Growing Cabinets and Artificial Lighting
31st Jan 2002
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It really is quite amazing the difference that having a proper growing cabinet makes to the growth rate and quality of the plant material inside it. I called with an old friend of mine just over a week ago to see how he was getting on with his onion and leek plants in his little 8 by 6 greenhouse. Unfortunately his greenhouse is positioned quite a distance from his house and he has to rely totally on his paraffin heater for keeping the plants growing.
Sadly they were obviously not growing too well, they were really at a critical stage, having just been transplanted from their seed tray into plantpak 40s and were obviously suffering. To compound everything we have had some rather low temperature at night and his paraffin heater is obviously struggling even to keep the temperature above freezing, never mind trying to maintain a good rate of growth at 55 to 60F. Fortunately I will be able to help him out with some plants later on, but as he said 'I shall persevere with them as I have sown them myself'
Artificial Lighting and Temperature
There's no doubt that the plants in my growing cabinet grow on much better because of the artificial light above them as well as a minimum night temperature of 55 F. Those that were transplanted into plantpak 60s earlier this year are now standing bolt upright and will be moved on into plantpak 24s this weekend using Levington M2 as a compost, later on when being moved up to larger pots I shall start to introduce some soil into the mix.
Onions and Leeks
I completed planting out some onions and leeks, both pot and blanch, at the Bangor glasshouses during the first week of January for use, hopefully, in my Chelsea display during the third week of May. This year I have created a small garden on top of one of the benches, which is over twenty feet in length, for this purpose.
The main problem was getting a product that would retain sufficient compost whilst at the same time giving enough depth for the plants to have a good root run. The product used to retain the compost and for the small garden was "Link-a-Bord" This product is made from re-cycled plastic and is strong enough to retain the compost in four foot long sections. The product can be easily put together using plastic corner pieces with plastic dowels that hold them all together.
The beauty of this product is that it can be completely dismantled once Chelsea has been and gone and I can then re assemble them at home to support some more peat or sand to form a raised bed for growing stump carrots in. There is no limit in theory to how high you can construct it as the dowels can be cut to any length to suit. The other good thing is that the company producing the product will cut the panels to any size that you require. After growing my short carrots in it I can then wash it clean and pack it away for use once more at Bangor next year.
I also have another raised bed which is only 8 inches high made from wooden panels and this also has some large onions growing in it. They did particularly well for me last year and I was able to stage some very uniform bulbs measuring 16 inches around at Chelsea. The secret with onions is not to over water them and this was my biggest problem when I tried to grow them individually in pots. They were being constantly over watered and the roots kept rotting away. When my onions were planted last year for Chelsea, towards the middle of January, the were given a good watering at that point and afterwards they were only watered five times in five months. This is really incredible when you think that they were grown under cover and having artificial lights above them for 16 hours per day.
During the first week of January the parsnips were sown in 6 inch plastic pipes filled with Levington F2S and this weekend I shall sow some of my own reselected seed of the beetroot long black. I have two types of Parsnips for this years Chelsea, Gladiator F1 and a brand new variety called Countess F1. This is new in other ways as well as it is only sold in pellet form that contains a fungicide to assist better germination and prevent the seed from damping or rotting off. According to the breeder this is of the same style and shape as Javelin but has a much whiter skin finish that retains it's whiteness for longer; it should make a big impact on the show bench. If you are interested in trying this brand new variety, the cost is £3.00 including P&P for 50 pellets. Please send your order to Medwyns of Anglesey, Llanor, Old School Lane, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey LL61 5RZ.
My long carrots are again being grown in ten wheely bins which did such a tremendous job for me last year. The bins were all filled with fine grade Irish Moss peat and then four round fence posts were pushed right down to the bottom of each bin and then the peat was saturated with water until it ran out of the pre-drilled holes in the bottom. They were then left to drain for a day and topped up with more peat after settlement had occurred. The posts were carefully withdrawn and the holes filled with three parts of F2S plus one part of sieved sterilised loam and my own reselected seed of New Red Intermediate were sown during the second week of January. During the weeks ahead I shall keep you informed of the progress of all the vegetables being grown for Chelsea.