The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

We are finally growing leeks

Photo: Baby leek planted in stony ground

Photo: Baby leek planted in stony ground

When John Coe reverses into our drive he sits for several minutes in his car before he gets out and opens the boot. I’ve never have the nerve to ask him why. I just open the front door and leave it slightly ajar.

This morning he was loaded with carrier bags, gardening gloves and his wellingtons when he pushed the door into the kitchen.
“I’ve brought you a lettuce.” He opened the bag gently to reveal a large head of butter lettuce. The kind that my mum used to buy when I was growing up. Do you remember those simple salads, lettuce leaves, beside a row of sliced tomatoes and flanked by some sliced cucumber. And salad cream rather than mayonnaise? When I left home Iceberg lettuce was a new and exciting discovery. Well it was years ago after all!

The Orford Oysterage still serves this type of salad. Old fashioned and reassuring and a great foil to the delicious oysters, fish and crab.

“Here’s a bag of my own new potatoes.” I peeped in to see lovely rounded spuds dusted with soil.

He waved a wrap of newspaper under my snout.
“And what are these? Chives?” I ventured. How clever of him to have thought of bringing the ingredients for a perfect potato salad.
“No. They are baby leeks.”
I could have hugged him.

You don’t know but was really keen to grow leeks this year and failed. I love leeks in a white sauce and if the plants go to seed they are so decorative. So I sowed enough seed for a twelve foot row of leeks and put the seed tray into the electric propagator. Two germinated within a few days. Then I waited and waited and waited. After a month the Emperor’s New Leeks were tossed onto the compost heap. I tried to buy a tray from the local garden centre but they had sold out.

Eventually I ventured onto the internet for tips and tricks on how to grow this ‘impossible vegetable’. All I found were reports of how quickly they had germinated and how easily they were to grow.

John was reassuring as we searched for spots to plant them.
“These were in the seed bed for weeks before they germinated.”
“How many weeks?”
“So long that I gave up counting,” replied my tactful vegetable guru.

John Coe’s leek seedlings were about 8 inches (25 cm) tall. He made a hole with a dibber for each plant (about six inches deep) setting the plants about a foot apart in staggered rows. He then topped up each hole with water.
“You’ll see, they’ll be standing straight by the morning.”

There’s useful leek growing information in the BBC site  and this site is fun too as it explains how to grow show leeks.  You can see from the photo that our ground is still quite stony in this part of the kitchen garden. We rake out wheelbarrow loads of stones each spring and autumn. But I just want simple, tasty leeks rather than Jean Harlot film star show leeks.

  Leave a reply


  1. We have leeks going along in the garden planted out in the recommended manner with plants from the garden centre. The first to be eaten two weeks ago were melt in the mouth. This week with flower heads forming they were really tough. Any advice please on whether the flowerheads should be removed or left would be welcome

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Leek Lover

    As this is my first year of growing leeks – I can’t really advise.

    However if they are going to seed early it could be that the recent drought has taken its toll. Were they watered regularly?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,237,277 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder