gardening, allotment, Yorkshire

Dinner for Mr MS

As well as being excellent soup ingredients, leeks and potatoes are surprisingly versatile in the reproductive area. I don’t mean they’re an aphrodisiac: Mr Mandy Sutter rarely becomes raunchy after ploughing his way through a vast pile of mash. What I mean is that these clever veg have more than one way to ensure the survival of the species.

Every spring, I sow leek seeds in trays. They germinate but even when left for weeks, never reach the ‘pencil-thick’ status that gardening books bang on about. They get to spaghetti-thick then stay there. I plant them out anyway but harvesting them (up to a year later) they always look more like spring onions than leeks.

This year they were as weedy as usual. On top of that, unseasonal heat made them bolt. A year of applying wood ash carefully to their roots had gone to waste. Not to mention all my renditions of Cwm Rhondda, performed to make them feel at home. I was so disappointed that I couldn’t bring myself to talk to them for a week, let alone sing, so I pretended they weren’t there.

But something miraculous happened while my back was turned. They all shot up to 5′ high and produced flower heads shaped like minarets. So spectacular a sight they now make, like a blue-green Istanbul, that I waste hours of gardening time just sitting on my bench gazing. I find excuses to pass among them, to feel their heavy smooth heads knock lazily against my back and shoulders.

leeks, minarets, allotment

Vegetable minarets

I am told that if I leave them to their own devices, they will naturalize. Leeklets will spring forth from their bases and seed from their flower heads will fall and germinate in situ. A leekucopia will result!

Bring it on, I say. I have everything crossed for another bed that looks after itself the way my perennial kale bed does, needing no digging and producing lovely food while I stand by barely lifting a finger.

A more likely scenario, though, is that leeks will become a pest to rival potatoes.

Potatoes have ‘naturalized’ on my plot by cunningly producing tubers too small to detect with the naked eye. At harvest time, these mini-me’s slip through the tines of the garden fork or drop invisibly from the edge of the spade back into the soil where they live to sprout next Spring.

And that’s not the only trick they have up their sleeve.

I am a hotbedder. Once my compost heaps are full, rather than sling squares of carpet on top to keep them warm, I sling multipurpose compost on and grow things in it.

potato, gardening, allotment, peel

Potato peel plants

It generally works well. But this year, delicate beetroot and lettuce seedlings have been barged aside by the rufty tufty dark green rosettes of potato leaves.

Yesterday I dug a few up to find out where they were coming from.

And the top news of 2017 is this: they have been sprouting not from discarded Tesco’s potatoes as I imagined, but from the vast hosts of potato peelings that are discarded after Mr Mandy Sutter has prepared one of his gargantuan piles of mash.

Who knew that  potatoes were capable of this? Annoying as it is, I’m impressed.