Competing with Blanch Leeks
10th Dec 1997
If you intend having a serious go at competing with the blanch leeks during the 1998 season, then you should have started them off about a month ago. As I wrote a few weeks back, all of the blanch leeks that win at the highest level are grown from bulbils or pips and rarely from seed. If therefore you haven't got any of these then there's plenty of rooted bulbils or pips to be had from top growers who regularly advertise at the rear of Garden News.
Steve Harris is one such top grower who has won most of the major competitions with the Ivor Mace's Welsh seedling and I know that he has plenty of well rooted pips for sale, phone him on 01443 772 189. An interesting development for this coming year will be the introduction of two new leeks from Ivor Mace, one is the Welsh Arrow and the other, as yet without a name, is a completely cleaned up strain of the original Welsh Seedling. The Welsh Arrow formed most of my central large column of leeks at Chelsea last year and I have to say that it was a much more vigorous grower than the Welsh seedling.
I had both varieties growing next to each other in 12" pots in a mixture made up of 3 parts Levington M3 two parts sieved soil from my leek bed and 1 part fine Vermiculite with two ounces of Chempak BTD added to a bushel. The Welsh Seedling was actually struck a month before Ivor gave me the Welsh Arrow but in the end the Welsh Arrow was a much stronger and more vigorous plant. It also pulled much easier than the original and I had to keep following the button upwards with longer collars to keep up with the blanching.
When it came time to pull them for Chelsea though the difference in root development was fantastic, I could hold around the black damp course that I use for blanching and pull the Welsh seedling out of the pot with relative ease, not so with the Welsh Arrow. When pulling this one I had to revert to using a hand fork to break up the roots around the periphery of the leek before I could remove it.
The new Welsh Seedling has not been out on the benches as yet but the parent plants looked terrific as they had all been cleaned up and should now be virus free. I have already had some of these from Ivor and they are really romping away and are already into 9" pots with beautiful clean deep green flags that have no visible trace of virus in them. I"m hoping that these leeks are going to form part of the Vegetable display that I am taking over to Cincinnati in Ohio at the end of April next year together with my large onions, long carrots, parsnips potatoes and long beetroot.
The leeks that I have growing for next years shows are now in 3" pots in the following mixture, three parts Levington M2, 1 part soil from the leek bed and one part moist vermiculite. This mixture was used last year as well for both leeks and onions when in the 3" pot stage, as they develop and are potted on, the soil to peat compost ratio will increase. I shall give you this potting mixture as the season progresses.
Lighting and Heat
Make sure that the young leeks are well catered for from now on, not too much of anything and not too little either, mine will have the lights on above them for 24 hours with the air temperature being kept at a minimum of 55°F and preferably 60°F. They love bottom heat as well and I have my propagating bed set at 65°F, do make sure though that you check your temperatures on a regular basis as well as making sure that the sand or grit in your propagating bed is kept uniformly moist all the time. If the bed is allowed to dry out there is a danger for the compost in the lower half of the pot to dry out as well, this will be devastating for the leeks. The roots will shrivel and go brown and though they will more than likely recover, the shock that they had could well make them all go to seed at a later date.
Ivor's leek, as good as it may be will have some fierce competition this season from the seedling that Peter Clark has developed, Peter won the National Vegetable Society championships with his own strain as well getting the best exhibit in the show, a super dish of 6 leeks in every respect. I am therefore looking forward with relish to see which strain comes out on top at the National this coming season.