Leeks and Cauliflowers
12th May 1999
My leeks were planted during the middle of April into the tall polytunnel where I used to grow my exhibition onions last year. They were planted in three beds, 16 in each one comprising of 38 of the Ivor Maces Welsh seedling and 10 of the Peter Clark variety. They were very strong plants this year and were potted on into 4 litre deep rose pots. They measured nearly an inch across when planted with 9 inch plastic damp course collars around them.
The beds were thoroughly prepared during late Autumn with bags of beech leaf mould incorporated into each bed which many growers claim is superior to farm yard manure. They were planted this year with the top of the compost in the pot level with the soil in the beds; this was because, during the final potting stage, I went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that the base of every leek was at the same depth within the pots. Each leek was transplanted with the root plate of each one 3 inches down, measured from the top of the rim of the pot.This means that every leek when pulled will be the same measurement to the button which should help towards getting a uniform dish.
My big problem last year was with the watering, or lack of it, as the leeks all split because the porous pipe underneath the black and white polythene had blocked up. This year I have reverted to using the Eva flow irrigation system and the bed will be kept moist at all times by thoroughly watering it at least once a week and even more often should we have a really blazing hot Summer.
It's important that, throughout the growing period, each and every leek is kept bolt upright and to this effect a strong cane is positioned just behind each leek at a point which will allow the leek to expand to its optimum. The canes are positioned immediately after planting so that they will remain in this same position throughout. What you don't want to do is move the cane to different positions as the leek is swelling because inevitably the very action of pushing the cane through the soil will snap off a few roots which is the last thing you want to happen.
Once planted the 9 inch collar will be removed and, if the plants are really well advanced, the next collar will be 15 inches in heigh, missing out the normal 12 inch one.
Keep a regular eye out for any thrip damage; to make absolutely sure, open out the young central leaves and have a thorough look down the heart of the plant. This is where the thrips are going to be and their continuous nibbling of the foliage will leave the flags looking a silvery grey colour. These thrips are tiny insects barely visible to the naked eye but the damage they can do is unquestionable and they will destroy your plants. If in doubt go to the extent of using a magnifying glass to really make sure whether they are there or not. Spray with Tumble bug or Polysect at the first sign of any damage and continue spraying every 10 days or so.
I shall be sowing my second batch of Cauliflowers this coming week, five different varieties that should make sure that I have some ready for the Welsh Championships at Margam Park, Port Talbot as well as for the National at Tunbridge Wells. The varieties that I shall broadcast sow on some Levington Multi purpose compost will be Lindon and Plana as well as the three new varieties from my current seed catalogue.
Memphis F1 is a late August September variety which has been bred in France and should have very high quality curds with strong heavy upright foliage giving excellent curd protection. Minneapolis F1 is a late September type, really vigorous and the curds have the protection of a strong solid frame of foliage. The last variety will be Liberty F1, an extra white variety that has been bred from a male sterile range of Cauliflowers.
Once the seedling leaves have been fully developed they will be transplanted into 3 inch pots in Levington M2 making sure they are planted as deep as possible with the seedling leaf sitting very close to the top of the compost. As I have no room for Cauliflowers in my garden, they will eventually be planted out in a field but some will be potted on into larger pots and will eventually be planted under cover in the onion beds once the onions have been harvested.