Leek - Allium porrum
A member of the onion family, they have a similar culinary use but a milder, sweeter taste than onions, especially delicious in winter casseroles, 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.
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.
Cultivars and varieties:
Allium ampeloprasum 'Carlton' - A fast growing variety.
Allium ampeloprasum 'Edison F1' - Harvest from October to February.
Allium ampeloprasum 'Giant Winter 3' - A late variety of leek, with thicker stems.
Allium ampeloprasum 'King Richard'
Allium ampeloprasum 'Lyon' - Early variety with a good flavour and thick stems.
Allium ampeloprasum 'Musselburgh' - A heritage, mid-season leek. This is the most popular home grown variety.
Allium ampeloprasum 'Neptune' - Good resistance to rust and is fully hardy.
Allium ampeloprasum 'Newton'
Allium ampeloprasum 'Pancho' - Quick to mature.
Allium ampeloprasum 'Poristo' - Greater disease resistance to leek rust.
Allium ampeloprasum '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.
Allium porrum 'Giant Winter 3'
Allium porrum 'Lyon'
Allium porrum 'Musselburgh' (Mid season) - Most popular home grown variety.
Allium porrum 'Newton'
Allium porrum 'Poristo'
Allium porrum 'Swiss Giant'
Seeds to sow now:
Indoor or in a heated greenhouse
Outside under cover
What else to plant:
Roses (bare rooted)