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Leeks are a reliable winter vegetable, although cropping can be from August through to April if a range of varieties are chosen. Cultivation for table use is very straightforward, but with some extra care and attention some really prize specimens can be grown. leeks are one of the favourites for exhibiting.


For early varieties and to get some really good plants for putting out in good time, then the best sowing method is to sow into Cold Frames or over a Hot bed in February. Alternatively sowings can be made in a heated greenhouse at the same time. Sow into trays using standard multi purpose compost and then prick out and grow on.


When sown into a seedbed, apply a dressing of general 1.1.1 compound fertilizer, and then rake to a fine tilth. make shallow drills 15cm apart and sow the seed thinly. If sown thinly good strong plants will delelop without a need for thinning out.


Outdoor sowing can be made into a seedbed during April. These will be the varieties for the maincrop, for harvesting from November and through to Spring. Keep the rows free of weeds by regular hoeing, and liquid feed with a balanced fertilizer during this period. Frame and greenhouse grown plants will be ready for planting out in May. plants from outdoor seedbeds can be planted out during June and July.


For table use, lift the plants and trim the tops off by one third with sharp scissors, and at the same time shorten the root back to approximately 2cm. The plants should then be after trimming 15 to 20cm long. Plant into holes made with a dibber ( or even a broom handle with a rounded end) to a depth of 15cm. The ground needs to be really firm to prevent the holes from caving in. Drop the plant in and water to settle some soil around the roots. Do not fill the hole in. Over a period of time the hole will fill, and this will blanch the stems.


For really long prize specimens, choose a long shafted variety. Plant into a shallow trench in a similar way to celery. As the growth progresses, gradually draw soil into the trench and then begin earthing up the leeks rather like potatoes. By doing this, it is possible to achieve as much as 30cm of blanched stem. Early sowing will be required to give the leeks a long enough growing period.


The spacing of the plants and the rows is very much dependant on the size required. Leeks can be grow very close together at about 10cm apart in rows 30cm apart. This will draw the stems up and the close planting will exclude light, and blanch the stem. That is the favoured commercial method. The more usual way of planting for amateurs is to space the plants 25cm apart in rows 38cm apart. A larger and better blanched leek will be produced


The soil should be prepared well in advance of planting and well manured. At planting out time raking in a high Nitrogen fertilizer in the proportions of NPK parts by percentage 2.1.1 or according to recommendation - if a soil test has been carried out. A standard vegetable garden pH of 6.5 to 7.0 is suitable. Liming should have been carried out for the previous season. Do not add lime and manure at the same time.


Lift the crop as required. If severe winter weather is expected, some can be lifted and healed in, in a protected part of the garden.







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