The leek is a staple of all British vegetable gardens; in fact in old English, vegetable gardens were actually refered to as “Leek Gardens”. This is probably due to the easy to grow and profligate nature of leeks and the fact that they can be harvested all the way from the autumn up until the following spring depending on variety and when they were planted.
If you are growing strong flavoured winter leeks that you hope to harvest in December and January and add to those thick winter stews to warm your bones on long winter nights; then you should really have already sown the seeds indoors in seed trays during February, however don’t despair if you haven’t because I have a couple of solutions for you:
Either sow a late winter variety such as blue solaise – these are ideally sown in April or May to be planted out in June; or you can use a faster growing technique – similar to the raised bed method! Sow your leek seed now under glass in seed trays (1 seed per 4cm module) and prepare to transplant seedlings as usual when they are about pencil thickness which will be mid June. Now comes the clever bit – you want the leeks to catch up missed growing time so that they will be ready for harvesting in the autumn. Make your usual dibble holes with the handle of a broom, but instead of the usually recommended six inch hole, make the dibble holes 12 inches deep and fill the bottom six inches with fresh grass clippings (nitrogen rich) cover with some general use compost. The heat generated by the grass clippings decomposing will greatly speed up your leeks growth.
Feeding Your Leeks
Leeks are quite greedy feeders so make sure to sprinkle a good chicken pellet manure around the roots of your leeks.
The best part of the leek for cooking is the white “stem”. Increasing the length of this white part of your leek can be done by piling soil around the protruding leaves above ground level. This is a gradual process which should be done slowly a bit at a time. You don’t want to simply pack loads of soil around the mature green leaves, rather a centimeter or so of soil every couple of weeks will be much more effective. This causes the light to be blocked from the covered part of the leek which in turn will cause it to turn white and edible.