Plant leeks close to carrots to help repel carrot rust flies.
Autumn Mammoth Verina
Leeks can be attacked by the Leek Moth - Acrolepiopsis assectella.
Symptoms of attack by this moth are brown or white patches developing on the leek leaves where tissues have been eaten by the larvae and leaf-mining caterpillars.
As well as being unsightly, badly affected or infested leeks are frequently killed by the secondary rot that sets in as a result of this damage.
A leek is a member of the onion family and the easiest to grow.
Leeks are hardy and will survive even the severest winters.
Sow leeks from late January to early April to produce crops from late August to the following May.
Then sow under glass or in a seed bed outdoors and transplant to a permanent bed later.
Plant the leeks either on land manured over winter for peas, beans and onions, or dig in some well rotted manure or garden compost.
Turn the ground over after you have cleared the previous crop.
You can grow giant leeks if you want to for display in competitions, but the smaller ones are better flavoured for soups and stews and more economical.
Sow the leeks at the beginning of the year to produce large plants for transplanting in April and harvesting and eating in late August.
The larger leek plants are easier to handle and give you longer stems. Late in January sow the leek seed in a tray with seed compost, and mix in a little limestone or ground chalk.
Place the leek seeds at about 1 inch apart. Then sift over with a fine meshed sieve a little more compost to cover.
Firm the compost down with a flat piece of wood and cover the seed box with glass and a sheet of old newspaper.
Leek seeds will germinate easily in a cold frame or cold greenhouse.
Leeks plants that have been grown from seed in a cold frame or greenhouse should be introduced to cooler temperatures gradually before they can be planted outside. This is called Hardening Off.
Move plants to the coolest part of the greenhouse -or for the cold frame raise the glass light a little to allow the air to circulate, removing it altogether on warm days.
At night if still fine remove the side that is most sheltered from the wind. Plants can become stunted if the change in temperature is made to quickly.
Harden off the leeks in mid-March, and during the first two weeks of April plant them outside.
For main crop leeks prepare a nursery seed bed and sow the leeks in late March or early April for harvesting from September to the following April.
Thoroughly rake the seed bed and work in some 2 oz of superphosphate to the square meter immediately before the sowing.
Make the drills half an inch deep, 6 inches apart. Sow the leek seeds thinly, and when they are at an early stage of development thin them to 2 inches apart.
Transplant the young leeks to the main vegetable bed in June or July.
You can plant out the leek seedlings when they are 6 - 8 inches high in about June or July for seedlings from outdoor nursery beds and early April for those sown from cold frames or the greenhouse.
Leeks do best with a long season of growth so the earlier they are planted out the better.
When lifting the young leek seedlings out of the soil to transplant into the main bed, make sure you soak the bed well with water and carefully lift the seedlings with a hand fork.
Using scissors cut of the top quarter of the leaves.
Use a dibber and make holes 6 inches deep and 9 inches apart. Make the rows 15 inches apart.
Drop the leek seedlings into the holes leaving just the tips of the leaves showing.
Planting leeks deeply helps to blanch the stems .
Do not fill in the holes or try to cover the roots with soil or even firm them in. Just fill each hole with water from the watering can and this will wash some soil over the roots and be just enough to tighten the little plants in.
Over time the holes will fill up gradually from hoeing or rain.