Don't Get Disheartened
30th Aug 2001
There's nothing worse than having no success at all from a season of hard work, nothing perhaps going well, only failures right along the way. If you have felt that way, don't worry about it, your not the only one, I have had a few disappointing seasons in my time. However this season has been a reasonably good one and I have really enjoyed every minute of it simply because the vegetables on the whole were good.
Tomatoes over the past few years have been a real nightmare for me with Botrytis in particualr making a mess of the plants and fruit.
This year I went to a lot less trouble with the bed than I have in the past, just using Gro bags, emptied into the timber framed bed that's on a concrete floor and my results have been the best ever.
I have, on the advice of Frank Mercer reduced the number of plants in the bed so as not to create a situation where the foliage is really pressing against each other causing the Botrytis to spread like wildfire.
The other problem in the past were the swarms of whitely that I used to get nearly every year having to revert to all sort of pesticides in order to try and keep them at bay. I had it so bad one year that as soon as I entered the greenhouse and moved some of the leaves, there would be clouds of them all over the place, even right up my nostrils.
Cleaning the Greenhouse
I soon realised that I would have to do something drastic if I was to control this pest adequately and without the over use of Pesticides. About four years ago I decided to re vamp the whole greenhouse so everything was cleared out that Autumn. At that time I had a border of soil along one side which I used to store top soil on so that it could be easily riddled during a wet Spring and used in my carrot and Parsnip mixes.
All of this soil was removed and the whole are concreted over and every year since then I clear out the greenhouse during late Autumn and the whole structure, including the floor, is given a really good clean using a strong dilution of Armillatox. Since I have done this I haven"t seen a single white fly in my greenhouse and I am now so confident that I don't even spray them with any pesticide at all. The problem must have been because the odd weed or so would spring up in the soil underneath the benches and these must have acted as host plants to the white fly.
The tomatoes were given a weekly feed of N A Kays formulation of tomato feed as soon as the tomatoes were forming and it seems to have done a good job for me. They are still cropping well and I may well have ago at a few other shows during September. Another difference this year was that I never covered the glass over with my usual green netting to shade the plants from the direct rays of the sun. This green netting was quite dense and I always though that it might well have been keeping too much light out of the house, particularly on dull days. This year I dispensed with it and reverted to spraying the tomato side of the greenhouse glass with Coolglass and it is has made a big difference. Unfortunately it's the perfect place for my Grandchildren's little fingers to write names on it!!
Whilst all the shows have been on I have had very little time to look after my stock plants, the leek heads are the best that I have had for a few years, they are looking really fresh and healthy. Best of all however they have been considerably slower to throw off the cap on the flower head. This means that I should be able to use bulbils or pips towards the end of October early November that will be mush fresher and therefore root a lot quicker with less chance of them harbouring diseases.
If you have tried to keep your own stock leeks then you have a few options open to you. If you want to try and develop a new strain then the best way of starting that is to save a few seeds from the seed head and sow them all. Later on that year you can then observe these seedlings and if you think you have one that looks as if it could win on the show bench then you can grow it on the following year from bulbils off the head.
On most leeks, once the seed head cap has opened and the flowers exposed there will also be some bulbils already visible around the lower extremities of the head. These will be few and not really sufficient to have a good selection from, so the best way is to remove all the flowers from the head completely. (if you just want bulbils, if you also want some seed, then leave a tuft of flowers at the top for seed production) I try and delay this as long as possible but before the flowers start to die back for producing seed, I prefer to use a sharp knife and remove every flower from the head as well as any straggly bulbils that may have been already on the head. After removal I give the head a spray of a pesticide and fungicide to keep it clean.