LEEKS (L. Iliumporrum)
Leeks are useful because their season is winter, when they make a good substitute for. When grown for a good exhibition they are a test of the vegetable gardener’s skill. A really fine exhibition leek should be in. in length, perfectly blanched and with healthy green foliage at the top. To produce this an early beginning must be made by towards the end of January in light in well-drained boxes. Sow the seed thinly, keep the soil moist, and as soon as the show up, stand the boxes as near to the glass as possible. This will keep the seedlings sturdy and healthy.
Prick them off into other boxes containing a rather richer soil, that is, with two parts fibrous loam, and one part of leaf-mould and coarse manure, and a quantity of sand sufficient’ to make a porous. All this time the plants need a temperature of about 55° and as far as possible this should be kept uniform. Sudden changes of temperature are definitely harmful.
Leeks are generally grown in trenches prepared as for celery, that is, trenches in. wide and about in. deep, well broken at the bottom and with 9 in. of well-decayed stable manure and garden refuse, over which is 3 or 5 in. of good soil. The trenches should be about 3 ft. apart.
Planting out can be done in April or May, according to weather conditions. A trowel should be used and a large ball of soil kept intact round each root. Set them a foot apart, and water them well in. As soon as theare established give them frequent soakings with water followed by liquid manure. Occasional watering overhead is also advisable.
Seeds can be sown later in the season outdoors, and the plants grown on in much the same way, but the crop will be later, and the plants not quite so fine.
For exhibition culture, the seeds are sown in January in heat, three or four seeds in a single pot. Seedlings are later reduced to one, and potted with as little disturbance as possible into 6-in. pots. Grow them as near the roof glass as possible. They are hardened off gradually, and by the second week in March should be ready for transfer to a cold frame. They are treated in the same way as leeks for ordinary use, except that extra liberal feeding is given; bonemeal is mixed with the soil of the trenches, and more liberal supplies of liquid manure are given.
In order to obtain long blanched stems, leeks are blanched in stages in the same way as celery, the difference being that in the case of leeks the blanching is done during the period of growth, and not after the plants are fully developed. One of the best ways is to use stiff paper collars about 6 in. wide, drawing these up a little as growth proceeds, and each time piling finely sifted sandy soil round the lower part of the plant.
Leeks for exhibition must be lifted very carefully to avoid any damage. The rootlets are left intact, but the tops are tied with raffia to keep the leaves from splitting. Wash them carefully and remove the outside leaves before the plants are staged.
One of the best varieties of leeks for ordinary cultivation is the “Lyon.”