How to grow leeks from seed March 06 2016

Leek pattern

Leeks are a wonderfully hardy winter vegetable that will happily stay in the ground until needed. Frost tolerant with a long harvesting season, leeks are also a good source of vitamins A and K.

Sowing seeds

Sowing leeks in module trays ensures the seedlings can be easily looked after until they are established. Alternatively, sow seeds directly into the ground.

Sow in a module tray (March to April)
Fill a tray with multi-purpose compost and use a pencil to make a 1 cm deep indent into each module. Sow a couple of seeds into each indent and sprinkle more compost on top. Firm down, gently water and put your tray somewhere light, warm and sheltered. Keep moist – don’t let the compost dry out. Once the seedlings have appeared,  remove the weakest from each module. After around ten weeks the young plants should be ready to plant out.

Directly into the ground (May to July)
Once any threat of frost has passed, sow seeds thinly into a 1 cm deep row and cover with soil. Water well. Allow a 30 cm gap between rows. Keep the soil watered. Leeks sown this way may require thinning out later on.

Planting out

When the young leeks are around 20 cm tall, they’re ready to be transplanted to their final growing positions. Prepare your planting holes in deep, rich soil.

Make holes and lower in leeks
Dig 15 cm deep holes in the ground using a trowel or dibber. Keep holes 20 cm apart and allow 30 cm between rows. Carefully lower a plant into each hole, twisting it between your fingers to get the roots in. Fill the holes with water to bring the earth around the roots. Don’t fill in the holes with any more soil.

Water until established and then only in dry spells.

Weed regularly. Avoid damaging the stems when hoeing.

Build up soil around growing leeks to produce longer stems.

Harvesting

Leeks grow slowly but they have a long harvesting period. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil before pulling leeks out of the ground. Harvest throughout the winter months.

Eating
Top and tail leeks then wash to remove any traces of soil.

SAUTÉ    Cook on a high heat with a small amount of oil. Add fennel, garlic or thyme to the pan.

BOIL    Simmer for 15 minutes  until the leeks are tender.

BAKE    Place sliced leeks in an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

STEW    Use as a base for slow-cooked stews and soups.

Storing
Dig up as required or keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.

FREEZE    Slice then blanch for three minutes in hot water. Allow to cool and put in plastic bags for the freezer.