Leeks, Time to Start for real!

Tooling around on Sprout Robot inspired me to get started a few days early on the garden.  They have a very user friendly site to help tell you what you need to plant now and remind you in the future.  So, I decided to dig out my leek seeds and give it a go.  I haven’t collected enough two liter bottles for the green house yet and it’s 41 degrees outside, but I cleaned out a south facing window and went to work.

Leeks

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Leeks are a pretty tasty vegetable.  I’m Scottish by heritage so maybe I’m predisposed to like them, but you can use them in everything.  Click on the picture for a tasty inspiring blog for some ideas.

Allium porrum

Biennial in the onion family. Cultivated and eaten regularly in Roman times.    Used mostly for flavor, but have a slightly higer content of nutrients than onions.  

Can be grown throughout US, but like rich loamy soils.  Must have good drainage.  Can grow two crops a year, one started in flats indoors in the spring and second started in the garden in late spring for a later harvest.  Can be left in garden over winter and harvested as needed if your winters are not too harsh.  Pull and store heeled in in cool cellar where winters are harsh.

When the leeks get to be full height, pull soil up around base to blanch.

Weeks to maturity:  19

Harvest window:  4-8 weeks

Spacing: 6 inches

Getting Started 

Step 1:  Sterilize some soil.

This may sound intimidating, but it’s a lot like watching a pot of water waiting for it to boil.  Tediously boring in other words.  So, last night I set the oven on 190 degrees F and started making supper.  I was making a delicious squash and roasted red pepper soup.  I used chicken stock because that is what I had, added a pinch of red pepper flake, and drained and rinsed black beans after it was pureed.  Very yummy and filling.  Anyway, by the time I had the squash peeled and cubed, the oven was up to temp, so I went out and filled three of my pyrex dishes up with potting soil and covered them with foil.  

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Next I put in a meat thermometer so I could make sure I was reaching and maintaining the needed temperature.

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I left the soil in the oven until it reached 190 degrees for thirty minutes.  This is not a short process.  I think it took three hours for the soil to reach the right temperature.  Once it was there long enough, I turned the oven off, left everything as it was and went to bed. 

Why do this?  Well, there are tiny little bacteria and bugs and no see ums that can undermine what you are doing.  Don’t have your little sprouts take off and mysteriously die on you.  This is an easy step that can help prevent that and take the guess work out of the process.  Too many times gardening can provide disheartening experiences, why make more for yourself?

Step 2:  Decide how many starts you are going to need.

On my post about my mad gardening plan, you can see that I have outlined what I am putting in the garden this year.  The Spring Side Yard plan shows an area where I am going to plant leeks.  (Oh look at the crooked lines little brother, lol)  Anyway, I know that that bed is approximately 4 x 6 feet.  I also know that leeks should be planted at 6 inches apart.  That puts about four leeks per square foot and I have 24 square feet.  So, multiplying four by twenty four, I get a result of 96.  I need to end up with 96 leeks to transplant.  I’ll plant a few extra just to make sure I end up with enough.

Since I don’t have the greenhouse operating, I need flats that I can have in the house without making a huge mess.  I keep some old plastic flats at my potting station outside and under the porch so I dug one out.  When not in use, I try to keep them out of the sun to lengthen their life span.  These I’ve had about 8 years now.  Each of these flats have 72 places to plant in them.  I will need to plant about a flat and a half. 

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Step 3: Plant

I have a wall mounted oven, so I just open the door and put the flat there.  It’s not going to be heavy enough to damage the door and makes for an easy work surface.  I uncover the soil and pack it into the flat.  Drop the flat a few times from a short distance to make sure the soil packs in and isn’t harboring extra air in it. 

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I’m trying out some seeds from Global Foods this year, they don’t source local, but I try not to mail order seeds if I can help it (I like to support local business) and I thought I would find a Baker Creek seeds display with leeks in it and did not.  Weirdly, Global Foods has some seeds “for planting” in the spice section by the Mexican isle.  In Missouri, you can use your food stamps to buy garden seeds (which I think is brilliant!) so that also helps us out right now while we are temporarily on food stamps. 

Ok, three seeds per little pot section should do well for you.  Later when they sprout I will pluck out the weak ones and only really grow one per pot.  I love onion sprouts so I will probably use the little ones I pull for a sandwich.

Step 4:  Water and put in the sun.

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I”ve gently watered the seeds and put a propigation tent over them.  It’s easy with these Morse-Perry flats because they come with the plastic cover.  They are now in a south facing window in my living room where I won’t forget them.  Hopefully I can get the green house running and move them out soon.

Keep an eye on them and don’t let them dry out.  The delicate seed starts need that constant mosture to grow strong.  Leeks have a short germination time of 14-21 days and do best if kept about 70 degrees F.  They will germinate as low as 40-50 degrees though.

Other thoughts for the week and some shameless adverising:

So I like to support local small businesses and I do not shop at Wal-Mart.  That being said, sometimes you can’t get what you need locally.  I shared a link for Baker Creek seeds and I love them.  They are here in Missouri as well, please if you haven’t bought seeds this year, consider buying them from that company.  In the last two years I have found their displays around town so I can support a business here while also supporting them.  Sappington Market has had them in the past and Maude’s Market has them now.  It’s also time for sign up for Maude’s CSA, she is taking application for the spring CSA now.

It’s a good time to pick up mushroom kits for your kitchen as well.  Oyster mushrooms are a good way to get started growing your own mushrooms, they are really easy to grow.  Generally I order my kits from Fungi Perfecti.  When the kit is spent indoors, you can mix it with a bale of straw in your back yard and get some more flushes out of it.  The most exciting thing I found out this week is that Home Eco has some basic kits in stock at an excellent price.  About $10 cheaper than ordering the kit from Fungi Perfecti.  If you haven’t stopped by Home Eco, please do.  It is a mecca of sustainable living supplies.  I love going in there.  I’ve pretty much been broke since I discovered them last year but they can help you out in living a more sustainable lifestyle.  You can get this stuff online, but you can save shipping and support your local economy by shopping in their store.  You will also get to take advantage of their experience and expertise.

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2 responses to “Leeks, Time to Start for real!

  1. I am usually too stingy with water for leeks to do well for me- maybe starting them inside is the way to go. Love leeks, so this should be the year to finally give them enough water.

  2. Hey: thank you for getting some time of producing up this facts. I generally endeavor to additional my knowledge of details. No matter if I consent or disagree, I like advice. I recall the olden times once the only source of knowledge was the library or the newspaper. They the two appear so old fashion. : )

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