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.
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.