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10 July 2012

Growing Leeks

If you have some space in your vegetable plot after lifting an early crop, it could be an opportunity to try growing some leeks, which are very easy to grow and give a good yield. They should succeed in any fertile, sunny and well-drained soil, though soils with a pH less than 6 will need lime adding. They will benefit from the addition of well-rotted manure, growmore or organic fertiliser such as chicken manure pellets.
Leeks will need watering well in dry periods and if growth is not vigorous will benefit from topdressing with nitrogen-rich fertiliser. To increase the length of the tender white stem you can earth-up your leeks to exclude light, or use a collar of cardboard for example instead, or as well as, earthing-up. Plants should be ready for harvesting from late autumn onwards. Covering some plants with layers of fleece will make them easier to lift when the ground is frozen.
I hadn't planned far enough ahead to raise my own plants from seed so visited a local garden centre last weekend and bought a 12-module tray for 2.29, from which I got 19 plants, as some modules contained two plants. Before planting I dug in some concentrated chicken manure. I made a hole with a dibber 4 inches deep for each plant with between 4 and 6 inches between plants and 12 inches between rows, though some people recommend holes 6 inches deep or more. I then placed a plant in each hole and then dribbled water into each hole until it was full. This helps to settle the plants and roots in place by dislodging a small amount of soil from the sides of the hole to cover the roots. I then left the plants in the holes without backfilling as the leeks will grow to fill the space. Apart from watering and earthing-up when required, my plants shouldn't need much attention, and I can look forward to my leek harvest.
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