Onion & Leek Beds - Problems with Access
11th Nov 1998
Unless you are fortunate to be retired and managing to get some hours in the garden during the daytime and getting on with the preparation work for next year, most of us must make as much use of the weekends as possible to complete the work. Believe me if the work of preparing the beds isn't carried out properly at this time of year and be finished if possible before Christmas, then your chances of winning at the highest level will certainly be reduced. The hardest work is preparing the beds thoroughly for the onions, leeks and celery and I have just dropped off my last trailer full of horse manure to complete the celery bed.
The main problem that I have, as those of you who have visited my garden know, is the lack of a rear entrance to get access into the back garden. The only access I have is along the side of the house which is only a footpath, this means that everything has to be wheel barrowed down to the back. I am always envious of those people who have a rear entrance where a lorry can reverse in and dump a few tonnes of manure or sand, the constant double and sometimes triple handling of material can be rather monotonous to say the least.
A few weeks ago I mentioned the problem that I had with my onion bed, I lost a huge number of onions through the disease White Rot and my intention at that time was to have the bed cleaned out by a commercial firm using Methyl Bromide. The problem however was the fact that my garden adjoins another and the onion beds are directly next to that garden so under the Health and Safety rules the company was unable to carry out the function.
This has meant a complete re think and because of the problems of access as mentioned above making it an enormous task to empty out all the soil from the beds and dispose of it, I have decide to try another tact in an attempt to minimise the problem. The beds where the onions were growing will now grow the blanch leeks and the beds that grew the blanch leeks will grow the onions. This might actually be a good thing as the furthest tunnel where the leeks have grown is much higher off the ground and receives sunlight all over throughout the day. The other tunnel is lower and therefore may well be better for the leeks as they need to be pulled anyway in order to increase the length of blanch.
I have never had the disease white rot on my leeks and I have never heard of growers who have either, they are of course the same family but the leek is much more resilient than the onion, at least that is what I am hoping for. As an added safety factor I have removed the top six inches of soil from the four beds that grew the onions last year and this was wheel barrowed up hill in bags and deposited around my herbaceous borders at the front of the house. I then incorporated fresh top soil that had been stacked up for over an year on a building site. Prior to this the remainder of the soil for a yard run of bed was removed down to path level and piled up on the path at the far end of the tunnel. This meant digging down to a depth of approximately 2 feet, the bottom was forked over and a layer of leaf mould incorporated. The soil was then placed back, again incorporating some more leaf mould and a few ounces of bone meal to a yard run of bed.
When I was within 9 inches or so of the top of the concrete block work, the fresh soil was then incorporated together with leaf mould and the old soil. The next step was to completely soak the beds with Armillatox at double strength, this can be a very tedious job but it has to be done if I am to have any chance at all of clearing the disease. The beds will have another dose around the new year and a further dose a few weeks prior to planting. A grower in Ireland phoned me up to say that he had the some problem as me a few years ago and managed to completely eradicate the disease by successive doses of Armillatox.
The new onion bed also had the same amount of top soil added as well as leaf mould in the same manner as above. However as I had sieved over thirty bags of this soil for use in my potting mixes for the leeks, onions and celery as well as my parsnip mixture and all the potting mixes at the University at Bangor for the Chelsea show, there was no need to find room for this material elsewhere. It might appear to be a large quantity to sieve and use but when you consider that I grow 30 leeks for Chelsea all of them ending up in either 14 inch pots or large florist buckets with a ratio of 2 parts M3 and 2 parts soil, believe me it soon vanishes.
My new coloured seed catalogue for 1999 is now available containing over a 100 varieties of vegetables all of which are proven winners on the show bench including many brand new varieties that are going to be certain winners. It also contains three new videos as well as my new book on how to cultivate the blanch leek. If you want to be amongst the red cards this coming season, please send for a copy together with 3 First class stamps to : Medwyn"s. Llanor, Old School Lane, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey. LL61 5RZ.