This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Leeks should be well grown or not attempted at all, for nothing is more unsatisfactory than ill-grown Leeks, while well-grown ones are invaluable to the owner of a small garden who wishes to make the most of it. To have them in the best condition possible, the ground to which they are to be finally transplanted should be prepared in winter by deep digging and very liberal manuring. Indeed, if the soil be thin and light, one-third of the whole body should consist of rich cow-manure, and if possible the whole ground should be soaked during frosty weather with cow-urine or other manure-water. The difference between the produce of land so prepared and land prepared in the ordinary way will more than pay for the extra work and expense, and the ground will be left in first-rate condition for Cauliflowers the succeeding season. Very much depends also on the raising of plants early enough, and the warmest position and richest soil should be chosen for the purpose of raising plants on, avoiding the too common error of sowing the seed thickly: thin sowings give by far the finest plants. It is best, if possible, to sow them under protection, such as a cold frame or a hand-light affords. As soon as the stems attain the thickness of an ordinary pencil, they should be transplanted.
The usual way adopted by amateurs is to leave them where they are sown, but the produce under that system is very inferior. Supposing ground to have been prepared during winter, as recommended, it will be advisable to break it up finely six or eight inches deep with a fork, to make it loose and open. In planting, stretch the line where the row is intended to be, and thrust the dibble down to the depth of six or seven inches, and just drop a plant in the hole and leave it there. Do not fill in the hole, or you may put the earth into the centre of the plants, which would spoil them. Enough earth will fall into the hole of its own accord. Allow the plants from a foot to eighteen inches between the rows, and from four to eight inches between the plants in the row, according to the richness of the soil and the strength of the plants. In hot, dry weather, a good soaking of water with a little manure of some kind in it will help them wonderfully; but whether dry or not, manure-water should always be given, as it makes a great difference on the crop. There is nothing to surpass cow-urine for this purpose, well diluted with water, or better, the drainage of the house. Indeed, the last by itself is worth a good deal for the purpose of stimulating this crop, as well as many others.
Frequent stirring of the soil by means of a hoe will help them much, and will destroy weeds.
To grow Leeks for exhibition, sow seeds of a favourite strain about the beginning of February (not sooner, or they will run to seed), under glass in a stove, a vinery, hotbed, or other similar place. Grow them on in pots in rich soil, and harden off carefully, finally transplanting them to a rich piece of ground about the end of May, putting them down a foot or so in the soil, and keeping the soil from reaching their centres by means of funnels made of stiff paper, or such like. The stems "draw" to the surface in a week or two, when the funnels may be removed. Floodings of manure-water at intervals are also given, and by such means wonderfully firm Leeks are grown, and fit for exhibition by August.
Shallots are often grown in cottage-gardens, and frequently do very well where Onions are of very little use. Prepare the ground as for Onions, and plant in February or early in March, by pressing them into the soil so as to just leave the points out and nothing more. This should be done in drills one inch deep, so that the working of the ground after they are fairly growing will not cause them to be left on a ridge. From one foot to fifteen inches between the rows, and from four to six inches between the sets in the rows, is about the distance they require, according to the condition of the soil and the variety, as there are great differences in the habits of the different kinds. Take up and dry the tubers after the foliage becomes yellow, and store them as advised for Onions. They are also grown from seed treated like Onions. Small Onions, too small for use, may be planted and treated in the same way; and if care be taken to remove the flower-stems as they shoot for seed, the result will be a crop of large Onions. Indeed we have seen Onions sown thickly on poor ground, about the month of May, for the purpose of obtaining large Onions when they could not be secured otherwise.
Garlic requires almost similar treatment to Shallots, and the directions given above will serve for this crop also. The same may be said of Rocambole, which is, however, very seldom grown. For the cultivation of Chives, see the article on Salads in the number of ' The Gardener' for June. These are all the alliaceous plants in general cultivation. Gardener.