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Growing Leeks with Jack Kouwenhoven

Leeks are a very hardy vegetable that is fairly easy to grow. Leeks are quite suitable for growing in a small garden. There are early and late varieties. The latter continues to grow all through the winter. They can be planted when other early vegetables are harvested. Leeks always give you a nice change of flavour when other vegetables are used up. This is a very old vegetable dating back to early Egyptian times. While traveling in Great Britain we soon found the importance of competitive leek growing for exhibiting by the number of trophies and photographs displayed at local pubs. It is the national emblem of Wales. The leeks are sown on the Welsh Guards regimental badges. There are several different ways to cook them, including Vichyssoise and the famous Lancashire Cock-a-leeky soup. The best way to grow leeks is in trenches. These should be about 20 cm deep with old manure or compost worked into the bottom. Cover the manure about 15 cm deep. Holes are made in the middle of the trench about 20 cm apart and10 cm deep and one leek is dropped in each hole. This sounds like wide spacing between the rows, but consider the amount of space needed for hilling up and keeping the rows weed free. It is best to trim the tops by 1/3 and the roots to half their length. This will stimulate vigorous root growth.

The holes are not filled in but a light watering does the trick while taking care not to hit the clipped ends directly for a few days. Then let the rain take care of the rest of the gradual filling. Should it stay dry just water them in gently or pull some soil into the trench. Keep the rows weed free and when good top growth happens, foliar feed them with fish or kelp emulsion every 2 weeks. If flower stems pop up pinch them out to prevent the plant from going to seed.

After about six weeks start blanching the stems by drawing soil around them. When a good length of stem has been blanched you can harvest a few at the time as required.

We can harvest leeks all through the winter in our maritime climate. Leeks can be allowed to stay in the ground for quite a long time without becoming coarse.

Planting them near the path is a good idea as winter harvest time is not always too favourable to step into the muddy patc



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