My early sowing of leeks and onions, just as I thought, are now a source of worry. They were of course intended for the Chelsea Flower Show in about three weeks time, but as I pulled out of that show I still planted them hoping that they might make it for the Tatton Park Flower show during mid July. The onions are quite something at the moment and would probably have been the best that I would have shown at Chelsea. The biggest is now approaching 18 inches in circumference with plenty of top still on it and still pushing young growth from the centre.
The bulk of them will probably grow on for another 2 to three weeks until around mid May and I will probably lift them around the end of that month. This means they will have to last for a further 7 weeks before I can stage them at Tatton, depending of course if they are going to be worth staging. I have on one occasion, 2010, shown some onions that had been on my stand at Chelsea and the same onions, with a couple of others from a later sowing, again formed part of my display at Malvern on the same year. Obviously there were a few split skins but they were still good enough to help me gain another gold medal.
For some reason there are a few bulbs in pots that are looking very powerful and at the moment reluctant to swell out. They look like they could be really big specimens as they are on 18 leaves with powerful looking stems.
I do have a back up of onions this year, I have 26 just planted up in 30 litre pots in the large glasshouse on the land and a further 20 to go outside in my old celery bed with mesh all around them. The latter will happen when the weather improves considerably as it’s very cold here at the moment.
The leeks for Tatton are possibly my best bet for making it on the day even though they are now 6¾” in circumference. They are currently on 18 inch collars and they have certainly slowed down the lengthening process. I will have to monitor them carefully as I had full intensions of increasing the collar length to 21″. However if they are hesitant to pull I may well have to leave them on 18 inches and hope they don’t split on me. I am more convinced than ever that to get the length on the Pendle, up to 21 inches say, they certainly need to be pulled young and on a regular basis. If they get to a certain girth they do seem very reluctant to pull upwards after that.
The problem is if you put a collar on that’s too tall they won’t pull and all you do is spoil the whole leek as you will simply just blanch the lower foliage. When that happens no amount of stripping will improve the length, indeed it will probably spoil it. I seem to have a constant battle with whitefly this year and though the yellow sticky traps catch a lot of them still need to make contact with it. I have used a new spray which seems to be very effective, it’s called ‘Chess’ and works without killing any beneficial insects as well. It’s not an instant knock down but takes up to four days to work followed with another spray in four days or so.
Chess is a commercial product and claims the following – Unique chemistry and mode of action, Prevents aphids feeding in minutes, they then die from starvation. Activity observed on a range of other sucking insects as well. Excellent crop safety and as I said it’s safe to most beneficial insects. This is available from Fargro Ltd.