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Growing Leeks from Sowing to Harvest

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Hi there!

You've got to admire leeks.

They're exceptionally hardy, generally trouble-free,

and best of all they'll give you these beautiful long stems

from autumn right the way through to spring

at a time when other harvests can be thin on the ground.

Well, now's the time to start thinking about sowing them

so let's get started!

Leeks are very hardy vegetables

which in most regions will safely sit through frost and snow

to be lifted as needed

You can prolong the harvest period by selecting a mix of varieties.

Early-season leeks are less hardy

but will be ready for autumn

while mid and late season leeks

will give you smooth stems for winter and spring.

Grow leeks in a sunny, open position in well-dug soil

that's had plenty of organic matter added to it.

The fungal disease rust can be a minor problem from summer onwards.

Make sure you leave enough space between plants

for good air movement, and look out for varieties

described as rust-resistant.

The earliest varieties can be sown under cover from late winter,

with others following on from mid-spring.

Leeks are usually sown in pots or trays of potting soil

and then transplanted into their final position

once they're big enough.

For guidance on when to start sowing, you can use our Garden Planner

which uses data from your nearest weather station

to recommend the best time to sow, plant and harvest your crops.

Sowing is very easy.

Start by sieving potting soil into pots or trays.

Gently tamp down the potting soil,

then sow the seeds very thinly so they fall about 1in (2cm) apart.

You can also two seeds per cell in a plug tray.

Now cover them over with a thin layer

of more potting soil, and water them.

Keep the potting soil moist as the seeds germinate

and the seedlings grow on.

Early sowings should be placed on a sunny windowsill

or into a greenhouse

where the warmth will encourage quicker growth.

As the seedlings grow you can if you wish

separate them out and pot them on

into individual pots or tubes.

Before transplanting your young leeks,

make sure you've acclimatized them to outdoor conditions

by leaving them outside for increasingly longer periods

over the course of one or two weeks.

They're ready to transplant when they're 6-8in (15-20cm) tall.

Begin by dibbing holes into well dug soil

that are about the same height as the leek seedlings.

You can either use a purpose-made tool to do this

or improvise with the handle end of a garden tool like this.

Make one hole for each plant.

The hole should be about 6in (15cm) apart

with a foot (30cm) left between rows.

Or, if you're planting in blocks,

space them 8in (20cm) apart each way.

Now carefully remove the leeks from their pots

and if they haven't already been potted on

carefully tease the roots apart.

Place the seedlings into the holes.

It's important that the roots reach right down

to the bottom of the hole,

so if necessary, help them along.

If they're very long you may need to trim them to get them in.

Placing seedings deeper into the holes like this

encourages longer white stems.

With your leeks now in position,

fill the holes of the brim with water and leave to drain.

Do not fill in the holes -

the soil will naturally fall back in with time.

It will be nice and loose, allowing the stems to swell.

Easy-care leeks needs very little attention.

Water the plants in very dry weather

and keep the ground between the leeks weed-free

by hand weeding or hoeing weekly.

If you want really long white stems

you can blanch them 2-3 weeks before harvesting.

To do this, simply draw the soil up around the leeks to exclude light,

or tie tubes around the stems like this.

Leeks can be harvested as soon as

they've reached the desired size.

To do this, slip a fork underneath the plant to lever it out

while pulling up on the leaves.

Trim the roots and any damaged leaves onto the compost heap

then wash away the soil ready for the kitchen.

Hardy varieties may be dug up as needed over the winter

though in very cold areas you may want to

dig them up before the ground freezes solid.

Leeks are very versatile and can be added to many recipes

including stir fries, quiches, soups, pies and tarts.

For a luxurious side dish

try adding cream and grated cheese to sauteed leeks

before serving piping hot

with a grind of the pepper and salt mills.

Just delicious!

Look after your leeks and they'll love you back.

I can't think of many vegetables as generous as these beauties.

Now, if you're already in the know about leeks

and fancy sharing some cultivation or culinary tips,

do drop us a comment below.

And if you're new to our video channel -

well, come on over and join us by clicking that subscribe button!

In the meantime - happy sowing!

I'll catch you next time.

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