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Gardening: Love your leeks

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Love your leeks

Leeks are another of those plants that I often get people telling me they struggle to grow. Instead of producing solid, large leeks, these frustrated gardeners talk of shrivelled, spring onion-look-alikes. Leeks are not a set and forget type of plant, they require a little love and attention, and if looked after will be a handy and tasty vegetable to have in the garden.

And now is a really good time to plant them. They take a long time to grow, so in order to be ready during winter they need to be in the ground soon. Now’s also a good time because even though they need cold weather, they like to get started while the weather is still warm.

Order your leek seedlings from www.awapuni.co.nz. Each regular sized bundle has 20 leek seedlings (which look a lot like chives) in it.

Next find a good place to plant. They need to be grown in full sun and the soil needs to be well-drained. So if your soil is dense and compact, break it up with a garden fork and dig in some compost and well-rotted manure. This will help improve the quality and drainage.

Leeks also prefer the soil to be a neutral to slightly sweet pH - around 6.5 to 7.5pH. So if you’ve had a bit of rain (which can make the soil sour or acidic) I recommend adding some lime to the soil a few days before you plant to help raise its pH level.

I also suggest digging in a good general fertiliser to help give your seedlings the right head start.

When you’ve got the soil all sorted dig a small trench. Next place the seedlings in the trench, approximately 20cms apart. Leeks need space to expand, and grow best when planted in rows.

Fill in the trench with soil to the top of the stems, leaving the leaves at the top exposed. Now, give your leeks a light water. Try to keep the soil constantly moist, without being too wet.

The tricky part of growing leeks is they need constant moisture but can’t stand water-logged conditions. So, for the first few weeks after planting, you will need to check on the soil every couple of days until they are well established.

As your plants grow, regularly fold in the soil around the stems. Doing this will ensure they increase in size and will help to achieve white, chunky, stems.

As I mentioned at the start, leeks like the soil to be well-drained and lose. Hoeing the soil gently on a regular basis will keep the soil light and fluffy and your leeks happy.

It will take around three to four months for your leeks to be ready to harvest. The easiest way to tell when they’re ready is just to keep checking the size of the part that sticks out of the soil. When that part is looking nice and thick, pull one up and have a look. A successful harvest will produce leeks approximately 15cm tall and 5cm wide. And trust me, nothing beats home-grown leeks.

Beautiful bupleurum

Beautiful bupleurum - that’s a bit of a tongue twister! If you’re not sure how to pronounce it - it’s boo-pler-um.

This pretty plant, which we sell under the ‘flower’ category, is actually a herb. But unless you have experience in herbal medicine or the like we don’t recommend ingesting it. These days, bupleurum is more commonly grown to add colour and texture to gardens and for cut flowers - it lasts really well in a vase.

It has beautiful eucalyptus-like leaves on tall stems with green-yellow flowers and grows to around 80cm tall. It’s closely related to fennel and dill, and you can see why - they have quite a similar look due to the fact they are all umbel-forming plants.

What’s an umbel? This word comes from the Latin word umbella which you’ve probably guessed means parasol, sunshade - much like an umbrella. And it’s used to describe the short flower stalks which spread out from a common point on each stem - like the ribs of an umbrella.

While there’s a bit of information you can learn about bupleurum, growing it is quite simple.

It likes full sun and each plant should be planted around 40cm apart from the next. Once it’s planted it’s very easy-care and doesn’t attract many pests or insects. And will flower in around four to five weeks.

It’s a short-lived perennial which means if you live in an area that gets frosts you will probably get one flowering from your bupleurum. But if you live in a frost-free area of New Zealand, you should get two or more flowerings out of your bupleurum.

Regardless of where you live, if you’re lucky, when they’ve finished flowering they may self-seed and pop up again the next year. Head to www.awapuni.co.nz to order your bupleurum seedlings today.

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