(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 5 of the Wednesday, June 20, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING LEEKS
Last year I had some gardening friends recommend that I try growing leeks. I have to admit that I was not really familiar with leeks and had never thought about growing them. I had been wanting to grow nice onions and hadn’t found anyone that had any real success with them, so I thought I would give the leeks a try. I am so glad I did! They are really hardy plants that work really well as onions.
I start my leeks from seeds in the sunroom on Feb. 15. The seeds can be planted very close together, about a half-inch apart. After germination I feed them once a week with a diluted liquid fertilizer. To prep the bed for them I like to amend the soil with plenty of food and organic material. My favorite natural amendments are starfish, compost, seaweed and seashell sand.
On April 15, when the seedlings are about 9 inches high, it’s time to transplant them outside. To transplant, I just take the block of soil and tightly packed seedlings out of the pot, separate the seedlings, trim the roots to 2 inches and plant them about 6 inches deep with about 9-12 inch spacing. The green blades of fully grown leeks can be a little coarse and the white root are quite tender, so if you plant the seedlings deep you can force the leeks to have long, white, blanched roots. As the leeks get bigger you can “hill” up the dirt around them to make the roots even longer.
Elliot Coleman, the leading expert in cool weather vegetable gardening, from Maine, recommends dropping the seedling into a 9-inch deep hole but not covering the plant with dirt. He says that over time the dirt will settle in on its own. Elliot Coleman has written several outstanding books that contain a lot of very useful information which Sitka gardeners can use. But as you read them, just keep in mind that although Maine is cold and has a maritime climate it is at the same latitude as Eugene, Ore. …. a huge difference in winter daylight.
Leeks can be harvested at any time, but they don’t reach full maturity until the fall. As I mentioned earlier they are extremely hardy so they can be left out in the garden well after the first frost.
There is one more thing I would like to point out. I have been planting my leeks in beds that I have not been covering with row cover. This spring I planted a few of my leek seedlings in a friend’s garden as a favor while she was out of town. Her beds are covered with row cover. When I went over to her house to check on things a few weeks ago I was amazed to see how much bigger her leeks were than mine … ABOUT 10 TIMES BIGGER! I will not make the mistake of keeping them uncovered next year.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241