Leeks. Why Grow them?
Leeks, like garlic and onions, belong to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables.
They also contain many of the same beneficial compounds found in these well researched, health-promoting vegetables. Leeks are quite easy to grow and will withstand even the harshest winter. You can grow a huge amount of leeks in a relatively small space. They are another of the classic stockpot vegetables.
Leeks are best grown in module trays before being transplanted to their final growing position later. They are very easy to grow from seed. Sow one or two seeds per module just 1cm deep (they are a small, black seed).
They will take about two weeks to germinate.
For a continuous autumn/winter supply of leeks sow in February, March and May.
If you sow them now they will be ready to eat in late winter.
Leeks are heavy feeders so it's best to grow them in fertile soil that has been enriched with plenty of farmyard manure or compost.
They will be ready to plant out about two months after sowing (when they are pencil thick). Simply make a small hole in the soil with a dibber (see panel), plant the seedling quite deep, and firm in well. Leave 15cm between plants and 30cm between rows.
Leeks have to be earthed up during the growing season – this process encourages the bleaching or whitening of the stem.
The best leeks are the small tender ones – they decrease in flavour as they grow larger, so don't aim to produce prize-winning ones.
Lift the leek with a fork – their roots are surprisingly fibrous and strong.
Winter varieties can stay in the ground until needed, they are practically indestructible.
GIY Recommended Varieties
Hannibal, Bluegreen Winter, Northern Lights, Blue Solaise (www.giyireland.com/shop).
Leek rust is an issue – it's an airborne fungus that affects all the allium family. Though the leeks look unattractive when infected, it doesn't in fact affect the taste at all. Leeks can also get white rot, which is why you should include them in your allium rotation.
• I've heard of GIYers who use kitchen roll inserts to "earth up" leeks – pop the insert over the leek and it does the same job as earthing up. Nice idea.
• Let leeks sit for at least five minutes after cutting and before cooking to enhance their health-promoting qualities.
Watch a GIY video tutorial on growing leeks here: www.giyireland.com/videos/ detail/leeks