The leek is a vegetable that can be grown throughout the year. This plant is hardy and can withstand the cold and frost. In addition to being used in many dishes such as casseroles, pies, soups and salads, leek is also a plant that has multiple medicinal and dietary virtues. Indeed, the leek has anti-carcinogenic properties For all of these qualities, the leek is very popular with gardening enthusiasts.

The word leek comes from the latin word ‘Allium porrum’ hence its scientific name “Allium ampeloprasum var porrum.” It is a plant that is native to the Middle East and that comes in a large number of varieties, including: King Richard, Varna, Dawn Giant, Albinstar Baby, Otina and American Flag. Regarding its shape, the leek is a vegetable with long green leaves and white trunks.

The procedure for growing leek

Before starting the growing process, it is advisable to prepare the ground ahead of time so that it is conducive for planting leeks. Leek is a greedy plant that needs to be fed enough. Thus, the soil should be rich in humus, deep and fresh. A regular fertilizer supply is essential in order to give it the nutrients it needs. Do not look for anything fancy, grass clippings may be sufficient to do the job. Yet it is necessary to know that fresh manure has a negative effect on the cultivation of leek, which is why is it advisable not to use it.

Once a suitable ground has been selected, or prepared, turn over the soil by crumbling clods to form thin potting soil. Sow the seeds on the prepared ground and then, using a rake, cover the seeds lightly with a layer of soil about 1/5 to 2/5 of an inch (0.5 – 1 cm) thick. With the back of the rake, you will then need to gently pack down the sowed parts before watering. Make sure that the soil retains a good level of moisture until the seedlings emerge from the soil. It takes about two to three weeks after sowing for the shoots to emerge. Wait for the seedlings grow a little and reach the size of a pencil before transplanting them. To do so, there are a series of steps to follow. The seedlings are not directly transferred and replanted on the open ground, one must first cut 2 inches (5 cm) off the leaves and 2/5 of an inch (1 cm) at the base of the roots. It is also necessary to avoid uprooting the seedling abruptly. The ideal is to use a trowel to lift them and to leave them unmoved for 24 to 48 hours so that there is no leek moth. You can then shorten the leek’s leaves and roots and replant them in the ground, always with the help of a trowel. The ground on which they will be transplanted should also be prepared beforehand; more specifically, the soil must be as rich as that of the ground used for sowing.

To plant, dig 6-inch (15 cm) holes every 4 inches (10 cm) along a well-drawn line. The second planting line should be spaced 12 inches (30 m) apart from the first one and so on. While waiting for the leeks to grow and mature, do not hesitate to thin them and replant them if they are planted too tightly. If planting in permaculture, it is important to monitor the moisture level under the thick layer of straw because drought is favourable to worms. It is also recommended to cover the leeks with dead leaves or straw before the frosting period. Note that the leek’s growing cycle is between 5-7 months.

After the culture itself, the plants must be taken care of until they reach maturity and can be harvested. Leeks need to be watered regularly. A supply of nettle manure or foliar fertilizer, which is sprayed on the leaves, is essential. Organic manure is also very useful to leeks. Requiring a large amount of nitrogen to grow, two land applications of nitrogen fertilizer are recommended, the first of which is advisable before transplanting and the other before the first hoeing. For information purposes, know that a 12 yd² (10 m²) planting field requires 10.5 to 14 ounces (300 to 400 grams) of nitrogen fertilizer.

The leeks’ planting calendar

A good grower thinks about his crop’s continuity, which is why planting can begin in January – for the sowing process – and extend into June. But in regard to seedlings grown in nurseries, or in other specialized and sheltered areas, the process can be achieved outside the period extending between January and June. Indeed, it can be done by mid-August for summer leeks. The following waiting times need to be taken into account for one to plan his or her own growing calendar. On average, 2 weeks bo by between sowing and emergence of the shoots. The next three months will be spent on growing the seedlings to eventually transplant them. Harvesting can begin 5-6 months after sowing. To explain this let us take the following examples: sowing summer leeks in mid-August allows one to transplant them around November and harvest them between the months of April and June. For a regular sowing in April, transplanting is carried out in July and harvesting begins in the winter. For an early cultivation in February, transplanting should be done in May and harvesting begins in August. In order to keep track of the most important elements, keep in mind that harvesting in the winter pertains to seedlings that were sown in April or May, harvesting in the fall is for leeks sown in March and April and, finally, harvesting in summer is for those sown in February or March.  Finally, plan a crop rotation every four years.

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Published in Winter vegetables by Alexander on 14 Sep 2011