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General Category => Plant Breeding => Alliums => Topic started by: Ferdzy on 2019-06-25, 02:16:36 PM

Title: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2019-06-25, 02:16:36 PM
Two summers ago I was very excited to find that some leek seeds that had dropped from seed heads had overwintered. This is the first time I have seen that happen. We grew them out, and they seemed particularly good the spring after that, which is to say last spring. They went to seed last fall and I saved the seed with the idea that we would be continuing to select these for early spring eating. Then I thought I had lost the seed and was heartbroken, but I have just figured out where it went: half our Rose de Roscoff seedlings are turning out to be leeks.  :-[

Has anyone else had leek seed overwinter in the garden, and if so, what kind of winter? The winter these seeds/seedlings survived was not particularly cold, but still, it was winter in Canada. I would say it got down to near or just below -20C only a few times. Spring had quite a bit of freezing and thawing. As far as I can tell, the mother of these seeds was Verdonnet, allowed to cross with Bandit (Green Winter), Giant Musselburgh, and Inegol which is a Turkish landrace (?) as well as itself, of course. Seedlings were only found within range of the Verdonnet section but I can see signs of the other varieties in them, even the Inegol which is the least apparently winter hardy.

Our goal with these is to be able to dig them as soon as the ground thaws in the spring, and for them to actually look nice - marketable, even - when that happens. When we grow them out again we will be looking for late bolters, again so they can be usable in the spring for as long as possible.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Richard Watson on 2019-06-28, 11:23:52 PM
That is something Ive never had happen in my garden and that is leek seed volunteer
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Diane Whitehead on 2019-06-29, 07:38:04 PM
Some of my leeks have triangular bulbils that come off if I pull the leek, and then I have a perennial clump.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2019-06-29, 07:51:22 PM
Some of my leeks have triangular bulbils that come off if I pull the leek, and then I have a perennial clump.

You mean at the base, Diane? I had that happen with some of this group too. But how about actually growing from overwintered seeds?
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Diane Whitehead on 2019-06-29, 07:58:34 PM
Hmm.  I have had some grow that I didn't sow.  I'll pay better attention this year.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Richard Watson on 2019-06-29, 11:45:58 PM
Some of my leeks have triangular bulbils that come off if I pull the leek, and then I have a perennial clump.
And that is something I dont get from my plants either, perennial leeks yes.
 
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2019-07-28, 08:06:06 AM
We just gave the leeks their second transplant, and they are looking nice!

I guess I should say we start them in flats, transplant them to shallow trenches when about 4" tall, then at the end of June - hem, hem - we use a dibble to form 8" deep holes and drop 1 good leek into each hole, then water them in. There are always a lot of smaller leeks that get discarded (to the kitchen). This is the second transplant to which I refer. A month late, mostly due to weather related problems. However, I also get the impression that these are going to be fairly slow-growing in the first half of their lives. They seem to get as big as most leeks by the time I want to pick them though, so that's good.

In spite of their hardiness, these are not the "blue-est" leeks we've ever grown, but they have an odd stiff, almost prickly, quality to them. That's to the touch - they were lovely and tender to eat in the spring.

In short, getting kind of excited about these again.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Richard Watson on 2019-07-28, 01:22:08 PM
Our Canadian/New Zealand cross grex that we are growing has shown quite a range of leaf colour this winter, from a blue/green to a light green, ive got about 60 plants that I can use for flowering so these green ones will be pulled out soon 
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Steph S on 2019-11-15, 05:15:11 PM
American Flag leeks overwinter in my garden.   I can't say the same for seed, unfortunately they flower so late it is a challenge to get any seed from them.   I brought some into the greenhouse one year to overwinter and I did get seed from them that year after transplanting outdoors.   One thing I noticed is that they will form 'pearls' or little bulbs around the base of the stem after you remove the seed stalk.  Those are winter hardy, but they won't form unless the flower stalk is removed early enough for them to grow before the season is over.
I've really neglected these poor things and didn't quite get them transplanted to a better place this season.   They seem willing to persist in spite of me, but it would be good to give them some space so they can get full sized.  ::)
I grew Mammoth leeks last year, which had all the space and grew as big as leeks should be, but too bad they didn't survive winter.  They were kind of odd with a mix of blue vs green leaved  and short vs tall stemmed among them, so may have been crossed seed.  I had hopes of selecting a nice one but if they're not hardy there wouldn't be any point.   
I'm getting too old for vegetables that don't fend for themselves.   ;)
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2019-11-23, 11:55:20 AM
Unfamiliar with Mammoth leeks but as far as I know American Flag is just another name for Giant Musselburgh, which has long been a staple for me. It is not the hardiest in my experience but pretty good, up there, etc.

Elephant garlic is actually a leek and when you get those little "pearls" or bulbs at the base, your leeks are heading in that direction. For what that's worth.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Steph S on 2019-11-23, 02:04:28 PM
Yeah I think American Flag has a bunch of common names. Broad London is another one.  :D
The Mammoth leeks are British originally - came to me from a seed swap.  Big fat seedlings and fast growing.  We got Mammoth Onion in the swap one year too, and that was awesome.  Large and very sweet onions.
So far the Elephant Garlic hasn't crossed my path.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2020-03-17, 07:28:49 PM
Sauntered out to look at the garden since most of the snow has melted. Leeks look variable, but mostly fairly perky. I'm getting excited to be out and doing soon.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2020-04-03, 06:39:13 AM
I have made my first blog post about gardening of the year; it includes a photo of the leeks being saved for seed. There are not that many. They got planted late and many of them were planted far too shallowly under the mistaken impression that they were onions. Overall, they run very, very small. However, there are enough decently sized ones to go on with. Here's the photo.

How do they look compared to other people's leeks in the spring? Also, where are you because I'm sure that makes a big difference. In one way this was a mild winter, in that it never got super cold - I don't think it went below -20C and not that often or that long. On the other hand, snow cover was mostly fairly poor, which is why the tops of the leaves are so bedraggled.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Steph S on 2020-04-03, 11:21:13 AM
I'm sure they'll be fine.   Size doesn't matter, as long as they overwintered and are in decent soil they should bolt happily and produce some seed.
I've overwintered American Flag in the greenhouse,  which weren't huge to begin with,  chopped them off to eat during the winter (leaving about an inch), and then potted them up into a fairly small but rich container to put outdoors in spring.  They flowered just fine, both large and small.
That is in Newfoundland.
The outdoor patch that comes again is crowded among other perennials, there are clumps too where new ones came from 'pearls', and they are not growing to full leek majesty unless I take some and plant in a proper bed....   they still put out flowers occasionally in spite of their scrawny size.  Too late in the season though.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2020-04-03, 12:54:07 PM
Oh yeah! I'm not worried about them producing seed; I'm sure they will. Also us home gardeners know alllll about "trimming" our vegetables.

I guess what I was wondering was more along the lines of "if you found these for sale in April or May, would you consider buying them?" Do they look like commercial quality leeks? From that point of view, I don't think they are there yet.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Steph S on 2020-04-03, 01:01:44 PM
Well for eating/selling purposes, they won't bolt immediately by any means.   You can definitely give them time to shake off the winter scruffs.  ;)
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2020-07-08, 11:30:19 AM
We just did the second transplant of our leeks from seed from this strain. We got good germination and planted them out in trenches earlier in the spring; by now they have sized up enough to be dug up and dropped into 8" holes for their final positions.

Size has been all over the place with these leeks. Some of them seem to stay very tiny, no matter what. Most of them grow quite slowly and only really seem to hit a good size in their second spring. However, we re-planted only the largest ones this time. We re-planted 84 leeks - about 1/4 of what we had - and all but about 10 were a quite decent size. We've certainly planted leeks as poor as the remaining 10 too, so that's not unheard-of. Discarded the rest, they were too small for me to even want to fiddle around with them in the kitchen.

However, my overall impression is that even after only 2 years of growing these out, we are succeeding in selecting for better early growth. They continue to be oddly stiff to the touch, compared to any other leeks we've grown, although they cook up as tender as any.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Richard Watson on 2020-07-08, 01:21:35 PM
The size has been all over the place for me too, a real genetic range of colours also, even had some with thicker leafs.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2020-07-08, 01:27:23 PM
Richard, the ones I am growing now are a very small subset of the types I sent to you, being selected only from ones that spent the winter in the ground as seed and sprouted in the spring. They definitely seem to behave a little differently than any other leeks I've grown.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Steph S on 2020-07-08, 01:39:37 PM
That is interesting...  I thought the same thing about the Mammoth Leeks from seed I got in the swap.   There seemed a lot of variation in leaf color and growth habit - length of stalk, whether a bulbous part underground or not, and also whether they divided readily and formed 'pearls' that is baby leeks on the side.  (A lot of leeks did so that summer, including another var at my friend's farm as well as in my garden.  So it could be mainly environmental.)  May have been an accidental cross in that batch.
I have a small group that I selected from the Mammoth brood although I don't recall exactly what I selected for - they got brought into the greenhouse and the others didn't survive.  They are in a pot outdoors now and will flower soon.
My hardy leeks got moved this year to a sunnier place with less competition, hoping they will settle in there and set seed earlier than they usually do, which is very late.  No sign of any scapes on these until August or September.   Overwintering in the greenhouse is pretty much the only way I can get seed in this short season, but maybe do better in the sunny spot.
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2021-03-11, 12:01:21 PM
Three days ago we had a foot of snow - at least- throughout the garden. We then had 2 days (including today) of near 20C weather. Tomorrow it's back to seasonal temperatures, fluctuating between freezing at night and thawing in the day. We went back and had a look at how things are doing.

The leeks! They are the best I've ever seen! A little flattened, but NO dead and rotting sections. To be fair, we have had good snow cover and no temperatures below -20C, even at night, with daytime temperatures being higher, and very steady throughout the winter. An ideal winter thus far for things to come through. I'm a bit surprised at how much the Turkish Inegol influence is still seen in these, even though they all came out of Verdonnet. Inegol is the parent that is bringing the size, it's the others that are bringing the hardiness. 

So, what do people think?

1/) Eh, I've seen better.
2/) Pretty typical looking spring leeks.
3/) Wow, those look great!
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Joseph Lofthouse on 2021-03-11, 06:35:53 PM
Wonderful looking leeks!
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Steph S on 2021-03-15, 07:15:40 PM
They look great!  Hardly crushed (I see a plant in the back row behind them flattened to the ground) and leaves all good under the snow is pretty fine indeed.   Nice range of leaf colors. 
Title: Re: Overwintering leeks for immediate use in the spring
Post by: Ferdzy on 2021-03-16, 05:15:51 PM
Yeah, that's the celeriac. It overwinters and will recover and go to seed if I let it, but it's not edible anymore.

The darker leaved leeks are clearly the best. The lighter leaved leeks are clearly dominating the largest leeks (ie anything that got  planted on last year). But it looks like if I keep on keeping on, there are enough dark leeks to keep on with.