By Victoria Nampala
Leek, allium ampeloprasum, also known as allium porrum, is a biennial vegetable in the family liliaceae, grown for its edible bulb and leaves. The plant is a slightly developed bulb attached to a cylindrical stem formed by overlapping thick, flat leaves.
Leeks contain about 83g water, 1.5g protein, 14g carbohydrates and minimal fat. They are also a source of several vitamins and nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, magnesium and manganese. Consuming them decreases the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases. They also fight cancer and heart-related diseases, once included in one’s diet.
Jamiru Mpiima, a nutritionist, says it would be good to include leeks in one’s diet. “The polyphenols found in leeks are known to be strong antioxidants that fight against free radicals that cause chronic disease and aging. It also has many vitamins and minerals which are very important in wound healings,” he says. Nicholas Kayondo who owns a farm in Gayaza teaches how to grow leeks on both large and small scale by doing following.
Leeks grow well in cool climates and can be successfully grown in most soils as long as they are rich and well-drained. Leek will grow optimally in a well-draining loam with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0 and at temperatures between 18-21˚C (65-70˚F) with eight hours of bright sunlight.
- Plant leeks in a sunny spot in soil that is fertile and well-drained. Space them inches apart when planting to avoid overcrowding and competing over soil nutrients.
- Leeks need two things to thrive: lots of nitrogen and consistent soil moisture. If possible, add compost or organic fertiliser to the leek bed the season prior to planting.
- To produce a succulent white stem, leeks must be covered or hidden from the sun and it can only be done by planting the leeks in deep holes.
- Create a narrow trench six to eight inches deep, then tuck seedlings into the trench, adding soil back so it comes up to the base of the first green leaf. Water well.
- After planting, mulch the bed with organic material to help soil retain moisture.
- Soak newly planted leeks with a liquid fertiliser such as Bonnie Herb and Vegetable Plant Food.
- Keep the soil around the leek plants weed-free. Take care when weeding because the roots and stems are easily damaged.
- During a prolonged spell without rain (one week or more) you should water gently, but deeply once a week.
- In order to conserve soil moisture in a dry season, it is a must to spread a one-to-two-inch-thick layer of grass on the soil around the plants. Ensure the grasses used are weed-killer-free and that they do not directly touch the plant stems.
- At about the 15th week after sowing and while plants are growing strongly you can apply a second application of a well-balanced fertiliser.