Madhouse Time in the Greenhouses
30th Jan 2003
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Busy in the Greenhouses
It's madhouse time over at the greenhouses in Bangor at the moment with everything needing to be done at the same time, seed sowing, transplanting, and potting on being just a few things. I am of course talking primarily about my vegetables for the Chelsea display during the third week of May. My biggest worry with such a large venture is two fold, either the plants won"t be ready on time or they will be ready too early. Both scenarios in many ways can, and should be controlled, with the keeping of a good diary.
Indian Summer Sweetcorn
However it doesn't matter how good the diary is if I actually forget to sow a certain item, a few days wont make any difference, but two weeks can. Last year I missed badly on my Sweet Corn having forgotten to sow it, for some reason or other, until two weeks after the allotted date. The consequence was that I missed out on two dishes, the yellow and the multi coloured sweet corn called Indian Summer which is available from Suttons. The latter is a particularly easy corn to grow and highly productive with the tastiest of cobs anyone could ever wish for, well worth a go.
Blanch and Pot Leeks
Both my Blanch and Pot leeks for Chelsea are certainly the best plants that I have ever grown for the show, they are well ahead of previous years. The main reason is the fact that they are both vigorous growers, they are the Peter Holden selection of the Welsh seedling blanch leek and the Cumbrian Pot leek. The Blanch leek was started off from bulbils during mid August and the Cumbrian was started off on my return from the Gateshead show after having them from my friend John Soulsby. For some reason this year, they have both taken off without any problems whatsoever and should make really good specimens for Chelsea.
As last year, they are being grown on steel benches topped with wire mesh and again topped with Link-a-Bord. This is undoubtedly a brilliant system of creating your own garden, whether it be above ground or on the ground such as on patio areas. It is a very simply patented device that is based on plastic corner pieces that easily hold together lengths of cavity plastic planking to any length that you like. In my case I have two lengths of 6 inches wide planking sitting on top of each other and held together with plastic dowels pushed through pre drilled holes. These have formed a series of five boxes that cover the width of a bench and a metre long. This means that you can build up, within reason, as high as you want by just using varying lengths of doweling.
The beauty of the system is that I can dismantle the whole series of beds after Chelsea, wash them down, and re use them again indefinitely. Though my beds are only 11 inches deep at the most the leeks just love to grow in them. I first cover the wire mesh below the plastic boxes with some thin perforated black polythene which easily allows any excess build up of moisture to easily drain away. The bottom layer of boxes this year were filled with about 4 inches of specially selected and graded sterilised soil which is available in 25 litre bags from Westland Horticulture and the remainder was filled with Levingtons M3.The Westland Graded and sterilised soil is undoubtedly a superb product, this is what I used last year to add to my mixes for long carrots and parsnips. The long carrots were the without a doubt the heaviest that I have ever grown and the skin finish on them was superb as well. The leeks were all planted during mid December (picture attached) which is at least a month earlier than previous years. This week the blanch leeks will need to be collared with black plastic DPC (Damp Proof Course) when they will immediately take a 12 inch collar.
The blanch leeks at home, which will hopefully be the once for the August September shows, are now in 24 cells and looking quite well. They were potted up in Levington M2 and are now in need to be moved on again. The next size pot will be either 15 cells in a full size seed tray or a 3½ inch pot and the compost will be 3 part Levington M2 with 1 part Westlands Top soil. Added to this will be 1 part of fine Vermiculite and this have proven to me over the past few years to be instrumental in creating a good strong healthy root system
Once potted up they will go back under the artificial lights which are two Philips SGR 400 with SON T Aggro lamps in them, each one is 400 watts. The two lamps cover the whole of the growing cabinet which 12 ft long by 3 ft wide and the light intensity in there is excellent. The pots are sitting on three inches of concrete sand into which is buried an electric soil cable with thermostat control. This temperature is set at 70°F which is excellent towards pulling the roots down inside the pots thereby strengthening them and in turn producing strong top growth.
A Word of Warning
One word of caution however, make absolutely sure that the sand never dries out. Its the moisture within the pores, between the grains of sand, that is heated up to give the warm humidity that is so advantageous towards good plant development. If the sand dries out then there is a distinct possibility that the compost in the lower half of the pots will also dry out, this can burn out or shrivel up completely the roots. It"s more likely to happen when the propagating bench is full of pots and difficult to see the condition of the sand. Remove pots therefore on a regular basis to apply more water as required to the bed.