Lovely Leeks

The sturdy backbone to many recipes also makes a tasteful addition to the garden.

By Denise Foley

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Leeks can’t cope with weed competition, either. I weed every time I walk past my raised beds, but I also tuck salt hay grass in and around the young plants as a weed-suppressing mulch.

And then there’s the blanching. The green or blue-green leaves are edible (Weaver recommends them for flavoring stock), but they’re tough and fibrous. To get that nice, white, tender neck, you need to keep at least a couple of inches of a leek plant out of sunlight to prevent it from greening up with chlorophyll. There are a number of different ways to do this, some more labor-intensive than others. Many gardeners use the trench method. Dig a trench 4 to 6 inches deep and plant seedlings in the bottom of the trench, burying them to the point where the leaves separate into a V shape. Make sure the soil isn’t piled so high on either side that sunlight doesn’t reach the tiny seedlings. As the plants grow taller, you simply draw more of the backfill soil around them.

To Saunders, that sounds like too much work. After his leeks are planted, he forms “hills” by pulling soil up around them each time he weeds.

Alternatively, try what Nova Scotia gardener Cliff Seruntine does: Place leek seedlings into cardboard tubes (think toilet paper) when you plant them, burying the tubes slightly into the soil to keep them upright. He drops a pinch of blood meal, a pinch of bone meal, and a pinch of soil into the tubes to nourish the seedlings as they grow. “The tubes make them think it’s dark and encourage them to expand,” says Seruntine, author of Seasons of the Sacred Earth: Following the Old Ways on an Enchanted Homestead.

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