Welsh Seedling Leeks
12th Jun 1997
Two of the three beds in my far polytunnel have been planted up with the Welsh seedling leek whilst the other bed has nine plants of the Ivor Mace new Welsh seedling. When they were first planted up there was hardly any noticeable difference in growth pattern apart from the foliage of the new leek being of a more even and deeper green colour. This is an excellent hint that the new leek is currently free from the range of viruses that can really prevent all leeks from achieving their optimum potential.
The plants were given to me in 3½" pots in March and subsequently potted on into five inch square pots from which they were planted into their beds. They are slightly behind the old one at the moment but the signs are that it's vigorous growth pattern will surely make the plants equal in no time at all. The other interesting habit of the plant is the foliage as its growing, it stays erect far longer than the other which again is as a result of it being virus free with the power within the plant being very self evident.
They are now all on 18" collars which are made from builders plastic damp course material and is perfect for this work and far superior to using the old clay pipes. The best way with the damp course is to purchase a roll 18" wide and this should be enough for all the difference range of collars that you may require. The first piece of material would be cut to 9" x 12" and the second one cut to 15" x 18", this then means that by rolling the collars along the different dimensions it gives you four different sizes. This allows you to increase the height of your blanch in three inch stages and if your leek is really growing well you can of course increase the collar height to 21" and even 24".
Collaring however must not be a process that you speed through otherwise you will end up with very long leeks but lacking in the correct balance of sufficient girth to make the telling difference between a good stand of leeks and a top quality one. On the other hand don"t leave it too long between collars hoping for the girth to increase, there does come a point when the leek won't pull, particularly after it has started to tighten up on it"s flag pattern leaving hardly any gaps between one flag and the next.
Make sure from now on, as the leek increases in size and weight, that a strong cane is positioned next to each leek and also a system of support for what will very soon be really heavy flags. Last year I used the same method as Steve Harries, four strong canes around each leek and then a then split cane attached from one cane to the other on which the flags sit. This year I have reverted to hanging down some chains from the polytunnel hoops, the chains being positioned about nine inches away from the centre of the leek. To these chains I then attach some hooks which are made from stiff fencing wire with one end formed in a perfect circle, the other into a small hook which fits into the chain's links.
The system works by sliding the hook on to some old plastic drainage rods about ten foot long and an inch in diameter which I have had for many years. These plastic pipes are then raised so that they sit just slightly above the arc of the naturally bending flag, the weight of the flags will then be sitting on the pipe and supported by the chains. As the leeks are growing so the pipes can easily be raised by removing the hook end of the clip from one link in the chain and positioning it higher up on the same chain. It's always handy to have someone with you when you are doing this job, just to run his eye along the pipes to make sure that they have all ended up level. There is rarely a more satisfying site than looking inside a tunnel door on a row of well grown and well supported leeks.
Rust and Thrips
Keep a careful look out from now on for any rust postules that may appear, they inevitably start off on the older foliage and inevitably you will have to revert to spraying with a suitable fungicide such as Tumble blight or Nimrod T. Also the dreaded thrips can be active now, often much more active that you would like, so keep a keen eye right inside the inner flags. There's nothing better than a good magnifying glass to see the real evidence, they can easily be seen munching away on the young inner shoots. They are very difficult to control when established and can severely reduce the Show potential of your crop. They will also leave their calling card by way of the dull silvery sheen on the flags which a judge will immediately recognise as Thrip damage and knock off points for poor condition.