow with giant veg. In the face of adversity, Finley goes jumbo. 

Above: The Chilli Lab is capable of producing 3,500 plants per year – many of these highly sought gems are commissioned by other commercial growers and producers

Employing his 1Pot XLs – literally to maximum effect – Dean has produced some truly leviathanic legumes this year. Was it coincidence or a Sesame Street-style ploy of his to tilt veg beginning with the letter ’C’ at the ‘C’ANNA Giant Veg Championships? Only Dean knows. All we can say for sure is that his giant cucumbers showed evidence of both his alphabetic acumen and his growing guile. 

The Malvern Autumn Show is the established venue for the CANNA-sponsored comp but ultimately that rug was tugged. End of the road? Not a bit. CANNA were having absolutely sweet none of it and duly put together a socially-distanced, entrants-only weigh-in – The Grow Show. Growers would have their moment in the figurative sun. And what a figuratively radiant day it would turn out to be for Dean.

Above Left: Oh the humanity! Above Right: Dean averts a Hindenburg-style toppling-inferno by counterbalancing his prize-winning Zeppelin cucumber with Fred Hogg’s remarkable aubergine.

He emerged wearing two crowns – don’t ask how – for his prodigious AutoPot-grown produce. Like a watery broadsword his cucumber swept all before it to take largest and heaviest in its class at the Oxfordshire weigh-in. Its generous 7.76kg / 17.2lb distributed beautifully along its 77.9cm / 31.5” extent. This was one of two-dozen Zeppelin-variety giant efforts Dean started in 2 L / 0.5 gal rose pots with Dutchpro Pro Soil All Mix. Honourable mention to esteemed giant veg grower Mark Baggs who supplied the seeds for these. Plain water was administered by hand before the plants were transferred at 6 weeks to 25 L / 6.6 gal 1Pot XL modules potted with Dutchpro Coir. After a week or so of establishing the modules went on-stream with the AutoPot Watering System delivering Dutchpro Compo via the reservoir and pipework.

Above: Run after run of beautifully grown plants at The Chilli Lab Glasshouse

The particulars of Dean’s AutoPot Watering Systems really are of interest in and of themselves. He is nothing if not provocatively technological in his approach to growing and has employed some intriguing customisation to take The Chilli Lab to the next level. Boundary pushing be damned, Dean pretty much rips up the fences of ‘established wisdom’ and marches on into the horizon. Working with him we’re redefining what’s possible with AutoPot. On that note we’ll be revisiting Dean for a rundown of his glasshouse tech solutions in the very near future – stay frosty for that! 

Meantime our thanks for his time and an entreaty to you to follow Dean on social media – his know-how is immense, it’s well worth a look.

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