Gardeners are always thinking ahead.
Early in 2017, just as soon as I could, some leek seedlings were planted into the raised beds. They're a wonderful addition to stews, casseroles, and make really tasty soup for the winter.
To see my previous post on this, and how to prepare them, please just click here.
Everyone should grow leeks. They're never attacked by pests or disease.
But as with all vegetable gardening, there is one challenge with growing leeks. You want the nice tender white part to be as long as possible. That is what you use for cooking. The usual way to achieve this is to dig a little, deep trench, and transplant your seedlings into the bottom of it. As the plants grow, the trench is filled in around them, and even hilled up around them, so the leek leaves have to keep reaching up for light and resulting photosynthesis.
I've tried this. But I've found a lot of dirt gets into the layers of leek leaves. So last year I decided to just transplant the seedlings like any others - right into the topsoil of my raised bed. As they grew, I started thinking of all kinds of things I might be able to use to cover the stem up to about 10.”
I thought of cardboard cores, bits of drainpipe, shade cloth tripled and tied. But finally, in the kitchen one day, the answer stared me in the face. One litre milk cartons might just do the job!
I started off with two. Our milk buying habits changed. Everything had to be in those one litre cartons! Of course you can get almond milk, and juice in them too. But if you cut off the top and bottom, you have a perfect blanching cover for those leeks.
It's easy then to make a small hole near the bottom, insert a ground staple, and gently pull the leaves through. The plants grow quickly, cutting off the light, and blanching your leeks. At least, that's what I hoped.
It's a year later, early April, and the 2017 leeks are still being harvested! I've got the new lot ready to plant, but those leftovers from last year are actually in their prime, after growing wonderfully in their cartons. Even after all the challenges of winter weather they are incredibly delicious.