Get the best chance for a good leek harvest
Leeks are hardy souls. They take a long time to fully reach maturity, but stoutly sail through winters, standing firm in the ground through to spring. Many people find that a spring sowing doesn’t quite cut it, and leeks sown then end up less robust, smaller and a bit of a damp squib. Sown indoors in January, leeks have a longer time to bulk up and become large enough to pick successfully. This is particularly important for any leeks you’ve decided to exhibit this year, so they’ll be ready on time. Thinly sow the black seed in trays, pots or modules of firmed down, level seed compost, cover over with a thin layer of more compost, watering in well. A good way to leave the seed undisturbed is to put the tray into water
So it can initially soak it up from the bottom. Put the tray in a warm spot – a heated propagator or a warm windowsill – and in a fortnight or so you’ll see some signs of germination. If using a heated propagator, switch it off when this happens so seedlings don’t grow tall, thin and leggy. Prick out seedlings into bigger pots when they’re large enough, and they’ll be fine in a cold frame or in the greenhouse. It’s best to sow successionally indoors and then sow a few lots of seed outdoors from spring, so that you don’t have a load of leeks all at once. By mid spring your pencil like seedlings should be good to plant out into the ground, ready to flourish in the open. Leeks like rich soil and consistent, regular watering through summer, so tend to them well.
Four varieties to get you started...
Get more of your favourite plants by growing your own
It’s easy to get excited by all the beautiful berried plants at this time of year, as they light up the garden with clusters of colour. Red, orange and yellow pyracantha, rowan and hawthorn berries are all prolific, as are drooping bunches of rose hips.
If you’d like to extend your collection, propagating is an easy way to do so. Using the seed is so simple, and often more fail-safe than taking cuttings. Plus, the exciting part is that the offspring of your seed-raised plants will be slightly different to its parent in colour, form and habit, which adds a bit of a thrill to the process.
Cuttings, on the other hand, give out exact clones of the originals, and may not be as healthy as seed-grown plants.
It’s best to sow seed now rather than saving it and waiting until spring, as it may not be successful at germinating then because it’s too old. Transplant tray-grown seedlings into bigger pots as soon as you can next year, and harden them off outside in spring, before planting them out in autumn.
Step by step: extracting and sowing seed
It will help keep you free of all problem pests!
The sure-fire way to prevent birds and other animals attacking and eating your plump, ripening fruit is to use a good old-fashioned net to cover them. As our garden animals, insects and birds can’t distinguish between berried bushes that are there for them to eat and those we grow for our own use, we’ve no choice but to do something about it at this time of year.
Now your autumn fruit trees have been pollinated and the fruit is set and ripening, you can invest in a good solid roll of mesh from the garden centre, which will prevent against birds, wasps, squirrels, aphids, hard rain damage and hail.
If you only have problems with birds, you can use larger- holed bird netting, but to be free of all problem pests, use a tight mesh that only lets rainfall in. Keep checking it regularly to ensure it’s still tight and secure.
As well as larger trees, net over your autumn raspberry and blackberry bushes, too.