The past few days we’ve been planting out leeks. We love these so much for winter harvests that we plan to plant about 3600 (5 beds at 90′ long, with 4 rows in each, and plants 6″ apart).
We sow March 21 and April 20 or so. Some people start leeks earlier, in the greenhouse, but we don’t want leeks in August (why compete with tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn and all the other summer delights?). By starting in late March, we can sow the seeds outdoors in a nursery bed, and just transplant the bare-root leeks when the time comes.
This year April was hot and dry here, and I failed to get good germination with the March sowing (it’s now a copse of galinsoga), so we’re relying on the April sowing to give us all we need. Luckily the weather cooled down, and the second sowing came up well. Leeks do grow slowly, and don’t compete well with weeds, so we did have to “rediscover” them a few weeks ago.
Now they are big enough to plant (between a pencil-lead and a pencil in thickness). We make a map of our nursery bed, because we are growing 5 varieties and don’t want them mixed up. We have fast-growing Lincoln and King Richard for eating in October and November, King Sieg for December, and the hardy Tadorna for December to February. We can eat 720 per month in winter, between a hundred people. They make a nice change from leafy greens and root vegetables, and they are a good source of onion flavor after our bulb onions have all been eaten.
To plant them, we make deep furrows down the bed, then dibble holes every 6″ in the bottom of the furrows. We dig up some seedlings and put them in small buckets of water. having the roots covered in water helps the plants separate from each other, and stay in good shape in hot weather. Leeks are the only thing we’d even consider transplanting in the mornings here, as the afternoon temperatures can be brutal. Because leeks don’t have wide spreading leaves, they don’t lose water fast.
We shake out a plant separate from its neighbors, then twirl it down into a hole. Sometimes bobbing it up and down helps settle it with the roots at the bottom of the hole and not folded back on themselves. Having wet roots makes this task easier. After planting a section, we bring cans of water and fill up the holes. The goal is to fill the hole with water but not with soil, leaving the small plants protected from sunshine, deep in the hole. They have room to grow a bit before the soil fills in the hole. This gives long white shanks without the need to h
On Monday, after planting the first bed, we had a heavy rain, which filled in the holes anyway, totally covering the smaller leeks. We’ll need to do some remedial gap-filling later. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we planted more beds. Today I decided discretion was the better part of valor, and in view of the forecast for temperatures over 100F for the next 3 days, we’d hold off on more planting till Monday. We have plenty of other jobs we can do!