Up-date on the Leeks and Onions
19th Jul 2001
The Summer so far has been quite kind over here in Anglesey with just the right amount of rain arriving just when it was required.
We had a few very hot days during early July and I was more than pleased that I had erected a temporary structure above the leeks growing area made from wooden battens. To these battens I had stapled two large strips of fleece and this certainly did the job of defusing the heat from the sun and prevented from burning through the tender bubbly foliage of the Welsh leek. This particular selection of Leek, that was first grown by Ivor Mace from seed, is totally different to the old variety. The old type had a thinner flag that didn't separate which causes the bubbling, this is actually true about the Peter Clark leek as well.
I can't believe how well they are doing at the moment, one leek in particular which was smaller at the time of planting than any of the others, was kept back in it's pot as I had no room in my beds for it at the time. A fortnight or so later one of my onions in the second tunnel collapsed for some unknown reason so I planted this leek in the same planting hole. The growth was unbelievable and very soon caught up with all the other good ones and has by now passed them by. I measured this particular leek on Sunday the 8th July and to my amazement it was 8.85 around and 14 inches to the button. I am well aware that the world was apparently created when the big bang happened, well hang on to something solid because the next big bang you hear could be my leeks splitting!
The onions are doing well too, I have a very even bed which was also measured on the above date and they varied between 20 and 21 inches in circumference and looking like they have plenty of growth left in them. The necks are firm, large and fresh looking with 15 leaves still on them. I have spotted a small infestation of Thrips on some so I shall give them another spray of Polysect to keep them relatively free from this pest. I only have 23 onions in which to select from but I am very happy that from the 23 I should be able to harvest 20 good onions of an even shape. I have only been able to do this of course because of the process of reselecting that I have been doing over the past 6 years or so and is now paying dividends.
The other noteworthy thing about the onions this year, and a reason for their improvement, is the fact that I renewed the lamps when they were growing in the growth cabinet. It has made an amazing difference as the plants from day one were completely different and looked stronger and sturdier than they had for a few years. This careful and adequate use of artificial lights early on has carried through to the plants even at this stage, the foliage is large and heavy and the bottom leaf is sitting very low down on the bulbs shoulder. Last year it was a different case with the onions, though reasonably sized, they all had long necks and the diameter of the neck itself was half of what these are.
They have all now been dressed to the final skin and this final skin has a lovely green leaf still attached to it. This means that I will be able to harvest onions that will colour up nice and even all over, particularly the base of the bulb. I soon learnt many years ago that if you harvest a bulb from the bed that has a dying or dead leaf attached to the finished skin then it won't colour up as even. The decision on when to start lifting the onions is a crucial one, particularly this year as they look full of growth and could really grow on to be quite large onions.
The timing is really based on when you want to show the onions, in my case this year it will be at the National Championships at Margam Park on the 26th and 27th August. As I have made a decision to harvest these onions when around the 22 inch mark, then they will need, at this sort of size and weight, five weeks to ripen properly. This coming Sunday therefore, the 22nd I shall select all those in the bed that are 22 inches around. I shall also be keeping a close eye on some of those slightly smaller and they will aslo be harvested when they achieve that size.
Because of the excellent condition that the onions are in and seemingly still full of growth, I am tempted to leave a few in the bed to grow on just to see how large they will get. I know for a fact that the pedigree is in the onion as they have all descended from the one onion that was kindly given to me by Mel Ednie some 6 years ago.
The one other thing that I did at the time of measuring up the onions over a week ago was to give them a feed of Phostrogen to harden them up. Phostrogen is high in potash whilst at the same time having some nitrogen for continued growth, every bulb was given a pint at full strength.
I shall certainly keep you posted as to how they get on.