I first went to a Leek show in the North East one September about 40 years ago and the Pot Leeks on show were really something to behold.
It is an art, a science and a bit of black magic that helps create a show stopper in this region renown for its prize leeks.
Pot leek exhibition standards require a blanch of up to 6” which can give a circumference of 28″. Intermediates are up to 14″ blanched length and Long leeks are anything in excess of this.
For eating purposes size is much less important than flavour and we will be concentrating on normal garden culture.
Tips on starting to grow Leeks
Seeds can be sown in Mid march as the plants like a long growing season.
Set out the plants at the end of May.
A quick and easy start can be made by buying seedlings from a nursery or market stall.
Using seeds and seedlings from various sources can give you different varieties that mature at different times
Soil should be trenched and not too heavy or excessively manured. Soil manured for a previous crop is fine perhaps with extra grit (or ash as used in the North East) if the soil is heavy.
Starting from pods or pips, the advantage is that the offspring will have the same characteristics as the parent and, if this were a prize-winner, the offspring would also be potential prize-winners. Pods are the delicate swellings or leaves like grass which form on the head of the plant after flowering. Since we are growing to eat we won’t be letting them flower so this method of propagation will not be used.
Tips on Easy Planting Out
Make a 6” hole with a dibber and drop a plant into the hole. Encourage soil to part fill the hole by watering.
Shorten the roots and the leaves if they are straggly
Leeks love moisture – keep them well supplied
If planted in a trench then soil can gradually be pulled in around the stem to encourage blanching (the whitening of the stem).
Alternative blanching can involve a paper collar or wrapper held on with a rubber band but I am happy with shorter tender leeks and don’t bother.
Feed with a weak solution of a nitrogen based fertiliser and as the leek grows move to a balanced fertiliser.
Harvest as required many varieties can stand in the ground through early winter. Returning to pot leeks for show, some do get planted in the Autumn but.you wont find that recommended in seed catalogues! Big seeds don’t guarantee big plants but it is a start. http://www.mammothonion.co.uk/index.htm
Musselburgh - hardy with long thick stems
The Lyon - an old favourite
Jolant - is a variety I am trying this year for the first time – it has RHS award of merit