How to grow Leeks, part two.

For part one of How to grow Leeks, CLICK HERE

So now your leeks are looking super tall under the lights and are starting to get too long.



Not a problem.  Take some scissors and give them a haircut to about  2 – 3″ tall.   You can cut them every couple of weeks this way until transplant time outdoors.



The trimmings can be used like chives.


Orchard Planning

It is time for a guest blog post “Talking Vinton”

I received a call from a Vinton County resident and new friend of mine named Jim last week.  His daughter had purchased him 20 fruit trees on a good sale and he wanted advice on how to start an orchard.   There is no Ag Educator in Vinton at this time and I enjoy talking orchards so off I went down 93 South towards Vinton County.

First off was a tour of the property.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  Jim is a builder by trade and a good one at that.  He showed me some of the 13 ponds that he dug himself.  This one was great for bass until the upstream source tributary region was strip mined.  Now it is a brilliant blue from the mineral drainage.



Jim saved two cabins that are over 200 years old due for demolition in Fairfield County and brought them to his land.



Not a bad view from the porch.


On to some actual Orchard talk.  Jim has a great spot high on a hill, slight north face, with the sun tracking along its length.  He will be able to spread the trees out on 15-20 foot centers,  avoid frost damage due to the cold air rolling down hill and be able to put a fence along the periphery to keep the deer out.   We took a look at the various fruit varieties(Jim stored them in a truck up on the hill to protect them from deer and frost) and discussed making sure all had the proper pollinators.



I think the orchard is going to turn out great and I told Jim I will be back late spring and early summer for a follow up.  If you have any fruit or vegetable questions give me a call at Extension in Hocking(Even if you are from Vinton, no problem)

Ohio State has a publication that we used as a reference that is helpful.  The Midwest Home Fruit Production Guide.

CLICK HERE to order the hard copy.   CLICK HERE to download a free PDF copy to save to your computer.


How to grow leeks.

I have been teaching about growing vegetables for many years.  I grow vegetables because I like to cook and you get the best product if you grow it yourself.   My criteria for selecting what to grow is that I either grow things that taste best when you grow it fresh like tomatoes, or  I grow things that cost money in the store but are really not hard to grow at all, like lettuce and leeks.

I will say that pretty much every class I have ever taught when I mention leeks I always get questions on the topic as I think there is a misconception about growing leeks.  It is not hard at all. In fact;

  • Leeks are easy to grow
  • Leeks are cheap to grow
  • Leeks are generally easy to care for

So lets get started.  What you need to grow leeks:

  1. A basement grow set up.  WANT TO LEARN HOW TO SET THIS UP?
  2. Leek seed
  3. Soilless mix/Seed Starting mix
  4. Pots, water, you get the idea


Start with a small flat, pot, six-pack, whatever.   Fill to within one-half inch of top edge of container with moist seed starting mix.  Firm gently, sprinking seed on top being generous.  Sprinkle the top of the soil/seed with vermiculite or more soil less mix to cover.   Top water gently, wait until it germinates.



This was a plastic tray mushrooms from the store came in.  I like the size and it is sturdy.  As you can see I put a whole bunch of seed on there.   Leek seed is one of the only species of seeds that don’t really do well year to year so I planted about half a package.  Leek seed, as with all the Alliums, takes a good 10-14 days to germinate so be patient.  Normally with most vegetables you need to thin when they hit first true leaf, but I don’t do that with leeks like I would with tomato or lettuce.

When you have the first true leaf it is time to gently seperate the plants to move them one stage up, into individual cells.  Most plants appreciate you being gentle.  You can pick them up by the leaves or the root ball, just do not abuse the stem.  Leeks (and most onion types) are tougher than most.  I just gently seperate them in a pan.



Make sure that you tease them apart and not tear the roots too much.  It helps if the dirt is wet when you do this.  Put a little bit of soil in each planting cell then put a leet plant in it.  Each little transplant should have a few roots coming off the stem end.



Next you backfill with more soil around each plant about up to the rim of each cell or pot.  Gently firm the soil around each transplant and make sure the roots are all buried.  Put the containers into water that has a little bit of fertilizer in it.  Remember, each seed has enough nutrients in it to get a leaf or two going, but then they need fertilizer.





The blue mushroom container planting flat had enough little seedlings that after careful division and transplanting ended up giving me 63 plants.   Look for further installments on this website as they grow.






Seed Starting with the Master Gardeners – Hands on Lab

A Master Gardener Continuing Education meeting was held in the Soil and Water(ha!) room last week.   Extension provides a way for the Hocking County chapter to earn CE hours in-house with ideas sourced from the members on things they would like to learn about.  Mid March is the ideal time to start a whole bunch of different herbs, vegetables and fruits including but not limited to tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, eggplant and the cabbage family.   We also did thinning of recently planted lettuce, leeks,  cabbage and spinach plants that were at or just past first true leaf stage.

mgv3The Volunteers brought their own seed, soiless mix, variety of pots and after a short presentation on needed materials and methods we all got to work.

mgv4It was a fun way to both learn and put actual knowledge into practice.  These seeds will germinate, get thinned, then transplanted into small pots then eventually into their forever homes.  Thanks to the Hocking County chapter of the Master Gardener Volunteers for letting me present to them.

mgv2Save the date!  I will be teaching a free Seed Starting class to Hocking County residents on April 12th at 7pm at the Youth Center.


Tick season is almost here

This is a summary of the information presented to the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists, Hocking County chapter at the 3/8/16 spring meeting.

I have been fighting tick borne diseases for most of my twenty year Veterinary career.  They cause some of the most difficult to diagnose, poorly understood syndromes of diseases in both humans and companion animals.  I have noticed professionally that the incidence of disease has been slowly increasing in Ohio and that what was once rare 5-10 years ago is now becoming more common.  I personally have diagnosed canine patients in the last few months with both Lyme disease(Borreliosis) and Erlichia canis.

Click for the OHIOLINE TICK FACTSHEET This is an Ohio State University Extension publication

Here is the typical tick life cycle using the Deer Tick as an example, note they feed as they move through the stages of development. (Source:CDC)

As we head into spring it is crucial that proper prevention and repellant strategies are followed.

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves, tape collars and cuffs or tuck pants into socks.  Tuck in shirts.
  • Wear boots with regular length socks.
  • Do a proper tick check after leaving woods(or parks, or pasture, not every tick lives in a forest,  my biggest reported area in practice is a mix of public parks and metropark hiking trails.)
  • Remove ticks immediately if found, OHIOLINE HAS REMOVAL PROCEDURE
  • Want to Identify the tick species?  IDENTIFICATION GUIDE
  • Use a repellant on skin that actually has the strength to deter ticks.   TOPICAL INSECT REPELLANT LIST
  • Treat clothing properly with Permethrin, do not use on skin, follow directions carefully.  HOW TO TREAT CLOTHING

tick sprays

Left to Right:

1.) Permethrin spray for use on clothing only

2.) Cutter backwoods DEET level = 25% (minimally effective vs. ticks)

3.) Cutter skinsations DEET level =  7% (ineffective vs. ticks)


One new allergy that has been only recently discovered is called Alpha-gal Allergy.  Hocking County is Beef country.  This allergy would not go over well here.  Alpha-gal allergy is when a persons immune system becomes sensitized to red meat after a bite from a Lone Star Tick.  Another name for this disease is called Mammalian Muscle Disease or Allergy as after eating beef or pork(or any mammal) a person has an allergic reaction, in some cases a severe one.  Any disease that causes me to be allergic to cheeseburgers has my full attention.

So please as we get ready to head out into the woods with spring ahead of us, please take the time to protect yourself and take the potential of tick borne diseases and allergies seriously.


Early spring vegetable experiment

In my weekly heads-up email to county residents(email me if you want in) I mentioned that we have a ten day forecast of 3 days of nice warm weather followed by 7 days of nice, wet weather.   While the first week of March is not usually the best planting time, I am all about experimentation in the garden.  Seeds are cheap,  veggies cost money.   Why not take a chance with a few seeds in a small corner of the garden to see if we get an early April payoff?

First things first.  The compost pile.  I am a cold compost pile person as a rule preferring the effects of time, wind, weather and critters to break my pile down for me.   As you can see here:s18


A few minutes with a garden fork messing it up a bit, mixing into the layers and adding some oxygen make it look a little better:



Mother nature will water that for me this week.  I will probably give it another stir in a week or two as that much water may be too much.  The next thing I did was take the transplants that I used as demonstration plants when I did a Seed Starting class for the Four Seasons Garden Club:


They went into my kitchen garden and were watered with a dilute fertilizer solution to give them a head start.  In a couple weeks I will start to harvest them and that should extend into May.  I interplanted them with some overwintered spinach plants for a nice salad mix.



Finally I covered them back up with floating row cover.  I don’t need it for cold protection any time soon, it will provide protection from rabbits, deer and squirrels who would love to find some fresh produce right about now.


Don’t be afraid to experiment with early plantings or late plantings.  The worst thing that happens is you are out a little bit of seed.  I still recommend succession plantings of spring greens every two weeks for at least the next month.

I will be teaching these techniques at classes at the Youth Center each month starting in April.  Watch this site for more information.