Leeks





Unwatered spring-sown bulbing onions are impossible. Leek is the
only allium I know of that may grow steadily but slowly through
severe drought; the water-short gardener can depend on leeks for a
fall/winter onion supply.
_Sowing date:_ Start a row or several short rows about 12 inches
apart on a nursery bed in March or early April at the latest. Grow
thickly, irrigate during May/June, and fertilize well so the
competing seedlings get leggy.
_Spacing:_ By mid-to late June the seedlings should be slightly
spindly, pencil-thick, and scallion size. With a sharp shovel, dig
out the nursery row, carefully retaining 5 or 6 inches of soil below
the seedlings. With a strong jet of water, blast away the soil and,
while doing this, gently separate the tangled roots so that as
little damage is done as possible. Make sure the roots don't dry out
before transplanting. After separation, I temporarily wrap bundled
seedlings in wet newspaper.
Dig out a foot-deep trench the width of an ordinary shovel and
carefully place this earth next to the trench. Sprinkle in a heavy
dose of organic fertilizer or strong compost, and spade that in so
the soil is fluffy and fertile 2 feet down. Do not immediately
refill the trench with the soil that was dug out. With a shovel
handle, poke a row of 6-inch-deep holes along the bottom of the
trench. If the nursery bed has grown well there should be about 4
inches of stem on each seedling before the first leaf attaches. If
the weather is hot and sunny, snip off about one-third to one-half
the leaf area to reduce transplanting shock. Drop one leek seedling
into each hole up to the point that the first leaf attaches to the
stalk, and mud it in with a cup or two of liquid fertilizer. As the
leeks grow, gradually refill the trench and even hill up soil around
the growing plants. This makes the better-tasting white part of the
stem get as long as possible. Avoid getting soil into the center of
the leek where new leaves emerge, or you'll not get them clean after
harvest.
Spacing of the seedlings depends on the amount of irrigation. If
absolutely none at all, set them 12 inches apart in the center of a
row 4 feet wide. If unlimited water is available, give them 2 inches
of separation. Or adjust spacing to the water available. The plants
grow slowly through summer, but in autumn growth will accelerate,
especially if they are side-dressed at this time.
_Varieties:_ For dry gardening use the hardier, more vigorous winter
leeks. Durabel (TSC) has an especially mild, sweet flavor. Other
useful varieties include Giant Carentian (ABL), Alaska (STK), and
Winter Giant (PEA).





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