Early Veg Is A Big Winner With Gardeners & Chefs. But How Can We Get Crops Such As Baby Leeks in April? What’s The Vegetable Growing Secret?
It’s April and I recently posted photos of some baby leeks I’d harvested. To me it was a perfectly normal crop to harvest, but a lot of people asked how I’d managed to get such an early harvest.
There are plenty of ways to get baby crops, miniature vegetables, thought the year. But I’ll let you into a secret. The baby leeks I’d harvested weren’t new crop leeks. They were over a year old and purposely kept miniature by a growing technique that ensure mini or baby crops.
Baby Vegetables Growing Techniques
The method I used was simple. I sowed my maincrop leek seed in March 2021, and transplanted as many plants as I wanted to grow as a full size crop in around early May.
The left over seedlings I left in the seedbed and did little in terms of managing them. In essence they were overcrowded and neglected. But here’s the secret.
Crowded plants don’t grow very big. They have competition for light, nutrients and moisture and never grow very big. The result is a bed of mature but miniature plants.
The same techniques works with potatoes, cabbage, carrots etc. The less space they have the smaller the plants and lower the yield. For example when I want small new potatoes I plant the seed potatoes much closed together than my main crop potatoes. I know I’m going to harvest early to get small new potatoes so there no point in giving them too much space. But if I left them then their growth would be restricted and they’d never get very big.
The reverse applies to this basic principle. If I want baking potatoes I plant much further apart and the crop then reaches its genetic potential and produces much bigger tubers.
Ditto cauliflowers and a host of other crops. Spacing dictates final size of plant and hence crop.
Of course there are limits to this. Plant too close together and the crop is so stunted it can fail. And if you go too far apart there’s a limit to how big the plant can get.
But the basic principle applies.
But there are other ways to grow baby crops.
Baby Leek Growing Techniques: Sowing Dates
If I want baby leeks in say, November, I could use the technique above. The only problem is that it ties my land up for all those months. So I could amend the technique and sow the seed much later. So instead of sowing in March?April. I could sow in May or even June. the crop wil have ideal conditions but not the length of time to grow to its full genetic potential by November. So I’ll have a crop of baby leeks.
Baby Vegetables: The Multi Seeded Module Technique
Another way to get small leeks is to multisow modules in March or April and plant out as normal in June. Then, as the crop grows to thin out the crop as it grows. Keep taking the baby leeks from each module and the rest have more space to grow in and keep growing. Ultimately you’ll have a crop of normally spaced leeks that will mature as any other main crop of leeks.
Some other crops can be grown in the same way.
Baby Vegetables: Using Miniature Varieties
If you were to buy a Great Dane or a poodle they would look very different. They are however the same species. It’s just that they are different breeds and have been selected to be different.
Vegetables are similar. For example, all carrots, tomatoes or lettuce are of their respective varieties, but they are different varieties (breeds) of them.
So though all the same variety, some tomatoes will be cherry tomatoes and some will be beefsteak tomatoes. Some will be red, some yellow and some black.
So it is with plant size. There are varieties that are grown to produce smaller crops.
That means that if we check the seed catalogues there will be some varieties that are selected and bred specifically to produce baby crops.
A good example of this is found in sweetcorn. Sweetcorn Minipop is the variety most often recommended and has been bred to grow mini sweetcorn.
Carrots are another example.
As for leek varieties for baby leeks. There are a few on the market and I recommend some research. My preferred variety has not been available this year and I’m trialling Hannibal as an alternative.