Sunday, 1 July 2012

Leeks and Celery

Last year's spare leeks,
this year's architectural minarets,
next year's leek seed.

Sunday 1st July 2012
A clear start to the second half of the year
The last of my root beds to be planted has been reserved for leeks and celery. Though not strictly roots, they fit in here well within my crop rotation. Whereas carrots and parsnips definitely don't need too rich a soil (it causes them to split), leeks and celery are reputed to enjoy a soil enriched with pig manure, so earlier in the year I covered this bed with pig straw and left it to settle down.

Leek transplants
Puddling In
I sowed my leek seeds a while back into seed trays and, for the third year in a row, they have germinated extremely well and grown strong. Baby leek plants seem to really enjoy life in the seed tray.

There is a traditional method of transplanting leek plants into their outdoor home, known as puddling in. It's a lot more straightforward than it sounds. Basically I use a dibber to create a 6 inch hole. I prick out a seedling and drop it into the hole, then just add water. In dry times I'd fill the holes with water every couple of days, but when it's wet nature will do the job. The holes gradually backfill as they are watered.
Standard practise used to be to chop off half the roots,
but it's questionable whether this does any good.
Mine have always done well without this operation.

The leek and celery bed
The celery, too, has been growing in seed trays in the greenhouse. I plant the self-blanching type as I really can't be bothered with digging trenches and earthing up to blanch. I'm not a great fan of celery anyway, though Sue likes it and it's useful in stocks and soups. Eventually it may be surplus to requirements as lovage (a perennial crop which I'm growing from seed) and celeriac can perform most of the same functions.
I've got a couple of last year's celery plants which made it through the winter and are coming into flower. I'm hoping to get viable seed from them. If so I can just grow a few celery plants each year without having to purchase a whole packet.

For now, though, the seedlings have been planted out in blocks surrounded by ranks of leeks. Some of the leeks have been planted closely. I'll take out every other one and eat them as baby leeks. Otherwise, it's a long wait now before we enjoy the benefits of these crops.

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