Crop notes – Leeks
When to grow what is an important consideration in planning and managing your market garden. We are now in May in the Western Cape with nights getting longer and a definite chill in the air. This is also affecting customer preferences and as an example demand for lettuce (a traditional summer crop) slowing down but a crop like leeks is increasingly in high demand. Winter is soup and stews days in front of fires and this is increasingly apparent in consumer patterns. We are also planting turnips, radishes, celery and celeriac now and ensuring that we have sufficient quantities of carrots and beets in the ground.
Leeks (liliaceae): Like most other onion type veg, leeks have a long days to harvest (DTH) time of around 110 days or three to four months. Leeks keep well in the ground and one can harvest for at another month or more when your leek crop is ready. This means that with careful successional planning you can have sufficient quantities of leeks available for the winter ‘soup’ rush. Some considerations when planting your leeks.
- Spacing: Plant seedling 10cm apart for optimal bed utilization and I just have a feeling they enjoy rubbing shoulders with neighbors.
- Starts: We plant seeds in 200 or 300 capacity trays in four to five week succession in order to ensure a constant supply of leeks during the winter months. I estimate that we could have about 4 or 5 crops during winter.Rich composted soil with good drainage is important.
- Blanching: The longer the ‘white’ bit (shaft) of the plant the more attractive and useful they are for clients. This is mostly achieved in one of two ways or a combination of both: Plant the young seedling as deep as possible in prepared small holes with only the tip of the green leaves protruding above ground. The shaft becomes white (blanched) and results in the desired long white edible part of the plant. Adding thick mulch or additional soil (also referred to as hilling), during the growing period, encourages further blanching.
- Presentation: We bunch our leeks into 500 gram bunches, trim the roots and outer leaves.