Artificial Lighting and Leeks
7th Jan 1998
The original Welsh seedling is still very vigorous and doesn't appear to be affected by the different strains of virus that's supposed to be affecting it. The Welsh Arrow, a new seedling introduced by Ivor Mace this year is also now doing well, although it had a poor start as the pips were much smaller than any of the others.
The Peter Clark pips which were given to me by a Scottish grower when I attended their seminar in Stirling a few weeks ago are also getting established. These were lovely fresh clean bulbils and were struck into a tray of M3 on the 24 November, so they are currently slightly behind the others. The one that is really romping away though is the cleaned up version of the original Welsh seedling. The foliage shows why it's so vigorous, it"s a lovely fresh green colour with no hint of any whiteness or streaks in it as is usual when the leeks are riddled with virus. This will probably be the main bulk of my planting and the others will be planted by my father in his garden and the others at the University College Bangor so that I can monitor them with a view of getting stock leeks from them.
Earlier on in the year around the middle of August, I had a few leek heads that had started to die back with the result that the heads were beginning to suffer. The heads were full of bulbils and it's these bulbils that are used during November as propagating material to produce the leeks for the following Summer shows. The bulbils on the head would certainly not have remained healthy had they been left on so most were used as early propagating material and will hopefully form part of my display at Chelsea in May. One head however was placed in a paper bag and left at the bottom of the refrigerator, I have done this on other occasions when faced with the problem of loosing some valuable strong heads.
This is certainly not the way to propagated leeks from but it is certainly worth considering if your backs against the wall. I forgot all about this particular head until my wife enquired one day "what's this half dead material doing in the bottom of my refrigerator" the half dead material was of course my leek head, still in it's paper bag and badly shrivelled. Indeed there were no green foliage left just dried up tissue that was white or silvery looking, most of them though were still firm. During the first week of December I pricked as many of the firm once out as I thought had any life left in them. Much to my amazement nearly 90% of them have rooted and are now growing away in a tray at the college in Bangor; over three months from the day the head was removed. You certainly can't beat nature can you.
Potting On Mixture
My earlier leeks have now been potted on into 5" pots using a stronger mixture than when they were first potted up. The mixture this time was 4 parts Levington M3, 3 parts sieved soil from last years leek bed which was bagged up during October and left under the greenhouse benching to warm up; the third element was 1 part Vermiculite and finally 1 part of sieved leaf mould. The reason for adding the leaf mould was that Brian Gunning a relative newcomer to the exhibition veg growing from Wrexham brought me a bag over and I have to say it appeared to be good roughage that I feel the leeks will thrive on.
To this mix I also added a very small amount of Chempak potting base, the reason for this was that two of the added elements, namely the vermiculite and the leaf mould had very little if any plant food so this could balance out any deficiencies. They are certainly growing away strongly and seem to like the compost. A single split cane was placed near to the leek in each pot and one plastic plant support clip was utilised to prevent the plants from leaning over as they get themselves established into the new potting medium.
They are still receiving artificial lighting for 24 hours a day currently, but this will have to be reduced to 16 hours from the end of January onwards as I need to grow the onions inside the same growing cabinet this year.