Tag Archives: leeks

Transplanting leeks

Leeks are normally grown in a seed bed or seed trays and transplanted to their final growing positions, traditionally trimmed and dropped into six inch deep holes. We sowed two seed trays with leeks, one of old favourite Musselburgh and one of Bleu de Solaise. Rather than transplant direct, I have for some years transplanted leeks twice, first moving them into a larger tray at wider spacings, and then later in the year to an outdoor bed. Continue reading

Sowing this week

This week we started our leeks. This is a long season crop that will be most valuable through the winter, but to achieve good sized stems the seed is best started early in the year. We prepared two seed trays with a proprietary seed compost, which was well watered before the seed was scattered thinly – and rather less evenly than it should – over the surface. A thin layer of finely sieved compost was then gently spread over the top. The seed trays were placed in an unheated propagator in the polytunnel, and the job was done. We are growing two varieties this year: our favourite, Musselburgh, the ‘Scotch Flag’ as it was known in times past; and Bleu de Solaise, a French variety known for its winter hardiness and named for its distinctive blue-green leaves, which go particularly blue when the frosty weather arrives. Continue reading

Artichoke and leek gratin

Jerusalem artichokes and leeks are both excellent winter vegetables, standing through the worst of the weather to be dug as and when needed. At this time of year, the leeks are at the end of their useful life and will soon put forth a flower spike, and the artichokes are growing again. A couple of weeks ago we dug over the artichoke bed, selecting tubers for replanting, and using the last of the harvest for soup and the gratin described here. Continue reading

Recent sowing and planting

The blog has been rather slow lately, with nearly one month since my last post. Partly, at least, one must blame this lazy blogger. In my defence, we have been busy with various other things, and the garden has reached that maintenance phase where the mad rush of propagating and planting out slows down to a more modest workload. Most of the beds are now full, with crops for summer and autumn use as well as many to go through the winter or put into storage. It has also been hot lately, and the partly walled vegetable plot can become unbearably hot to work in the summer, not to mention the glasshouses and polytunnel, so we tend to reduce our activities at this time of year. Continue reading

Leek and Jerusalem artichoke soup

At this time of year the kitchen garden is looking a bit mean. Thinking back to the old walled gardens that had an estate to feed and the house to supply, it is amazing that they could provide enough food all year round when the garden yields the bulk of its crops over just six or seven months. There are two winter vegetables that did well for us last season, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes, which have the distinct advantage of standing for months and providing a crop over a long period of time. Both are left in the ground and dug when needed. At this time of year, though, the leeks are about to throw up a flower spike and the quality will rapidly decline. The Jerusalem artichokes are just starting to develop some roots and, although they are still rock hard and great to eat, they really need to be harvested and some replanted for next winter’s crop. It seemed like an ideal time to make some soup from these two great winter staples. Continue reading

Sowing this week

Regular sowing is necessary for regular cropping without gluts. We try to sow a few things every week or two throughout the growing season. This week we started with the cucurbits: summer and winter squash, melons, and cucumbers. I used a mixture of a free draining soil based seed compost with some organic peat free multipurpose, relieved of any large bits of woody material. Cucurbits are rather sensitive to excess moisture; the seeds will readily decay and the young plants collapse under damp conditions, which encourage rots and fungal problems. Whilst some moisture is obviously needed, the compost must be free draining and the pots should not sit in water. The seeds of squash, melons, and cucumbers, are somewhat flattened, and it is common practice to sow the seeds on their edge, supposedly so that moisture sheds from the seed more readily. Whether this really makes much difference or not I have not bothered to find out, but one might as well continue the tradition. The larger seeded squash are planted a good ¾” deep and the melons and cucumbers perhaps ½”. Continue reading

Seed list 2014 – part 2 – alliums

This second article looking at the varieties we plan to sow in the coming year covers alliums: onions, shallots, garlic, and leeks. I make several sowings of onions, shallots and garlic. The first sowing, from sets, is at the end of the season, late autumn or early winter, to overwinter in the polytunnel. I have found the results to be far better than overwintering outdoors. I then make a spring sowing outdoors, again from sets, as soon as the soil has dried out sufficiently from the winter rains – something of a problem this year. Whilst fine for the onions and shallots, this puts the outdoor garlic a little later than ideal, as it benefits from a period of cold in order to develop good cloves, but seems to work better for us overall than sowing earlier and suffering the rigours of the winter weather. The damp is more of a problem than the cold, even with the generally good drainage provided by the somewhat sandy soil of our slightly raised beds. The undercover crop is larger and better, but the outdoor crop is usually still useful. I then sow various small onions from seed a little later; these do not need so long to develop and are culinary treats rather than main crop. Continue reading

Seeds at Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt

The floating stalls of Amsterdam’s flower market

Among the many sights of Amsterdam, there is the floating flower market, although one is not really aware that the row of large stalls is floating alongside one of the many canals, being so securely fixed in place. Its claim to be the world’s only floating flower market is, then, not nearly as impressive as it might at first appear. January is not the ideal time to visit such an attraction. The great many bulbs and some early flowers were equally matched with tourist tat, but I was pleased to find a wide range of fruit and vegetable seeds for sale and whiled away an hour or so looking for those varieties that are on my ‘list’ as well as one or two new varieties to try. Continue reading

Leek and butternut squash risotto

The happy confluence of winter squash, leeks, and a batch of good stock naturally led to a favourite risotto recipe. I enjoy making risotto, but it has to be done in the traditional way. I make them fairly often, but tend to avoid them when eating out; they can be adulterated with ill conceived ingredients and the texture is too often rather stodgy. The combination of leeks and roasted squash, though, makes a delicious risotto. Continue reading

Transplanting leeks

It is rather late to be transplanting leeks, but like everything else this year, I am at least a month behind. Leeks can be sown in a seed bed or seed trays; it seems that the traditional seed bed has somewhat declined in popularity, and I prefer the latter for convenience. However, I then prefer to transplant from small seed trays to larger trays, spacing them properly so that they can develop into strong plants before I move them to their final location. Today, with Dad’s help, we finally moved them into the designated bed. Continue reading