Bursting Foliage on the Leeks
2nd Sep 1998
My leeks seem to have recovered from the bad bout of bursting foliage that they had six weeks ago. It really was a good thing that it happened early in the season. Bursting of the flags, and I mean in the plural, where I had to remove between 4 and 6 flags in one go is a devastating blow at any time, but when it happens within a week or two of a show date, renders your chances of winning with them as nil. The barrel will be ribbed, the button will be well down in a long 'V' formation and a white collar above the root plate is a sure sign of where the flags were attached and from where new roots would develop given time.
Often, if growth has been spasmodic, the leek has no option but to burst the flags in order to rid itself of the older leaves that would be restricting new and stronger development from the centre.
Keeping the beds uniformly moist throughout the season is a necessity if you are going to prevent splitting; in my case, the beds never had enough water through them. For the past two years I have used the leaky pipe or porous pipe system throughout the leek and onion beds and unfortunately it didn't work well enough.
As the beds are all covered over with black and white polythene it isn't easy to water the soil apart from laying irrigation pipes underneath the polythene. The porous pipe is a system whereby a ½" bore pipe, made from re-cycled tyres, is laid about 2" deep along the beds and connected to the mains water supply through a pressure reducing valve. Water seeps through pores in the pipe and then through the bed by capillary action. Upon investigating further, I discovered that these pores holes had been blocked by the surrounding soil leaving areas of the bed dry.
Eva Flow Seeping Hose
Next year I intend to go back to my old method of using the Eva Flow polythene seeping hose. With this system you have to make sure that the polythene doesn't sit tight on top of the seeping hose as the small pin head orifices have to be uppermost in order to be effective. If the pipes are laid with the holes downwards then you effectively direct the water straight down to the bottom of the bed through the needle like jets of water. The answer is to form a bridge every now and again along the bed and underneath the polythene using bits of wood or wire so that the jet of water can hit the polythene and disperse evenly all over the bed. If you have raised beds made from brick or concrete blocks then it"s imperative that you have a run of the seeping hoses going near to the side of the block work as this is the area that will dry out first. You will then need another run between each row of plants.
Whichever system you use, it's important that, if you intend to feed the plants, you don't use a granular feed as, from my experience these feeds can still have some small granules in them after they have been diluted and they can block up the orifices. If any feeding has to be carried out, use a liquid fertiliser or water it in through the hole in the polythene directly around the plant. At this time a light feed of a high potash fertiliser would be beneficial if applied in the above manner to harden up the plant.
A few weeks before show date, when going through the leek beds, I remove every collar and measure each leek; the circumference is taken half way up the barrel and the length taken from the root plate to the button. These measurements are then written down with a label pen on to the white polythene right next to the leek. This is extremely useful and saves you a lot of time before a show as you will know exactly which leeks match each other and are therefore the only ones you need to lift.
Before lifting them, pull the flags together from the supporting canes and tie them with a string well above the button; the flags are so heavy that they can easily tear away from the barrel, possibly spoiling a good leek. Ideally you need assistance to lift the leek properly, one to hold the plant whilst the other pushes the fork into the soil, away from the leek but deep enough to lift a good portion of the root with it. Shake or tease off most of the soil. The roots and barrel need to be really cleaned using a high pressure spray to remove the last particle of soil from the root system. Wash the leek with the roots facing you and the flags sloping away and downwards; this is to ensure that no grit or dirt can find its way back into the middle of the flags. Wrap the roots and barrel in a moist cloth; another useful tip is to wrap the barrel afterwards with the collar in which it has been growing which will prevent any damage occurring to the leek in transit.
Stage on the show table side by side with the roots facing the front. Leave a gap between each leek approximately the size of a leek and make sure that the buttons are facing the same way and that the flags are carefully teased out and laid neat and tidy. Cover the leeks over with some dark material to prevent the barrel from starting to green over and don't forget to leave your exhibitors card face down underneath the exhibit.