On cheap leeks


Snowcover has a way of throwing a brand-new look to the garden, making you look closely at what’s already out there.  After the first snow, my eye and the camera fell upon a spouting leek blossom.  Lookee that, I thought.  What an anomaly.

I had allowed this particular leek to go to seed because it had the fortitude to live through a tough winter.  It duly sent up three big flower stalks this spring, followed by a couple of leek pearls and at least one leek bulb.  So I cut and harvested the seedheads this fall after they’d dried, and harvested the leek bulb for a greenhouse transplant, but I ignored the rest of the plant.  Well, we must have had a wetter autumn than I had previously thought because one of the smaller blossom’s many seeds had sprouted right on the bloom itself.

When I was a kid of about 11 or so, I picked up a ratty copy of The After-Dinner Gardening Book by Richard Langer at a library sale.  This one unassuming paperback has actually been one of the most influential books of my life.  It was written by a sun- and soil-deprived New Yorker who had a hankering to see what he could grow from the castoffs of his meals.  (The 1970s were, after all, the Age of Indoor D.I.Y. Plants:  whose house didn’t have an avocado pit or a sweet potato half sprouting in a jar of skunky water, toothpicks stuck in their midsections?)  Anyway, this book was transformative for me, a gangly preteen with a hankering for her own windowsill garden.  It certainly made me look (and continue to look) at any and all plant-like things as POTENTIAL.


So here I am, not even a day of snow-covered ground behind me, and I am pulling the sprouting leek blossom apart, planting the babies in a leftover take-out container filled with seedling mix, leftover take-out chopstick as my planting tool.


The babies will sit inside on the dining room table for a while, inside a perforated plastic bag to keep our one evil plant-munching cat from eating it.  The babies will get bigger, get a haircut, get bigger still and then they’ll be transplanted out in the greenhouse.  It’s quite possible I will never get a leek from them, as the trip from warm house to chilly greenhouse might signal them to go to flower this spring.  But I couldn’t just let the blossom winterkill with all those little babies clinging to it.  What would Richard Langer say?

7 responses to “On cheap leeks

  1. Love it. Brilliant. Look forward to seeing how they do.

  2. Can’t wait to see what happens. Different climates are so interesting to me. I just planted a bunch of leeks only a few weeks bigger than that. Mine will overwinter outside with the garlic and hopefully we’ll have leeks early in the spring (or they’ll all go to seed).

    And yes, I totally remember the avocado pits…

  3. Oh, it’s too perfect: take-out container, chopsticks and dining room table. After-Dinner Gardening indeed!
    Good luck.

  4. Good luck to the baby leeks and keeping the evil plant munching cat from eating them.Cats are strange creatures.My neighbors cat gets jiggy over Asparagus.He is totally cat anytime else but if Asparagus is around he will degrade himself like a dog and beg next to the table.He has an Asparagus monkey on his back and when he’s Jonesin will do anything for a bite.

  5. My cats like to eat the green chives from the chive plant that I brought in for the winter. Then they throw it up.

    BTW, you’re about to get another load of lake-effect snow tonight. Cheers!

  6. MW: will keep you posted. They usually do well for me but my experience is with seeds…

    Laura, do you mulch them like garlic? Under some cover or just out in the open? Yep here they’d freeze solid if they were outside, and they would probably do okay if I put them in the greenhouse now but they’re so danged small yet I figure I should give them a chance to get bigger first. I find it funny that we’re on the warm side of zone 6…only because it doesn’t get too cold here, but that has nothing at all to do with how very cold it actually gets and STAYS. Hmfh.

    Yep, CC, had to be consistent, you know? Take-out is a dicey thing out here in the hinterlands anyway but hey, look at all the goodies you get with your grub. Instant planting tools if you wash out the tang of the MSG first.

    Cats ARE strange, aren’t they, John. I’ve never met one with an asparagus fix, though. The only strange one we have is the evil plant-munching one, and she placed a nice puddle of pee in Tom’s rather expensive slipper yesterday. If it were up to me she’d take a nice long dirt nap. But it’s not up to me (sigh).

    Laurene, Plant Muncher Slipper Pee-er also loves to upchuck what she’s defiled. It’s like she’s proud to show me or something. I used to LOVE having indoor plants and now all I am left with is one 40-year-old jade plant, which is the only thing she won’t eat. Evil creature.

  7. El – in theory they should be straw mulched like garlic. In reality I was having too hard of a time seeing what I was planting where. So they didn’t get mulched yet – I’m planning to put some straw on them once they’re a bit bigger and I can mulch between my crooked rows… How are your babies doing?

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