LEEK GROWN ORGANICALLY

With a mild oniony flavour, the leek has a thick white stem – 16 in. long in well-grown specimens, with a diameter of 3 inand long, green, strap-like leaves. The white stem is the part that is eaten. Leek soup is a very nourishing food; as a winter vegetable its value is undisputed.

Deep, rich soil is needed to give a good length of stem, and dryness has to be avoided.

Varieties include Musselburgh, Prizetaker, Monstrous Carentan, Ayton Casde Giant, and Flag (or London), the latter being specially suitable for an early crop.

An ounce of seed will give 1,000 plants. Average period of germination is nine days.

Ready for Use. October, and on to April. The crop is available about 28 weeks after sowing.

Soil Preparation.

Dry conditions at the root are ruinous to the leek. It is also a hungry plant. Soil is therefore prepared with these prime requirements in mind. It will be well provided for if it follows a row of peas or beans for whose benefit the ground was specially dug and enriched; if they failed because of drought or starvation it is no place for the leek.

Where there is a good depth of cultivated soil the plants will be most successful in a I-ft. deep trench, the width of a spade blade. Stems will be longer and thicker if the bottom of the trench is forked up and rotted leaves added to it, or any decaying greenstuff available. If the trench bottom is dealt with in this way, 4 in. of good soil should be placed on top of the food material for the reception of the young plants.

They will thrive in clay if this is broken up deeply and made porous by the admixture of wood ash or sharp grit or sand or sifted fire ashes from the house, plus rotted greenstuff or manure at the bottom of the trench.

Where there is not much depth of good soil and where, because of unsuitable subsoil, it cannot be deepened by digging and manuring, the plants should be set out singly in holes made with dibber, trowel or crowbar after the ground has been enriched as deeply as is practicable.

When and How to Sow.

Exhibition standard leeks are given the necessary long-growing period by being raised in a warm greenhouse or hotbed frame in January or early February. Seed boxes are lined with leaf-mould, filled with good soil (with sand or grit to make it porous), seed is sown thinly and covered with the merest sprinkling of sifted soil, and the seedlings are pricked out 3 in. apart into other boxes, and in due course hardened off for planting out in April.

For ordinary purposes seed is sown outdoors, on a seed bed in 1 in. deep drills, in late February or March. The seedlings are thinned out – or moved to 3 in. apart into rich soil – and kept well watered until planted out in the prepared places in April. If cold weather or wet soil hinders outdoor sowing, seed can be sown in a shallow box in a cold frame – if a greenhouse or hotbed frame is not available – and dealt with as advised for exhibition standard plants. Or the outdoor sowing may be made under the protection of pieces of glass, the tops meeting over the drill tent fashion with pieces of stick to support them.

A Long Supply.

If three small sowings are made at intervals, during February and March, outdoors, and the seedlings transplanted at intervals, the supply will be greatly prolonged. The earliest sowing and transplanting will provide an early crop, the next will secure the main crop, and the last will give a late crop..

Planting Out.

Time to set out the young plants permanently is when they are about 6 in. long. If the trench system is adopted, they are spaced 9 in. apart down the centre of the trench. If they are to be planted in separate holes on the flat, the holes are made 9 in. apart, with dibber, trowel or crowbar. They should be not less than 6 in. deep – 8 in. or 9 in. is better – and 3 in. across (to give the stems space to swell). A plant is dropped into each hole so that it falls to the bottom, and the hole filled up with water; enough soil will be carried down by the water to cover the roots. The complete filling in of the hole is left to subsequent waterings and hoeings. Meanwhile the

In the case of trench plants, the trench is gradually filled in with the soil that was taken out and placed at the sides, the soil level keeping pace with the base of the lowest leaves.

Plants in separate holes have soil drawn up to and around them, with the hoe, after the hole itself has been filled in.

Lifting the Crop.

The plants can be dug out any time after blanching when they have reached a sufficiently large size. Soil is drawn carefully away with the spade or trowel, to expose one side of the stem; the spade is then driven slantwise beneath the root and the plant levered up and out.

Storing for Winter.

Leeks may be left in the ground until top growth will extend and push well up above the surface.

Watering and Feeding.

Trench plants and hole plants alike will rapidly increase in height and diameter if kept well watered. Weak liquid manure given once a fortnight, until blanching begins, helps still further. Or agricultural salt may be scattered alongside and around the plants and watered in, unless rain follows to save the watering.

Blanching the Stems.

The object is to get as long a length of white stem as possible. This is done by surrounding the stems with soil so that light is excluded; growth is then white instead of green, and the blanched stems are tender and tasty, not bitter as they otherwise would be. required, a few being lifted at a time. If the site is required for other purposes the whole crop may be lifted (when full growth has taken place) and stored in a damp-proof cellar or shed in a heap of sifted ashes or sand.

Prepaiā€™ing for Table.

Remove roots, cut back the green tops almost to the white, and wash well, before cooking. There is real nourishment in a leek. Boiled young, it is a vegetable specially suitable for convalescents.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus