Leek - Allium ampeloprasum syn. Allium porrum
A member of the onion family, they have a similar culinary use but a milder taste than onions, especially delicious in winter stews and soups.
Whilst they occupy the vegetable plot for a long period of time, they can be harvested from September through to late-spring, which can be particularly useful through the lean winter months.
Leeks are fairly easy to grow; they will tolerate being grown in a cold, exposed site but do like a sunny aspect. They like a rich, loose, well-prepared soil, so dig in plenty of compost or well-rotted manure in the winter before planting.
Sow seeds inside in Jan-Feb in seed trays or outside in March, 15-20cm (6-8in) apart. When seedlings appear, typically in May, transplant the seedlings up to their necks into planting holes and then fill the hole with water. Keep weeding in between plants and rows to reduce competition and keep watering regularly. Cover with fine netting or fleece to stop allium leaf miner (infection can be seen as thin red lines on the leek, or small white grubs). They can be pulled from 6-8 weeks and used as you would use spring onions, or left in the ground to over winter until required.
They can bolt in warm, dry weather or if we have a cold spring.
Harvesting: Using a garden fork, push it under the root of the leek and lift the soil, rather than just trying to wrench the leek from the ground.
Suggested sowing time:
(Key: sow indoors, sow outside, sow outside under cover.)
Lift leeks as they are needed, leaving others to continue growing. As leeks get larger, their flavour gets weaker, picking them when young gives a much more oniony flavour.
Carlton - A fast growing variety.
Edison F1 - Harvest from October to February.
Giant Winter 3 - A late variety of leek, with thicker stems.
Lyon - Early variety with a good flavour and thick stems.
Musselburgh - A mid-season leek, this is the most popular home grown variety.
Pancho - Quick to mature.
Poristo - Greater disease resistance to leek rust.
Swiss Giant - Particularly good flavour if picked whilst young, where they can be used in place of spring onions, left in-situ they will mature into full size, traditional leeks.
Seeds to plant now:
Indoors or in a heated greenhouse
Rock cress, Aubrieta, Aubrietia
Outside under cover