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Leek Seedlings

Basics of Commercial Farming with Leeks from Seedlings

The leek (Allium porrum) is part of the onion family and thus shares some of the same propagation protocols. It is vulnerable to similar pests and diseases, but there are also differences between the two plants. One of the benefits of farming with leeks is that, unlike onions, leeks do not have to reach a specific level of maturity before the plants can be used. In fact, the leeks are cut to the required size for the dish in question, such as soup or stew, regardless of the vegetable’s size or length. Leeks are mostly used as part of soups and stews. As such, the demand for leeks is higher in South Africa during the colder winter months. Farmers should keep this in mind when they plant leek seedlings

The Edible Parts of The Plant

The leek’s leafy canopy is used for flavouring soups and stews, while the bulbs and shanks are used fresh or as part of stews or similar dishes. Leeks are known for being rich in calcium, manganese, and magnesium, as well as vitamins A, B6, C, and K.

Planting Options

Farmers can sow the seeds directly, which is done during the warmer months of November and December. Thunderstorms, extreme heat, and weeds are risks during this period. Preventing weeds from taking over is difficult when the seedlings have just emerged and are still very small. Direct seeding also means that the plants are on the field for longer and thus exposed to more risks, including pests, diseases, and the vagaries of the weather. The leek seedlings that grow directly from seed can take a considerable time before they become properly established. Growing directly from seed also requires more water. The better option, especially for farmers new to leek propagation, is to purchase leek seedlings from a seedling producer that grows them from seed in a controlled environment. The seedlings get time to become well established and thus stronger before transplanting must be done. The leek seedlings are chemically treated before being delivered to the farmer and this ensures a more uniform stand and quality. As such, it makes economic sense for a farmer to buy from a professional leek seedling producer rather than growing directly from seed.

The application of fertiliser is essential, but the ratio depends on the soil quality. Though many farmers use cattle manure as fertiliser, it is important to apply it conservatively. LAN is also applied throughout the growth period at specific intervals. Producers deliver the seedlings when the plant stems are about as thick as a standard pencil. The seedlings can then be transplanted to the soil directly. The seedlings should be transplanted in rows with a spacing of 20-30 cm and at a minimum 6 cm between the seedlings in the rows. The farmer should also pay close attention to the planting depth; with deeper planting, it is possible to increase the length of the white shank. One of the most important benefits of buying leek seedlings from nurseries is that of saving two months on the field. This means a shorter period before the plant can be harvested.

Preferred Soil Conditions

Farmers grow leeks indoors in greenhouse facilities and outdoors on open fields. It is important to transplant leek seedlings to well-drained and organically rich soil. The pH range of the soil should be at minimum 6.2 and maximum 6.8. The plant requires a lot of sunlight for optimal growth. Transplanting the leek seedlings should be done as soon as possible after receiving them from the grower. The best time of day is early in the morning or at dusk. It is imperative to saturate the seedbed with water before removing the seedlings to avoid damaging their root systems.

Irrigation Practices and Weed Control

With their shallow root systems, leeks cannot sustain dry periods. It is thus imperative to irrigate them regularly. Mulching helps with moisture retention and weed control. With leeks not being strong competitors for nutrients, it is important to follow a strict weed-control regime so as to prevent pathogen-carrying weeds from taking up the nutrients and airflow space that the leeks need.

Obtain top-quality and disease-free leek seedlings for commercial farming purposes. Call Hishtil for more information.

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