Producing Leek Bulbils for next year and problems with Barrels splitting
11th Oct 2001
I was pleased enough with my leeks this year although from the end of July onwards I still had a problem once more with the barrels splitting. However as they split early enough in the growing season they soon grew away again and I was a able to be in the cards at the National as well as winning the class at the North Wales Show at Wrexham. They were without a doubt the longest leeks that I have ever grown and those that I stages at Wrexham were 22 inches to the button and 8 inches in circumference.
The problem this year with the splitting was undoubtedly of my own doing as I'm convinced that I collared them too high too early in the season. This meant that as the leek had to stretch upwards to try and get to the light whilst at the same time putting on more weight, something just had to give. As this was happening the leek had to abort some of the outer skins or flags. The 21 inch collars went around them on the 12th July when they all measured over 8 inches around. Next year I shall keep them on the 18 inch collars until well into August and until the leek shows that it is in need of an extended collar.
Growing from Seed
This year for the first time, I have grown a new leek from seed that I have had crossed for me so this will effectively be the first ever F1 hybrid leek that truly has phenomenal show potential. I only grew three plants that were given to me by a friend of mine Gareth Roberts from Eglwys Bach and he had sown them on the 16th December. One of the parents in the hybrid cross is the Welsh Seedling together with a male sterile leek plant that also had show potential. The colour of the flags is unbelievably dark green without a speckle of white anywhere which means that it is perfectly clean and free from any viruses.
The good thing about this leek, as it comes good on the show bench, is the fact that there is no fear of any viruses getting to it as the seed will be clean from year to year. They were planted, just to see how they performed, about 9 inches apart in a corner of my leek tunnel and currently measure 7½ inches around and 15 inches to the button. Had I really given them the time and space that they really should have had with even 18 inch collars on them I am confident that this leek could be big winner. As I am writing this article towards the end of September none of the three leeks are showing any signs of splitting with only one flag being removed at a time leaving a beautifully tight rounded button. This will be for sale in my new catalogue under the name of TOZ0080 and I shall certainly be growing enough for one bed of them.
All the leeks that I have exhibited to date have now been re planted with the purpose of producing more bulbils or pips from the same stock for next year. The way that I do this is to cut through the barrel of the leek about six inches or so above the root plate and then remove the current roots as well as removing a few layer of flags from the barrel to reduce the diameter to match that of the root plate. This way there is an area of land above the old root plate where new roots will develop to sustain the leek through to next year and to produce a new seed head. It only takes a few weeks for the leek to develop some roots and very soon the flags can be seen developing and extending out of the old barrel.
As most of the leeks used were put down for bulbil production from the end of August onwards they have been able to root steadily within my cold frame without any need to bring them indoors. However the leeks that I have producing bulbils for rooting from the end of October onwards will now be taken from the cold frame and inside one of my polytunnels to prevent too much rain getting in to the head and causing premature rooting of the bulbils. The heads are now getting full and look like being the best lot of bulbils that I have had for many years. Before they are taken inside the polytunnel the heads will be given a spray with an insecticide to make sure that they are clean from any pests. I shall cover how to remove and root the bulbils at a later stage.
The reason for the bulbils being of better quality this year is partly due to the fact that I have sprayed them regularly to maintain a clean stock as well as giving them a steady feed using the Phostrogen Time Release Container plant food. This comes in the form of a cluster of small pellets and three of these were pushed into the compost in each 9 inch pot during late April. This means that the plant has a steady supply of nutrients with an NPK of 20-10-20 for up to six months.
The other reason for a successful lot of good quality heads is that they have been grown hard, they were grown outside most of the time and were only taken indoors very early on in the year when we had a lot of snow and some hard nights of frost. This way the plant is growing steady and not romping away producing heads that are far too early with the consequence that the bulbils are too early and often ready for use during August. Of course bulbils used at that time for growing leeks for next years Summer shows would inevitably go to seed. However in my case, these are an absolute must for me as they are the ones that I use on my Chelsea Display during May. They are now in my cold greenhouse in 3½ pots using Levington F2s and will next week be transferred from my garden to the larger greenhouses at Bangor where they will grow through to next May.