Sunday, 30 October 2016

Skirret and leek companion planting

Skirret (Sium sisarum) is a rare perennial vegetable that has been grown and eaten by people for many hundreds of years.  Skirret is very simple to grow but is very rare as the roots tend to be a bit thin and it is in no way appropriate for mechanical harvest.  Strangely there is very little information on skirret and even less information on how it interacts with other plants.

I have grown skirret plants in pots for far too long, it should be growing in the soil.  Skirret grows ok in pots, but the lack of space is rather limiting, it needs more soil than I can give it.  This year I have planted it into the garden to see what it can really do.  I have high hopes that the skirret will return a larger crop in soil.

Earlier this year, around January 2016, one Babingtom leek bulbil fell into a pot that was growing skirret.  I decided to leave it there as I did not have time to get it out and then I kind of forgot about it.  The skirret was over crowded badly so I had low expectations for the leek, I kind of expected it to be choked out and die.  As I was moving house I did not have time to worry about it.

Now we have moved and I have garden space again so I planted all of my skirret in the garden.  As I removed it from the pot I noticed the Babington leek plant was still growing in that pot among the skirret plants.  Not only this, but this Babington leek is far larger, healthier and stronger than the others of the same age.

The stem is about 5 times as thick as the same aged Babington leeks that were grown in their own pot and were far less crowded.  The plant was a lot taller than the other Babington leeks of the same age, while the others are all about 10cm tall and thinking of going dormant for summer, this one from the skirret pot is about 25cm tall and was sending up a flower stalk.  Babington's leek rarely flowers in its first year when grown from bulbils.  Unfortunately I broke the flower stem when I was removing the skirret from the pot so can not see how many bulbils it would have produced.  This one Babington leek also had produced three tiny bulbs from its roots which again normally does not happen until the second year.  So even without flowering it has reproduced for me.

All in all this one plant was very impressive, it is far larger than any other of the first year plants but a bit smaller than most of the two year old plants.

In theory each Babington leek bulbil will be a genetic clone of the parent and exactly the same as each of its siblings.  So they should all grow more or less the same if they have the same growing conditions.  The only difference is that this one plant grew in a crowded pot filled with skirret.

I think perhaps the skirret exudes sugars or something from the roots that help leeks to grow.  I have planted a leek among the skirret bed to see if it grows larger and faster in there.  Maybe I have stumbled onto something good here?  Or maybe it was just good luck?  I will keep an eye on this and see what happens.

I sell both Babington leeks and Skirret, if you are interested please search for my for sale page in the 'Search This Blog' button on the top right hand corner of the blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment