I don’t seem to have much luck growing leeks. Last season I harvested precisely one (albeit a magnificent one). This time around, I planted the leeks indoors in an attempt to prevent them from forming a slug’s lunch and then transplanted them to a seed bed with the intention of moving them on when they were the size of a pencil (as instructed by my mother’s tame leek-growing expert). I was successful in so far as all my leeks survived their infancy but something – possibly an over-crowded seed bed – meant they didn’t do too well at the whole ‘size of a pencil’ thing. My potatoes were harvested, the soil readied for the leeks and still they sat there looking – at a stretch – the size of one of those tiny elegant little pencils that you used to get in the spine of your pocket diary. Time passed, and in the end I decided that, if you squinted a bit, they might have reached the size of one of those stubby little pencils you get in bookmakers for filling in your betting slips, and that would have to do.*
Time passed, winter came and, well, stayed, and my leeks didn’t really get any bigger. I’d earthed them up, and watched them anxiously, and was pleased to see that they survived the snow but still they really didn’t resemble anything so much as rather beefy spring onions (while my spring onions had to be carefully examined to make sure we weren’t about to stir-fry chives. Or grass). And now it’s March and the leeks need to make way for the peas and so the time has come to put them to the chop.
Picking the very biggest, they don’t look all that bad … at least until you place them side-by-side with an actual full size, shop bought leek (apologies for the quality of the photograph, the phone has been pressed into service as a camera). And those were the biggest. The rest, well if you can imagine a bed full of slender HB pencils with green leaves sprouting out of them, you’re about there.
I’ve got another couple of weeks’ grace before I’ll have to make space for the peas, but I wonder now whether waiting will make any difference. I don’t know whether they’ll put on a growth spurt when (if) the warmth comes in the spring or if they’ll just flower and become inedible. Maybe I should just rebrand them as baby leeks – or giant spring onions – and have done with it.
Clearly I’m not going to be winning any leek growing competitions any time soon
*No doubt proper grown-up gardeners have in their shed a standard metric pencil for the purpose of leek size comparison, or, if they’re really old school, a standard imperial pencil, not holding with any such new-fangled nonsense as the EU.