Lack of Space in the Greenhouses
9th May 2005
Bench Space and Cavity Space
The pressure is really on in my Greenhouses from now on, not so much pressure from mental stress, but pressure because of the lack of space. At this time of year both my 12ft by 8ft greenhouses are bursting at the seams, even though I have had to start utilising my cold frame and both polytunnels. The fact is that the pressure for space is unlikely to go away either until the season progresses and it's time to plant out some of the material. The fight for room, with the constant juggling of plants around can be a real headache. As they grow on, so they demand more space which is quite important to release if you are to reap your just rewards for the time taken in nurturing them to their full potential.
I look upon greenhouse space in two ways, bench space and cavity space, in other words the space or lack of it above the benches before you are restricted with the level of glass. Granted that a lot of this can be alleviated if the whole greenhouse growing area is properly thought through during the quieter periods of late Autumn. In my case I have deliberately lowered the level of my heated bench, which is part of my growing cabinet, as well as the level of the adjoining one.
Onions and Blanch Leeks
Two plants in particular at this time of year will require in reality more space above the bench than they do along it: onions and blanch leeks. The last thing you want with both of these is to grow the plants on a bench where they are very likely to meet with restricted upward space. In such cases the plants are certain to suffer as the foliage is pressed up against the glass, suffering from the suns direct heat as well as possibly from frost. To make sure that I don"t have this problem, both my benches are approximately 15 inches above ground level which allows ample upward room for development. Having plenty of height above the bench makes it also a lot simpler to give proper attention to the plants as they are growing.
Every time I go into the greenhouse to check on the plants requirements, I have a good look around to see if they are growing away without any problems. One problem that can regularly occur, seemingly more so with onions than leeks, is the fact that the centre growth can often work it's way outside of the plastic plant support clips. If such a situation were to be allowed to continue unchecked, there is a possibility of the stem being forced to bend over. If the plants are growing in a restricted space it means that you may well have to move some of them off the bench to gain access to those at the back in order to undo and re position the clips.
I'm having a go at a new blanch leek as well this year after seeing it staged in Harrogate by David Metcalfe. David didn't have the best of seasons last year by any means with either his leeks or onions, but I did see sufficient merits in his new leek to warrant giving it a good go. It is actually a new cross with the Welsh seedling leek that he's been working on for a couple of years and he has christened it the Pendle leek from the area where he lives. It's certainly a powerful looking selection that has all the potential of the Welsh seedling but hopefully without some of its drawbacks.
There's no doubt that the Welsh seedling is sometimes prone to bulbing out at the base which can often put the judge off what could be otherwise an excellent set of leeks. What I have seen of the Pendle so far seems to imply that, if anything, it has a tendency to taper inwards slightly. The skin is also refined with the flags being not quite as thick as the Welsh seedling and less prone to puckering and the eventual possibility of the flags burning out. Watch out for this leek on the show benches this coming season, particularly at Harrogate, as David has released a few seedlings last Autumn. Knowing David to be an articulate grower and a top showman, I have a gut feeling that this leek could be the one to dislodged the Welsh seedling from it's pedestal, particularly when he's finally finished tweaking his re selection.
I must remember to sow my own strain of F1 hybrid celery this week which should cover me for the Welsh National Championships at Wrexham as well as the National itself at Dundee. I have four F1 hybrid strains that have been specifically hybridised for me by Dr Peter Dawson, the breeder of Gladiator parsnip, they are as follows, Starburst F1, Evening Star F1, Redstar F1, Morning Star F1. All of them have been crossed with the winning old variety Ideal and all of them have mad their mark on the show benches. Starburst was the very first hybrid and it soon became evident that it was going to be superior to Ideal in many ways.
Evening Star and Redstar have certainly proved themselves over the past few years with both Chris Hewlett and his next door neighbour and friend Bob Brown having numerous successes with both varieties. In my mind though, I think Morning Star has a great potential to be every bit as good as the latter if not better. I grew it for Chelsea last year and was quite amazed at it's power when grown to maturity in nothing more than a florist bucket. Sow the seed thinly on top of some fine quality seed compost and very lightly cover over with some Fine grade Vermiculite. Moisten well and place in a Propagator for even germination in two to three weeks time.