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Growing LeeksGrowing Leeks

In traditional medicine, leeks have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throats, gout and kidney stones.  Because they contain Potassium - one leek contains the equivalent of an eighth of an adults daily needs of the mineral - leeks encourage the efficient functioning of the kidneys and are an effective diuretic.  A useful source of folate too, one cooked leek will contain one third of an adult's recommended daily need.

The Leek

The leek is a vegetable that belongs, along with onion and garlic, to the genus Allium, currently placed in family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae. Historically many scientific names were used for leeks, which are now treated as cultivars of Allium ampeloprasum.  The edible part of the leek plant is a bundle of leaf sheaths that is sometimes erroneously called a stem or stalk.  Sown outdoors early spring this versatile produce can be harvested young in early autumn and goes right round till March to has a long life in the ground and enables growers to have supplies all over winter.

Benefits of Leeks

  • Useful source of potassium and folate

Drawback

  • May cause flatulence
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  Sowing
  Growing
  Harvesting
  Varieties
  Problems
How to Sow Leeks

Leek SeedlingsLeek Seedlings

When to Sow Leeks

  • Sow Indoors: January to February
  • Plant Out: May to July
  • Sow Outdoors: March to April

How to Grow Leeks

Pumpkins and virtually all Winter Squashes can be grown in the same way, just take caeful note whether they are bushing or trailing habit, as trailing varieties can be quite space hungry!

  • Sow indoors in modules during january and February one seed per module.
  • Sow outdoor seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep.
  • Row spacing 30-38cm (12-15in) apart.

The seed bed should be well manured the autumn before as they need deep, well-drained enriched soil to do their best.

How to Growing Leeks

Plantinf Leeks OutPlanting Leeks Out

When to Sow Leeks

  • Plant Out: May to July
  • Sow Outdoors: March to April

How to Grow Leeks

  • Leeks are ready to transplant in June when they are about 20cm (8in) high and the thickness of a pencil.
  • Water well the day before lifting and transplanting.
  • Prepare the plants by trimming off the root tips.
  • Make 15cm (6in) deep holes, 15cm (6in) apart in rows 30cm (12in) apart and drop a plant into each hole.
  • Fill the hole with water to settle the roots. You don’t need to backfill the hole with soil, just let the water settle the soil around the roots.
  • If you have a lot of plants, try dropping two or three into each planting hole. You'll get smaller leeks but the overall yield should be the same.
Tips for better leeks
  • To increase the length of white stem it can be blanched by gently drawing up dry soil around the stem in stages, but try not to allow soil to fall between the leaves or you will get gritty leeks.
  • Water during long, dry spells and weed regularly as leeks hate to be surrounded by weeds.
  • When you have the made the hole with your dibber, before you remove the dibber from the soil just compress the soil around the dibber slightly and place your hand around the dibber to keep the soil in place so it doesn't fill the hole in as the dibber is removed.
  • To get your leeks of to a flying start, drop 2 or 3 chicken manure pellets into each hole before you pop the leek in.
  • I always net mine till well established as birds love to tug at them or eat the green tops.
Harvesting Leeks

Harvesting LeeksPlanting Leeks Out

When to Harvest Leeks

  • Harvest: September to April

Tips for Harvesting

  • Leeks may be pulled anytime after they are as big around as your thumb. If you have good loose soils, leeks may be easily pulled by hand, grasping each one down near the base and tugging gently.

  • In a clay or heavy soil, try loosening the soil under them first with a garden fork or trowel to made the job easier. 

  • As you dig or pull them, you may find a few that have started to grow a new leek inside or just beside the old one. That lateral growth is a means of multiplying and it is best to pull and discard those. They will likely be too small for this year and won’t get large enough to over-winter well in the ground.

  • Once your leeks are harvested, you may rinse off the dirt from the roots, but do not trim the roots.

  • Trim the tops to just where the leaves start to become tough. If you are going to refrigerate a few, you should trim the roots and tops; they will keep nicely for about a month.

Leek Varieties

 

Leek Varieties to try

  • Almera Leek
    • An autumn type cropping from mid July to September. Long slender stems/mid green semi-upright leaves.
  • Atlantic Leek
    • Very good frost tolerance for winter cropping well into the new year.
  • Axima Leek
    • Long strong shaft without bulbing. Dark green erect foliage.
  • Below Zero F1 Leek
    • British breeding has combined the vigour of an F1 Hybrid with extreme cold tolerance to produce quality leeks which will withstand the harshest of weathers. Dark leaves, pure white stems with no bulbing, long standing ability and bolting and rust tolerant.
  • Blue Solaise Leek
    • A traditional French variety with deep blue-purple leaves. Superb flavour and very hardy.
  • Carentan Leek
    • Large thick stems with blue-green foliage. Crops late October to Early January.
  • Giant Winter Leek
    • Excellent late variety with heavy thick stems. Will stand in the ground for a long time.
  • Hannibal Leek
    • Fast growing variety for summer and autumn cropping.
  • Jolant Leek
    • Very early variety with a mild flavour. Use for mini-veg or grow on to harvest form August onwards. Grows vigorously and gives a high-density stem.
  • Mammoth Blanch Leek
    • A superior exhibition variety with extra long white blanch and thick, broad flag. Sow mid-January to early March at 15°C.Do not overwater seedlings as this may cause damping off. Harden off and plant out from early May.
  • Musselburgh Leek
    • Most popular variety/strong growing habit. Very winter hardy, thick stems. Ready from December onwards.
  • Oarsman F1 Leek
    • Medium to dark flag leaf, the plants remain virtually free from bolting even when direct drilled. Second early to mid season maturity slot. Shows good resistant to bolting.
  • Pot Leek
    • A true exhibition variety producing very large, heavy leeks.
  • Prizetaker/Lyon Leek
    • Uniform habit produces long thick white stems. As the name implies is ideal for the show bench. Matures from early autumn onwards.
  • Tadorna Leek
    • Medium length, very upright habit and extremely winter hardy. Crops from December to March.
Problems Growing Leeks

Leek RustLeek Rust

Leek Rust:

This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves. It is often worse in long, wet spells.

Remedy:

  • Mild attacks of rust won’t affect the plant, but serious infections may cause leaves to shrivel and affect yield.
  • There is no control for rust once you have the infection.
  • Make sure you don’t crowd plants, as this increases humidity and increases the likelihood of infection.
  • Dispose of any badly affected plant material, and don’t grow garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.

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Onion White Rot:

This fungus causes the leaves to wilt and turn yellow. Under wet conditions, the plants may not wilt but will become loose in the soil. If you lift the plants, you will see a white fluffy growth on the base.

Remedy:

Throw out any infected plants, and don’t grow onions, garlic or leeks in that spot again for at least eight years. This is a very persistent fungus that survives in the soil for a long time. There is no chemical control.

Leek Moth:

This is a relatively new pest of leeks and onions and thought to be mainly concentrated around the south-east coast of the UK, although it has been found further inland and north. Caterpillars tunnel into the leaves, causing whitish-brown patches to develop on leaves. In severe cases, leaves may turn yellow and rotting occurs within them.

Remedy:

Once you see the damage, there is nothing you can do to control it. Remove and destroy infected plants. When planting out, cover leeks with horticultural fleece (like Enviromesh) to prevent adult moths from laying eggs.

 
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