Thursday, 26 January 2012

HOW TO GROW GIANT LEEKS FROM SEED



I think giant vegetaables are brilliant.  I have loved giant vegetables since I was a child, and growing them indulges my passion for them. So go on, grab a packet of seeds and have a go at growing some yourself.

First of all you will need to select a suitable giant leek seed variety as you will not get giant leeks from standard leek seeds no matter how well you feed them! Varieties such as Mammoth Pot Leek are ideal.

Leek Bed Preparation

Preparation of your leek bed is essential, and should be started on a dry day in late autumn/early winter. When selecting an area for your leek bed ensure that the position is well drained, adding organic matter if necessary. You may wish to ensure this by planting in mounded or raised beds.

Dig trenches 45 cm deep, forking the bottoms to loosen up any hard ground. In an area 2.5 metres square incorporate a mixture of bone meal (70 grams) and potash (85 grams) into the bottom of the trench. Knock back the spoil and work in a barrow of well rotted manure, ensuring the majority of the manure is within 10cm of the top of the trench.

In March gently tilth the soil on top of the trench and in an area 2.5 metres square add either hydrated lime (28 grams), superphosphates (55 grams) or calcified seaweed (500 grams).

Sowing seeds

You can start sowing leeks from the end of January to the end of February. Fill a seed tray with John Innes Seed and Cutting compost, tapping the tray to settle the compost. Level gently with a flat piece of wood but avoid compacting the soil. Broadcast the giant leek seeds individually within the tray, approximately 50 seeds in total. Lightly cover with compost using a sieve.

Place the tray in a larger tray holding 2cm of water until the soil is moist and the surface of the compost turns from light to dark brown.  Remove from the water tray and place in a well lit area such as a windowsill or bench in a heated greenhouse. Either cover with glass or place in a propagator until the first seedlings emerge or leave uncovered and water frequently by spraying daily. Do not allow the compost to dry out (or become waterlogged).

The seeds will germinate after two weeks and will be ready to be transplanted into individual pots when they each the crook stage. Fill 9cm pots with John Innnes No.1 compost and carefully lift the seedlings with a pencil or similar to avoid damage. Re-pot the leeks again into a larger pot when they have produced their third leaf.

Giant leeks are ready to be planted out in May, but will need to be hardened off for two weeks prior to being planted in their bed. You may wish to continue to protect them with a cloche or poly tunnel for a further month to give them a good start.

Maintenance

Ensure you water the giant leeks during the growing season to prevent the stalks becoming woody. You can top dress the soil periodically with seaweed, compost and weed free green material as this will help to mulch the soil and keep the soil friable, as well as conserving moisture.

The leeks will be ready to harvest from late summer onwards.

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