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Growing Leeks in Cumbria

Leeks love our cool damp climate and they can keep well in the ground through the winter if you pick a good winter variety. My favourite is King Richard but I have been unable to find it recently.

To get the best results (decent length shanks without too much attention) I always start them off in trays from seed. They don't mind being sown quite densely and you can plant them out directly from the seed tray without pricking them out to grow on.

This is what they look like when they're just sprouting

Because there are so many of them together they like plenty of water to put on growth.

You can grow them on for a month or so until they look more like this.

The stems are about 4-6mm diameter

Leeks are quite robust already but do take some care when separating them for planting.

Take out a clump and sloosh them about (technical term) in a bowl of water to help separate the roots. It's fine if the soil comes off. Some people trim the roots to encourage root growth and the tops of the leaves to reduce moisture loss but I've never bothered with this.

This is the unusual bit.

To get a longer shank (that's the bit we are going to eat) The traditional method is to plant them and then 'earth up' as they grow, gathering earth up around the stem regularly over the growing season, that's alot of work though. Newer varietys are naturally longer and the trick is to plant them deeper.

Make sure the surface of your bed is damp and use a stick or dibber to make 1 inch holes 3 - 4 inches deep, spaced about 5 inches apart. You're going to put 1 leek in each hole

Poke it all the way into the hole. The damp surface should reduce soil crumbling in at this stage.

This next bit is the hardest on your back.

You need to fill the holes with water. This washes enough soil down to cover the roots while leaving most of the hole intact..

If it's very dry and you see them obviously wilting, it might be a good idea to water them again in the same way but this isn't always necessary.

Any leek seedlings left over that are too small to plant can be potted up to grow a bit more before planting, or give them to your neighbours to use.

You will start to notice that they are getting bigger in a couple of weeks and you can lift them as needed when you think they're big enough, probably a couple of months depending on the weather. Smaller leeks have more flavour.

It isn't too late to start now but don't leave it too much longer.

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