Trying to take a break from the Garden!
29th Dec 2004
Between Christmas and the New Year I try to give myself a little break from the garden. In the end though I inevitably get involved in carrying out some chore or other as I pop into the garden and greenhouses to make sure everything is on song.
The onions and leeks will almost certainly need the odd drop of water to keep them ticking over, but be wary of over doing the watering. As I have said before, water is the biggest carrier of disease in any greenhouse and splashing too much of it around will always leave your plants exposed to a variety of problems, particularly Botrytis.At this time of year in particular, this problem is usually more prevalent as low temperatures, coupled with low levels of light and a damp environment tends to see diseases appear. Try and maintain a buoyant growing regime, one where you have a minimum of 50°F, if possible 55F together with good light.When watering various things, never treat them wholesale with a watering can, be judicious in your application. Use a small litre or two litre little can and water only those cells that require some moisture at that particular moment.
Whatever means of lighting you have at your disposal, try and lower the unit down so that the light is directed fully on the growing foliage. If you are using fluorescent tubes you can do this without too much fear of heat scorching the leaves. If you are using a 400 watt lamp though, be careful that the obvious heat, as well as light, generated from such a high wattage unit doesn't cause any damage to the tips of the leaves. If you do have a good growing environment inside your growing cabinet, be wary also of aphids that quickly colonise on the stems of your leeks and onions.
Even though I completely clean out my greenhouse every year, washing in some Armillatox to every nook and cranny, I still get the odd greenfly determined to make a mockery of my cleaning, how on earth they sometimes manage to get there amazes me. Whenever you get into the greenhouse to water your plants, train yourself to spend an extra few minutes every time just looking closely at the plants. You"ll be surprised how often you can pass by a problem simply by not looking closely enough for problems that can arise in such a growing environment.
The greenfly generally tend to congregate around the base of the plant clinging themselves to the stem at compost level, these can easily be controlled by using any liquid pesticide or even some household washing up liquid which will generally knock them off. Watch out for some tiny dust like red specks developing on the outer and older leaves of the plant. This can be the start of the rust disease and under such ideal growing conditions, the disease can sporolate quickly and spread onto all your leeks. Again spraying with a good concentrate of washing up liquid, about a teaspoon to a litre will encapsulate the spore whilst at the same time forming a protective sheen on the leaves than can repel the spores from settling on them.
Keep your eye out for bendy growths as well on the young leeks at pot level. This can often happen when the older outer leaf or flag won't dislodge itself from the base of the stem making the growth rate of the plant form a loop. If you don"t spot this early enough and snap off the offending leaf from the stem, it can render the plant not worth continuing with.
I have to admit that I'm very partial to a lettuce sandwich, particularly if I have grown them myself and more so if they are the tasty heart of the butterhead variety. I always sow a small pinch of different varieties around the Christmas period in a small tray and within a matter of a few days they will have germinated. I transplant them into 24 cells in a tray using Levington F2S, these are then potted on into 3 inch pots and eventually into six inch pots. The last thing you want with lettuce is a glut of them, so I try not to move all the seedlings on into bigger pots at the same time. I will also take a few outside into my polytunnel covering them over with two layers of fleece. These 24, together with another little sowing later on, will keep me supplied with lettuce for quite a long time.
Long and Short Carrots, Long Beet and Leeks
My stock plants of long and short carrots, long beet, as well as leeks will also need inspection over this festive period. They are all currently in my polytunnel and are covered over with fleece which will offer them a rise of some 5 degrees above the air temperature. I make sure that the fleece is well tucked in underneath all the pots to prevent any draft from getting at them. Prior to laying the fleece over the plants, spread a few slug pellets around, if you don't, you'll be amazed how much damage these can cause even in the depth of winter.