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Growing the biggest and best leeks for Tatton Park

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Gary Hillery Gary Hillery | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 24 July 2011

After exhibiting five Back to Back gardens Finchale College, Durham is building their first Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park. The garden called the ‘Schedule’ celebrates the time when every village in the North East had at least one leek show.

The garden is designed by the College staff and students and we have grown most of the plants for the garden. This year has been completely different from all others. We have grown a selection of vegetables that would have been entered into the classes for most of the shows in our region.

Giant leeks

Potted leeks the star of the show

Pot leeks being the star of the show. A pot leek must be less than 6 inches from the button (the place where the leaf joins) to the base of the plant. Then the circumference is measured and the two measurements give a measure of cubic inches. Good growers can produce over 250 cubic inches and can be in excess of 300 cubic inches. This was not the case when I grew leeks twenty years ago when 150 inches won the show.

Leek shows were only part of every village in North East England, but now most have closed and only a few shows have survived. Many prizes from tea sets to wardrobes have been prizes from the 60s and probably earlier.

The Garden was assembled on the plot at the RHS show grounds by the staff and students from Finchale College. All the leeks look great with the largest at 16 inches round. Each leek was set from grass planted on the 22/11/10 and has had many hours growing under grow lights getting it ready 6 weeks early than usual.

Giant leek

 

All the vegetables have been grown in pots so that they can be transported from Durham to Tatton. The leeks variety Yorkshire Greens, started off in 9cm pots and once the roots touched the sides of the pot they are potted on into the next size pot. Some times this was weekly. Then finally in 65 litre pots which they have been grown on in.

Normally the leeks would be planted into a leek trench (a raised bed made for leeks) in May, then grown on until the show in September.

Common pests and diseases for leeks include thrips, red spider mite and rust. Treating of the pests can be difficult as predators do not like the leaves of the leeks. Also using chemicals can be a little difficult as it tends to run straight off.

Carrots, parsnips and long beet have all been grown in a 45 gallon barrels filled with sharp sand with a core removed and replaced with Medwyn Williams mix. Three seeds were placed in each core and the strongest seedling selected by trimming the weakest ones with scissors. These have now grown and hopefully will be long and straight in the barrels.

Schedule Show Garden RHS Show Tatton Park

Schedule Show Garden at RHS Show Tatton Park

The cabbages and cauliflowers have all been sown to look good in July. The Cabbage Ramco is ready and it hopefully will hold for the show. Robinson Giant Cabbage is looking huge and has plenty growth to come. The Cauliflowers Beauty also looks big and healthy with plenty of growth still to come.

Now that we are well on with the show and meeting up with friends that we have not seen for a year, the garden is making excellent progress and for a change the Cheshire weather has been dry.

Gary Hillery is the horticulture instructor at Finchale College, Durham and has designed and managed the growing of the plants the 'Schedule' Show Garden alongside Ken Walton. Their Show Garden was awarded gold at this year's RHS Show Tatton Park.

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