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.

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  1. Leek Lover


  2. Allotment blogger

    Like Amanda and S.o.L I’m feeling smug – our leeks are ahead of yours by a long way! That’s the first time I’ve ever been able to say we’ve got something growing faster than you. Our broccoli, for example, is still in its seed pots …

  3. I’m with Amanda, OH MY GAWD, I am growing leeks like crazy. I think therefore they must survive on neglect. Because you, Danny and John coe tend all your veggies expertedly. Maybe you could ignore them and they will grow like mad!!!!

    We do nothing special for them, no proporgator nothing. We use supermarket plastic mushroom boxes. put some compost in sprinkle them on. water. leave alone. Maybe PB has magic hands!

    Then we do the crime of crimes, pull them out of the mushroom boxes and stick them in the ground. peeps keep telling me we are rough with them and we should grow them in loo rolls? I havent worked out why… I dont even think we water them much!

    I cant grow cabbage? Maybe that is the trade off?

  4. Mike the Gardener

    Cool article on Leeks…never tried growing them myself, glad to hear others are having luck with their vegetable gardens.

    Mike the Gardener

  5. My leeks also stayed hidden so long that I gave up on them. Now I have 4 (it’s a vegetable patch rather than a garden). I’m a first time vegetable gardener, so I’m not terribly disappointed – just glad to have something come up.

  6. Veronica

    This brought back a happy memory of the massive veggie garden we had in our first home together, 28 years ago, where we planted leeks for the first time. Our young cat loved to hunt around in the garden looking for mice. As I walked along the row dropping small leek plants into the dibbed holes, Macadam trotted along behind me poking his paw into each hole to look for mice, and flipping the leek out as he removed his empty paw.

  7. Amanda

    Fiona I can’t believe it. For the first time ever I’ve read something on your blog and thought “Wow! We’ve managed to grow something that Fiona hasn’t.”

    We grew leeks two years ago and we’ve done them again this year. Not many but enough. They’re only about 8 or 9 inches but hoping they’ll be great.

    We’ve had a better success rate with them than the pumpkins which turned out to be butternut squash. Grown by the boys for Halloween they were a little disappointed to say the least.

  8. Joanna

    Our leeks survived under 2 foot of snow this year, so only got to see them again in the spring. I managed to pull a few but now they are going to seed but the seedheads ares so pretty I will let them go and collect the seed.

  9. ah glorious leeks,we adore them here,ours first lot have just gone in,more go in up the field but theres not room there at the moment,this year tho they are rather spindly looking,they look like chives..each one was gently lowered into a hole made in the ground with a cowbar :o),over the coming weeks the earth gently falls in to gently cover them in.
    We grow a huge amount here & only seem to end up with a small box of chopped frozen ones that are used up in a casserole on those dull summers evenings when its not that hard to imagine autumn,always a welcome meal inbetween salads & more salads lol!
    GTM x x x

  10. Margaret

    I grew my first leeks last year, buying the plants from the garden centre. I was amazed how they survived the snow and frosts and we were still eating them in Febuary. This year I sowed my own seed and have about two hundred in the garden, all doing well. I shiver in anticipation as I imagine them covered in white sauce on a cold day in winter.

    And I just love the smell when they are cooking, yummy.

    Makes you proud when you pull them from your own garden, abit of The Good Life, haha


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