Leeks love the English climate, with a six month long winter harvest if you grow more than one variety. Throughout the tediously long winter they look impressive and keep on growing, so they are a definite must for lovers of greens in the winter.
They are the easiest crop to germinate, simply sow the seed in a ½-1” drill at a spacing of 1” x 6” and gently water in. In a few weeks you will see lots of little leeks coming up. We sow all our leeks in mid April, if you sow earlier you risk them deciding to flower like onions do. They can be planted in a smallish nursery area and then transplanted (dibbed) to a full sized bed in July.
Early varieties such as King Richard have slender, long and sweet white shanks. They can be harvested from September until Christmas when their delicate leaves tend to go mushy in hard frosts. Then we start eating mid season, Autumn Giant or Mammoth. By March we move onto the varieties with short and fat white shanks and beautiful bluey-green leaves, which can survive a really hard winter. Bandit or the heritage variety, Musselburgh, are best at this.
Leeks like moisture, rich soil and sun, all of which affect the size they grow, as well as their spacing. 5” in 12” rows should give you a good sized leek.
Apart from Rust, which is a stress related fungal infection that slows growth and is mainly due to water stress or over-close spacing, the main problem is the leek moth. This is a new monster which has been imported from hotter climate’s and it is successfully adapting itself to our climate.
The moth flies in May and again in August. The organophosphate spray which keeps them off your leeks is not considered safe for gardeners to use, so the only remedy is to grow them under Enviromesh. Enviromesh is expensive, but lasts for many years and is like a mini-polytunnel.
If I could, I would grow all my vegetables under it, as they all grow much bigger and better. You must put the mesh over the seeds as soon as sown, and not have any onion, garlic or leek leaf debris on the soil, which is what the moth pupates on over the winter. Sometimes, if you buy leek plants for transplanting in June/July, they have been treated with organophosphate and will grow well through the main moth attack in August.
In late June/early July, dibbing is necessary to make a stronger and bigger plant. Dig the plants up, trim the leaves and roots and drop into a 4-5” dib. Fill the dibbed hole with water and re-cover with mesh. As the moth flies by night, it should be alright to do this by day.
And the man who grew a huge leek
Suddenly found he had a nose like a beak
And in the New Year
We began to hear
He would turn into a bird by the end of the week.
Wishing a Happy New Growing Year to all our readers.