Thursday, April 7, 2011


The growing season here in the Pacific Northwest is a rather short one. Sometimes remaining on the cool side, especially at night - even in the summer, often we receive more rain than we really want too. Even though it may say "110 days to maturity" on the back of their seed packets, in reality in my garden, it takes about one year before I can begin to harvest leeks. Part of the reason their maturity is retarded in my garden has to do with the fact that I cover them with mulch during the coldest part of our winter and they go dormant. The leeks growing in my garden now were planted a year ago this month (see previous blog post here - Leeks - April 16, 2010) and last week I removed their protective straw mulch. While this leek is by no means the biggest I have ever seen, it has been declared ready for the dinner table.
Even though it takes me a year to grow them, I like the fact that leeks are one of the first crops in the Spring that I can harvest. Thinking ahead, I decided today would be a good day to plant my next year's crop. I didn't start them from seed myself this year and I have a big list of excuses - been too busy with other projects, been using a lot of energy out and about dancing, I didn't want to deal with the usual infestation of gnats and mildew on peat pots, I am lazy, etc. I purchase starts instead. This little tub of leeks cost me just over a dollar and were started by Joe's Gardens from just down the street. Not certified organic, but billed as pesticide free, I like supporting our local businesses. How can I go wrong if I can buy enough leek starts to produce my entire next year's crop for less than the cost of a pack of leek seeds?
Planted in my Garden Nbr. 02, I use my father's old knife sharpener turned my garden dibber to make a deep hole in the soil, then simply plopped in a leek start. I don't even fill in the hole after I've inserted the leek because the rain will slowly push the soil in place around the leek. The long white stem is the portion of the leek that I use, and it is said that this method helps the leek form a longer stem. It works for me! Planted about four inches apart in all directions, there were enough leeks in that tub of starts that I purchased to fill about two thirds of this 3' X 8' raised bed. Then I planted the remainder of that bed with red onion starts.
I also planted sweet peas in this narrow bed in Garden Nbr. 02. These are a bush type sweet pea with blossoms in an assortment of variegated colors. Their bushes should only reach two to three feet in height and should be a lovely addition to my garden.
Hollyhocks are one of my favorites too, so I filled this raised bed with them. Hollyhock plants get quite large and by mulching them for the winter will continue to be a favorite in the garden year after year after year. I'm sure I planted way too many of them in this little space, so plan to replant some of them into other areas of my gardens later in the summer.

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