This week we started our leeks. This is a long season crop that will be most valuable through the winter, but to achieve good sized stems the seed is best started early in the year. We prepared two seed trays with a proprietary seed compost, which was well watered before the seed was scattered thinly – and rather less evenly than it should – over the surface. A thin layer of finely sieved compost was then gently spread over the top. The seed trays were placed in an unheated propagator in the polytunnel, and the job was done. We are growing two varieties this year: our favourite, Musselburgh, the ‘Scotch Flag’ as it was known in times past; and Bleu de Solaise, a French variety known for its winter hardiness and named for its distinctive blue-green leaves, which go particularly blue when the frosty weather arrives.
Leeks were traditionally sown in a seed bed, to be transplanted when they are around the size of a pencil. Seed beds are not so commonly used today, and we do not have one, although we have the space if I change my mind sometime, but a seed tray serves well enough. A little unusually, perhaps, we will transplant these twice. Once they have developed to the point where they have some root and can be handled well enough, I will tip them out of their seed trays and move them into larger, deeper trays, where they will grow on until ready to be planted out. Leeks transplant well enough and I have found the opportunity to select the best developed seedlings and give them the space to develop better works well. Once they are ready, they will be trimmed and dropped into holes in the ground in the traditional way.