Flavoursome leeks put in a stunning performance throughout the winter, either as bit-part players or the stars of the show.
Whether they’re paired with spuds in warming leek and potato soup, cooked au gratin or added to casseroles, this member of the allium family is extremely versatile.
Packed with antioxidants and vitamins, leeks are just what the doctor ordered for fighting off winter colds.
Leeks can be started off as early as February and on into March and April, either directly into the ground or in containers filled with compost. Seeds should be thinly sown at a depth of 1cm in rows about 15cm apart.
When the seedlings are the width of a pencil, transfer them to their final growing area. Make a hole with a dibber, or pointed stick, and simply drop in the young leek and water well.
Continue watering during dry spells, keeping an eye on weeds and, if desired, pulling up earth around the leeks to ensure a long, white barrel.
Leeks can be lifted at almost every stage of their growth and can be harvested well into spring.
Watch out for diseases commonly associated with alliums, onion white rot and rust among them, and pests such as leek moth and thrip.
My French garden
Tom Kevill Davies moved from London to Burgundy three years ago where he runs a chambres d’hôtes and cycling holiday business with his French partner Cécile who is a garden designer. Together they have developed an eco-friendly, edible garden
What was your garden like when you first arrived?
The garden had been abandoned for more than 20 years and it was a mess! Trees and shrubs from the 1970s had outgrown their space, starving the garden of light and blocking the views of the vines and forest that surround the property. The river was completely hidden, the original stone walls had collapsed and there was a generation of silt clogging the waterway.
How have you developed it?
I wanted to create a place where people come to relax
and can be surrounded by nature. We also aim to provide our guests with as much produce from the garden and orchards as possible. First we cut down the damaged old trees and invasive bamboo in order to open up the vineyard views. We also started to give the garden more structure with a vegetable garden, orchards, meadows, grass, mixed borders of perennials and a swimming pool area. As we are so close to the river and because the garden is edible, it is totally eco-friendly. It is a very young garden so
there is still a lot to develop!
What grows well in your area of France?
As Burgundy has a continental climate, you have to grow plants that can withstand frosts of -15°C and summer temperatures of 35°C. But even with this climate you can still find a wide diversity of plants.
What do you love most about your garden?
I love the views of the vines and seeing nature return. Any garden is a long-term project and it is so fascinating to see it grow gradually. The best sight is children running around the garden and adults asleep after a long bike ride, a good glass of wine and food from the garden. thehungrycyclist.com