36) Sowing and growing leeks (various methods)

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In this tip:

  • Introduction
  • Protection against the leaf miner fly
  • A)# Jerry’s method: Sowing in a small tray, replanting into a plastic plant tray (or flower pots), planting leek plants with root ball in the garden soil.
  • B)# Sowing in a big plastic flower pot with potting soil and sowing soil
  • C)# Diana’s method: sowing in a tray with soil, lifting all plants + roots + soil from the tray and planting the whole in the garden
  • Remarks about method A,B and C
  • D)# Sowing leek in garden soil or compost, replanting using plastic tubes
  • E)# Planting leek plants in the garden soil, 4 methods
  • F)# Planting leeks in big flower pots

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Introduction

Jerry, a dutch gardener, commented at “Sjeftuintips”. Jerry wrote at June 1, 2014 that he uses a simple procedure to sow and replant leeks.  Leeks are sown in a tray. When leeks are about 4 inch high, they are replanted in a tray with cells of about 2 inch wide. When plants are big enough, they are replanted with root balls into the garden soil.

On the internet I found 2 “easy” leek sowing procedures more. Next day, June 2, I started sowing leeks using the 3 methods.  These 3 methods are called A), B) and C). Below a short description:

  • A) Jerry’s method: sowing in a small tray with potting soil, replanting each leek plant into a flower pot or tray, plant each leek with root ball in the garden soil.
  • B) Video:  Sowing in a high big flower pot with potting soil and sowing soil, entwining the roots of the big plants, putting each plant into a round hole in a furrow in the garden soil.
  • C) Diana’s method: sowing in a tray, lifting all plants + roots + sowing soil from the tray and planting the whole in a wide furrow on manured garden soil to let the leeks grow bigger.

Further in this tip:

  • D) Sowing leeks in garden soil or in compost, replanting using replanting tubes and plant hole tubes of tip 41.
  • E) Planting leek plants in the garden soil, 4 methods.

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At the first three chapters, method A,B and C are described and compared to each other. To have a good comparison, all leeks have been sown at the same date, June 2, 2014.

Sowing leek at June 2 is very late. But I did this test to find out which method is easier or at which procedure leeks grow harder. Germination and plant growth of the 3 groups were at comparable conditions (same temperature, watering, rain etc).

At September 3, 2014, leek plants have been put in the garden soil. And then I could see which leeks are bigger or thicker and which procedure works well.

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Protection against the leaf miner fly

Leaf miner flies lay their eggs on the leaves of leeks. They do that in spring and in late summer/early fall.

  • Leeks that are attacked in spring have curled and odd growing leaves. You can grow small leeks under a (tunnel) greenhouse. Mind that the (tunnel) greenhouse is “miner fly tight”. I’m investigating how to do this; you can close both ends of the greenhouse tunnel using plexiglass plates with air openings and pieces of net curtains. Soon more info in   tip 4)    at B3) Brown pupae (leaf miner fly).
  • Attack in late summer/ early autumn shows many brown pupae (“oblong grains”) in the leeks. In    tip 4)  at B3) Brown pupae (leaf miner fly) you can read that trimming the leafs of the leeks results in less attack.

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A)# Jerry’s method: Sowing in a small tray, replanting into a plastic plant tray (or flower pots), planting leek plants with root ball in the garden soil.

Photos of Jerry’s leek growing procedure are    here    .

Below a description and photos of my implementation of Jerry’s method. Some steps differ a little from Jerry’s.

A1) Sowing

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Fill a low plastic tray with sowing soil. Jerry does not use potting soil. Jerry makes a mixture of potting soil/turf with sandbox sand and lava gravel. Jerry writes that pure turf or potting soil is too acetic, so germination is poor.

I filled a tray with a mixture of potting soil and Agricultural lime, ratio 10 to 1. Spray tap water on. Use a thin wooden stick with rubber band as shown on the photo. Push the stick into the soil until the rubber band touches the surface of the soil. Repeat this to make all sowing holes.

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Lay 1 leek seed in each sowing hole 40 holes, 40 seeds.

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Cover the seeds in the sowing holes with dry garden sand (left side of photo) or with dry sieved potting soil (right side of photo).

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Put the tray into a plastic bag. Close the bag partially to form an air opening (top right on the photo).

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Or use a clothing pin to make an air opening.

Put the whole in a room at about 20 C (68 F).

Take the tray out of the bag when first leek plants are visible or when biggest leek plants are about 0.5 cm (1/6 inch) high.

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A2) Leek plants growing in the tray

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After 9 days at 20 to 25 C (68 to 77 F), leeks are that big.

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Leek plants, 26 days after sowing. The top of the potting soil is a little greenish due to algals even though I mixed some Agricultural lime through the potting soil. From 40 seeds there are about 30 plants; 25 big plants and 5 small ones.

I also filled another tray with a mixture of compost and Agricultural lime (10 to 1). There are no photos of that tray. The leeks in that mixture grew just as fast as the ones on the photo above. On the compost mixture there was less growth of algals.

In both trays together, there are about 50 big leek plants, big enough to put in flower pots with compost/lime mixture.

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A3) Putting leek plants in flower pots

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About 30 days after sowing, or when biggest leek plants are about 6 inc (15 cm) high:

  • Take all small leek plants with roots out of the potting soil. When desired, pour some water into the tray to wet the potting soil. This eases taking out of leek plants.
  • At leek plants with very long roots, use scissors to shorten these roots to about 2 inch.
  • Make a mixture of (home made) compost / Dolokal (Agricultural lime), ratio 10 to 1.
  • Put a little of the above mentioned mixture in a flower pot (or plant tray) to form a thin layer. Put a leek plant on this layer and fill the pot with the mixture untill full.
  • Put the leeks at the right depth in the mixture. The heart of the leek plant (where the leaves split) must be above the compost.
  • Put the flower pots with plants in (on) a layer of compost in a tray or laundry basket. This compost layer is very useful. The compost absorbes the excess of water during watering. And thanks to this compost layer, the soil in the pots do not dry out so easy.
  • Regularly water the leek plants in the pots.

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A few weeks later, plants are big and stems are thicker than a pencil. So ready for replanting.

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A4) Putting leek plants in the garden soil

About three months after sowing, leeks are big end thick enough to plant in the garden soil.

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You can use a bucket or so to transport about 20 flower pots with leek plants.

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Make a furrow in the garden soil of about 4 inch deep and 4 inch wide.

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Make round planting holes of about 6 cm (2.5 inch) in the bottom of the furrow. You can use a plastic tube, for example the “plant hole tube” as described in tip 41. After making each hole, tap against the tube to drop the earth somewhere else on th egarden soil.

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Take the leek plant with root ball out of the flower pot. When needed, before taking out, cut the roots that stick out through holes in the bottom of the pot.

After taking out, twisted roots can be visible at the lower part of the root ball (see photo above).  Do not “unwind”these twisted roots. Keep them as they are.

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Hold the leek plant at its leaves and slowly drop the root ball in the planting hole. Strew some garden sand on and around the root ball.

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Use a watering can with shower head and spray cold tap water in the furrow. Let the water disappear into the garden soil.

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Remark 1:  Flower pot with insert.

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You can grow a leek plant in a flower pot with insert. On the photos above you see such a flower pot. More info about the insert at tip 30.

Before planting, take the insert with leek plant out of the flower pot.

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Then lift the leek plant with root ball from the insert. When needed, cut the small roots that grow through the bottom holes of the insert. Or carefully pull these roots from the holes.

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Remark 2: Shortening the leaves right after planting

Hours or days after planting, some leeks show loosely hanging outer leaves. It will take several days before the leek plant is firm again.

So it is advisable to cut a part of the outer leaves right after planting the leek in the garden soil. The leek plant will grow better and the plant will stays firm.

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B)# Sowing in a big plastic flower pot with potting soil and sowing soil

On the internet I found this Dutch    video  .  The first part of this video shows how to sow leek in a flower pot. The lower part of the pot is filled with potting soil. The upper part is filled with sowing soil. After sowing coated leek seed, seeds are covered with sowing soil and sharp sand.

The second part of the video shows how to take out the leeks, how to seperate them and how to plant the leeks in the garden soil.

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This photo shows my leek plants in a big plastic flower pot of about 10 inch high and 10 inch wide. Leeks have been sown and raised according to the method of the video.

Three months after sowing, leeks have been planted in the garden. See steps below:

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  • Take the whole (plants, roots, potting soil) out of the flower pot.
  • Put the whole in a bucket filled with tap water.
  • Move the whole in the water to “release the roots”.

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  • Carefully separate the leek plants.
  • Wash (rinse) the leek plants in water.
  • Pick out the thickest plants. Put thin leek plants at the compost container. On the photo above you see thick leeks on top of the photo. Thin leeks on the lower part of the photo.

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  • Shorten the roots of the plants. On the photo above all leeks but one have short roots. All leaves have been shorted.
  • Plant out the leeks. More about this in chapter E)# Planting leek plants in the garden soil, 4 methods.

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C)# Diana’s method: sowing in a tray with soil, lifting all plants + roots + soil from the tray and planting the whole in the garden

This method has been invented by a Dutch lady, Diana. Diana has a website with many gardening tips. Her growing procedure for leek (in Dutch) can be found    here  .

C1) Sowing

Sow leek in a plastic tray (with small drain holes in the bottom) with a mixture of sieved potting soil and mansury sand, ratio 3 to 1. Or use sieved compost. Cover the seeds with sowing soil. Grow the leek plants at about 68 F (20 C).

At my first tests of June 2, leek has been sown in 6 small margarine boxes (250 grams). There are no photos of this. Further in this tip there are photo’s of the big leek plants that were sown in these margarine boxes.

A few months later I repeated the experiment using 2 big trays, each about 12 x 8 inch (30 x 20 cm). See photo below.

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These leek plants grow in big trays in compost (left tray) or sand / potting soil mixture (right tray). Plants are about 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 inch) high, big enough to be planted in the garden.

C2) Planting small leeks in the garden soil

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When leeks are big enough (15-20 cm, 6-8 inch), plants can be put in the grden soil:

  • Shove some garden soil aside to form a shallow furrow of about 2 inch (5 cm) deep. The surface area of the furrow is somewhat bigger than the total area of the tray(s).
  • Use a scoop to loosen the garden soil in the furrow.
  • Mix some sieved (cow) manure with the soil in the furrow.

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  • Take the whole (all plants + roots + soil) out of the tray.
  • Lay this whole on (in) the furrow.
  • Fill the open area around the plants with grden soil.
  • Water the plants and garden soil using a watering can with fine shower head.
  • The plants on the photo above have been lifted from the 2 big trays (tray size is 12 x 8 inch, 30 x 20 cm).

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Remark

Lifting the whole (plants + roots + soil) from the tray is hard to do. When leek plants are (too) little, roots are small and soil can easily drop from the roots. So sowing soil can fall apart during lifting.

Lifting from a small margarine box goes rather well. But lifing from a big tray (8 x 12 inch, 20 x 30 cm) is less easy. The photo above shows that this lifting was not very succesful. Leek plants have been planted a little messy. When leek plants and roots are bigger, this lifting will be improved.

Suggestion: lay a thin plate on the bottom of the tray before filling with sowing soil. This eases taking out the whole (all leek plants + roots + soil) and shoving it on the garden soil. More about this in tip 18, chapter C)#.

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You better plant out when roots are bigger, use smaller trays or use a tool (fork or something like that) when lifting.

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C3) Putting leek plants seperately in the garden soil

The leek plants that grew in the 6 little margarine boxes have grown bigger in the garden soil.

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This photo shows  the group of thin leek plants from the 6  margarine boxes, growing in the garden soil. Center, left on the photo. Date: August 1, 2014, so two months after sowing.

On September 3, three months after sowing, leeks are big enough to plant seperately in the garden. Below a description. 

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  •  When leeks are as thick as a pencil (or thicker), plants can be taken out. Use a scoop or so to lift big parts of garden earth with leek plants growing in.

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  • Put the parts of “garden earth with leeks” in a bucket filled with cold tap water. Rinse the garden earth away from the roots.

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  • Sort leek plants: thicker, thick as a pencil, thinner.

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  • Shorten, when desired, leaves and roots at the leek plants. On the photo above, leek plants at the left side are thick, have long or some longer leaves and short roots. Leek plants at the right side are pencil thick.
  • Plant out the leeks. More about this in chapter E)# Planting leek plants in the garden soil, 4 methods.

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Remarks about method A,B and C

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The photo above shows the leek plants of my experiment on September 3. On this photo the order from left to right is:     C)# Diana,      A)#Jerry,       B)# Video.

Let’s shift the order of the photo to ABC.

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The same photo, only shifted into the ABC order. From left to right on the photo:   A)# Jerry’s procedure with small flower pots,     B)# big flower pot as shown in the video,    C)#  Diana’s method.

  • A)# Jerry’s procedure works well. Leek can also be sown in sieved compost (I tried out later). You can replant in small flower pots filled with sieved compost, + agricultural lime (Dolokal) + sieved cow manure. Leek plants will grow faster in this mixture. Leek plants are easy to lift from the small flower pots. Leeks with root balls are easy to plant in round planting holes in the garden soil.
  • B)# Video with flower pot. When sowing in a big flower pot filled with the mixture of the video, leeks grow slower than at Jerry’s of Diana’s method. This is due to the poor mixture in the pot. You better fill the pot with a richer mixture, such as compost with a little manure. Seperating the leek plants is hard to do due to long roots of the plants.
  • C)# Diana’s method shows biggest (thickest) leek plants. The plants grow well in the manured earth of the garden. At this method, leek can also be sown in sieved compost with some manure and agricultural lime (I also tried out later). Lifting the whole (leeks with roots and sowing soil) from the tray is the hardest thing. When leek plants are bigger, this lifting will work better. Taking the big plants out of the soil and seperating goes rather well.

Conclusion: Method A) and C) are good procedures to execute.

Method B) needs some approvement.  At a richer mixture in the flower pot, leeks will grow fatster. And separation of the plants need to be made easier.

In 2015 I grew early leek following these 3 methods with an adapted sowing mixture. More info about this in     tip 18) Growing early leek   .

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D)# Sowing leek in garden soil or compost, replanting using plastic tubes

In April or May you can sow leek seeds in the garden soil. Or in the garden after replacing 2 inch of the top layer garden earth by 2 inch of compost.

The leek plants that grow there can easily be replanted when using replanting tubes (see tip 41). At this procedure, each leek plant with many roots in a big root ball is taken out of the garden soil. Next is putting the plant with root ball in a round planting hole somewhere else in the garden soil. After replanting, the leek plant can “grow on further”

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These leek plants in my garden have a width that is equal to or more than a pencil. They can be replanted.

  • Use the replanting tube as described in tip 41.
  • About 15 minutes before taking out the plant, spray much water on the plant and on the soil around it. It is okay when the soil gets a little muddy due to the water spraying. This eases inserting of the replanting tube. And taking out of the plant with root ball goes much easier. More about this at D1) Remark.

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  • Push the leaves of the leek plant into the open end of the replanting tube. Then push the tube about 7 cm (3 inch) into the garden soil.
  • Turn the tube in the soil a little, to “release the garden earth in the tube from the garden soil”.

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  • Take the replanting tube out of the soil. On the left photo above, you see that about 3 inch of this tube has been put in the garden soil. On the right photo you see garden earth at the lower side of the tube. Some small leek roots are visible.

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Make a furrow in the garden soil of about 4 inch deep and 4 inch wide.

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  • Use the “plant hole tube” to make a round hole in the bottom of the furrow. See left photo. Depth of the hole is about 5 inch (12 cm).
  • Take the “plant hole tube” out of the soil.
  • Put the “replanting tube” (with leek plant in it) in the round hole (middle photo).
  • Blow air in the (green) hose to push out the root ball. In the mean time, lift the replanting tube.
  • The leek plant is in the round hole, about 1 inch deeper than the bottom of the furrow (right photo).

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  • Strew some garden earth around the root ball, spray water in the furrow and let the water disappear into the bottom.

Now the leek plant can grow further. Water the plants and furrow daily during the first weeks after replanting (unless it rains, of course).

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D1) Remark

Add much water to the plants and the soil, about 15 minutes before taking the plant out. Soil may get a little muddy. This makes pushing the tube into the soil much easier.

And “blowing out” (unloading) the plant with root ball goes much better. The moist root ball is more hermetic (air-tight) and the root ball is heavier. A water film between root ball and tubing offers a slippery path. On the new position, the plant grows in moist soil and will not hang loosely so fast.

Just before pushing the tube into the garden soil, you can dip the open end of the replanting tube in water (about 10 cm, 4 inch). This also eases pushing in and unloading the plant.

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The photo above shows a leek plant with a “very moist root ball”, just after blowing out of the “replanting tube”.

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The same leek plant with root ball splitted into earth (left side) and roots (right side). And a thin earthworm that lived in the root ball.

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E)# Planting leek plants in the garden soil, 4 methods

After searching on the internet and with info from collegea gardners, I found 4 methods to plant leeks into the garden soil. These methods are described in this chapter.

Leeks are put in the garden soil when plants are big and the stems are thicker than a pencil. Leeks are planted in holes or furrows in the garden soil. After planting, the “heart” of the leek plant (the point where the foliage arises from the stem) should be kept free from garden soil and above the soil surface. So take care that no soil gets into the folds between the leaves. And do not plant the leek too deep. That is better for the plant. A leek plant that has been planted too deep can die.

Some time later, when the leeks are bigger, more garden soil can be shoved against the plants. This causes a white part of the leek. The white part is where the stem was blanched underground, hidden from sunlight.

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Before planting leeks, leaves and roots are shortened. That is found on many (all) websites about planting leeks. After shortening, foliage is about 10 to 12 inch (25 to 30 cm). Root length is 1 to 2 inch (3 to 5 cm).

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Below there are descriptions of 4 leek planting methods:

  • E1) Planting into a furrow of 4 inch (10 cm) deep and 4 inch (10 cm) wide,
  • E2) Planting in round holes (2.5 inch (6 cm) diameter) in the garden soil,
  • E3) Planting in a narrow shallow furrow,
  • E4) Planting in round holes (1.5 inch (3 cm) diameter) in the garden soil.

At chapter E5) Growing, you see how the leek plants grow big and at E6) Best method, a description of the best procedure.

Below the descriptions of the 4 planting methods for leek. All leek plants were planted at July 15.

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E1) Planting in a furrow of 4 inch (10 cm) deep and 4 inch (10 cm) wide

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The photos above show how to make round holes in a furrow of 4 inch (10 cm) wide and 4 inch (10 cm) deep. The holes in the furrow are about 2 inch (5 cm) deep and 2.5 inch (6 cm) wide. A plastic “plant hole tube” can be used to make these round holes. On the photos you also see how to plant the leeks, shove garden earth and add water.

The bamboo stick with fixing strip around it can be used as a support for the leek plant. The plant will not topple when dropping garden earth from the tube into the hole.

After planting, leeks are about 2 inch (5 cm) in the garden soil. The “heart” of the leek plant is high above the garden soil. While the plant grows bigger, hoeing, weeding, watering and rain will move more garden soil into the furrow. This causes the white part of the leek. This white part is where the stem was blanched underground, hidden from sunlight.

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E2) Planting in “big” round holes in the soil

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On the photos above you see how to make a round hole in the “flat” garden soil (depth about 15 cm (6 inch), diameter about 6 cm (2.5 inch). And how to put a leek plant in the hole. You can use a tube to make the hole in the soil.

Right after planting, do not put garden earth in the hole. After putting in the leek plant, pour cold tap water in the hole until half or complete filled. You can use a bamboo stick with fixing strip around it to keep the leek in the center of the hole during watering.

During watering, some garden earth will flush from the side of the hole and cover the roots of the leek plant with a thin layer of earth. This layer is thick enough for the plant to grow well after planting. Oxigen can pass to the roots through this thin layer of earth.

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These leek plants grow in the garden soil for some weeks. After planting these leeks in deep round holes, the “hearts” were not covered with earth. The “hearts” are still “free in the air”. During growing, these “hearts” will get higher above the soil. While the plants grow bigger, hoeing, weeding, watering and rain will move garden earth in the holes. This causes the white part of the leek.

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E3) Planting in a narrow furrow

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On these photos you see how to make a narrow furrow in the garden soil using a spade. And how to put leek plants about 6 cm (2.5 inch) deep in the furrow and shove earth to close the furrow.

A colleague at the allotment garden thaught me this procedure. This method is easy and planting goes fast. Each leek plant is put about 2 to 3 inch in moist garden earth. The heart of each leek is high above the garden soil and the plants will grow well.

During next weeks, use a hand cultivator to weed the plants and to shove earth against the stems of the leeks. This causes the white part of the leek. This white part is where the stem was blanched underground, hidden from sunlight.

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E4) Planting in “small” round holes in the garden soil 

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On the photos above you see making small round holes in the garden soil. And how to put leek plants in the holes. Holes are about 15 cm (6 inch) deep and 3 cm (1.2 inch) wide. Holes can be made using a big dibber made of a stem of a spade or pitchfork. This dibber has a pointed end that eases inserting in the garden soil.

Right after planting, do not put garden earth in the hole. After putting in the leek plant, pour cold tap water in the hole until half or complete filled.

During watering, some garden earth will flush from the side of the hole and cover the roots of the leek plant with a thin layer of earth. This layer is thick enough for the plant to grow well after planting. Oxigen can pass to the roots through this thin layer of earth.

After planting these leeks in deep narrow holes, the “hearts” are not covered with earth. The “hearts” are just “free in the air” but at narrow holes there is more risk of covering the hearts with garden soil. At sandy soil and at dry weather, dry sand will “slide” into the holes. To overcome this, you can water the plants more often and with less water so holes keep open for a longer time. While the plants grow bigger, hoeing, weeding, watering and rain will move garden earth in the holes. This causes the white part of the leek.

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E5) Growing

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All 4 groups of leek plants, 10 days after planting. Click on the photo for screen wide. Groups are:

  • Left behind: narrow furrow
  • Left front: narrow round holes of 3 cm (1.2 inch) diameter
  • Middle: wide round holes of 6 cm (2.5 inch) diameter
  • Right: wide round holes in a wide furrow

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Same plants, 4 weeks after planting. Holes and furrow has been silted more or less.

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Same plants, 10 weeks after planting.

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Same plants, 15 weeks after planting.

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E6) Best planting procedure

The photos above show well growing leeks at all 4 planting methods. No leek plants died thanks to “keeping the hearts  above the soil”. Leek plants got much water by spraying and rain.

In each group there are small and big leek plants. This is due to planting thin or thick little leeks. And because one leek grows in more fertile (manured) earth than another leek plant.

There is no “best way of planting”. All methods work well. But it is very important to keep the “hearts” of the leek plants clean and above the soil.

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F)# Planting leeks in big flower pots

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You can plant leek plants in big plastic flower pots.

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  • Fill a flower pot half with sieved moist compost.
  • Add some sieved manure and some agricultural lime.
  • Sieving of these materials goes well through the holes in the bottom of a plastic flower pot.

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  • Put the contents of the flower pot into a bucket. Mix the materials in the bucket.

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  • Put the mixture in the flower pot again.

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  • Use a narrow plastic tube to make round holes in the mixture.

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  • Put the leek plant in the round hole. Fill the hole with mixture.

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  • Put 5 to 10 leeks in the mixture in the flower pot. Then put some garden soil on the compost. Add much water to the compost in the pot.

Next:

  • Water frequently. Put the flower pot outside so plants get rain water too.
  • Regularly pick the small weeds that grow between the leeks.
  • When leeks have grown, put a layer of garden soil in the pot on top of the compost layer.
  • Take care that you don’t put too much soil on; hearts of the leeks must be kept free of soil.
  • Repeat adding garden soil until pot is full. This causes the white part of the leek.

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This method works reasonable. Not as well as growing in the garden soil. But worth trying.

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2 Responses to 36) Sowing and growing leeks (various methods)

  1. Pingback: Welcome | sjefgardentips

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