I'm not really a pushy salesman but I don't let an opportunity pass by either so I asked if Michael wanted me to grow any Capsicum or Tomato seedlings for him. "Thanks but no, I'm doing easy stuff like onions, carrots, silverbeet, spinach. Just sow the seed directly into the rows. But I might get you to grow some leeks." Leeks? Don't you direct sow them just like onions?
Shows how much I know. It turns out that to get that nice white and tender base to the stem the Leeks need the soil to be mounded up around the stem once the young direct sown seedlings have established. This is a fiddly, time consuming job so it is more practical to purchase well established plants and plant them deeper. Not the spindly little punnet sized plants that we have always assumed were suited to retail nurseries (young plants give better shelf life) but tough wizened old things; if the tops of the leaves go a bit brown, that's fine just cut them off.
A great planting suggestion is to use your rake handle and dibble holes about 15cm deep. The idea then is not to firm the plants in as I usually recommend but to water them in and allow the water to gently wash back into the planting holes. It all sounds quite mystical really. We recommend planting 15-20cm apart as this allows good air flow between the individual plants which minimizes the chance of fungal infections which is one of the few pests to trouble Leeks.
Sticking with the theme of producing tender, white stems I will also change my regular fertilizer recommendation. Chook poo is ideal for Leeks because it provides lots of Nitrogen for rapid, soft growth. I suggest you don't change the standard soil preparation especially for a crop of Leek, just apply the Chook poo as a side dressing. Start doing this about 6 weeks after planting and repeat every three weeks.
Planting Leeks now (April) should produce a harvest in August which is just about ideal for the sort of comfort food that Leeks are best suited to. Don't wait for the leaves to start folding over like other onions, they'll be getting to old and woody by then (I think the ones in the photo are probably a little past ideal a 2cm stem is about perfect). That said Leeks are like Spring Onions and can be planted pretty much any time of year. I also think that we have noticed a significant increase in their popularity which I link to all the modern cooking shows that use Leeks in new and interesting ways including "Barbecuing and Grilling" which significantly expands their usefulness and seasonality.
By the way, I was threatened with Brussels Sprouts for dinner through the week, I'm much happier with the idea of that pasta sauce with Pumpkin and Leek with a few pine nuts and some shaved Parmesan. Yum!
Don't forget Mother's Day is just around the corner, Sunday May 9th. Have you considered a Living Gift?