Expertise needed for this recreational Zone 5 gardener.
My daughter and I have routinely started our leek seeds (“Hattie’s Leeks”) on Valentine’s Day. This was after noticing that the ones at Wegmans were about 2.5″ in diameter, and clearly had exceptional growing conditions. Leeks, man. We can’t seem to grow them quite like the Wegmans farmers. 2017 was our first year planting them in our own garden, and even though we’re bound by a May-Nov outdoor season, part of our fail is that we’re always behind the curve when it comes to starting these guys.
At harvest, they’ve typically only about the width of my thumb. Still super good, but I hope to improve upon it, which is why I’m looking to you for tips. If your tip is move to Ireland, take your tip elsewhere. There’s gotta be a better way to improve our success rate and the size of our plants with a little more careful scheming.
Our seedlings usually start out well enough; excellent germination rate in nothing more than a simple windowsill greenhouse with the occasional heating pad nestled underneath. Hundreds of seedlings are several inches long when I thin them the first time, though brittle as blades of grass, so not all make it to the next stage of planting.
They continue to grow a little bit more, but none of them make it as wide as a pencil before they’re transplanted into the ground mid-May (zone 5) and maybe that’s a myth that’s not to be expected in my environment, but it’s a bit of advice that I read somewhere [damn you, lush Ireland], and it stuck with me.
Last year, 100 transplants into the garden only yielded 13 “full grown” leeks. It was nothing more than novelty planting, and it offered my daughter some ownership and responsibility, so it was fun to observe and foster them. In the end, made for a couple good meals.
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Tell me a little more about how growing leeks from seeds has worked for you?
ONIONS ARE A HEAD SCRATCHER. After putting 100 onion sets in the ground last spring in well-draining, loose, thoroughly composted soil, the sets sprouted healthy greens. How fun! I nabbed some of these spring onions for meals, expecting fully that within a few months (~August by the calculations written on the store packaging) we’d have 100 actual full-size yellow onions waiting to be harvested.
As often as I poked into the earth while weeding around the plants, I never felt a significant change in the size of the root bulb. The greens continued to grow, and then wilted off in July, indicating–so I thought–harvest-time. They were still teeny, so I left most in the ground just to see if they might still grow a little more.
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August rolled around and the weird thing was, most of the onions had shot up new greens. What? Is that normal? I waited until October when we expected our first frost to harvest them. Not surprisingly, considering that I could easily tell that the plants were still tiny in the ground, most were still not much larger than a marble. A couple were as big as a golf ball. I kept the good ones that didn’t feel squishy/rotting, and reserved as many of the greens as I could because they were still curiously in good condition amidst their encore performance.
Do greens shoot up twice in the fall, if the bulb isn’t growing?
Then, it gets even more curious. I missed a few tiny onions when I was clearing the bed in October, and in April, noticed that the leave-behinds had shot up new greens. Do onions survive a hard freeze? Were they hibernating? This is such a weird little, mostly insignificant experiment that we’re overseeing in Garden 2019. (I live 45 minutes from the Onion capital of the World so growing onions is something I really have to figure out.)
This year I grabbed another 100 sets to give it another go. Did not over-compost the soil. Did thoroughly fluff it. Did not set the onions deep in the dirt.
Greens are happening after 2 weeks. More to come. Send advice.