Rain, frost, wind and thick morning mists – the winter is well and truly here. All the leaves have fallen off the plane tree in the courtyard, the less hardy potted plants are in the barn or polytunnel and little is being done in the way of gardening although a number of (rainless) days have been spent weeding and composting the beds. We still can’t get over how green it is compared to last year but the downpours have seen to that. They’ve also brought out the snails and slugs that they slither towards the baby turnips and swedes. One evening spent collecting the little blighters in a bucket was enough to fork out on some horticultural fleece which is certainly doing the trick.
The veg patch is actually looking quite good at the moment, with most of the beds full or covered in compost. We’re still eating our own potatoes, the colourful chard is going strong and at last some sprouts have formed. Plus the calabrese and cauliflower are ready now too so there’s more variety on our plates at the mo.
But as I walk down the beds in the winter sunshine there’s one plant that beats them all, yes the humble leek is crowned queen of the veg patch. There’s lots of reasons why: firstly, I’ve been growing them from seed for three years now and they’ve never failed. Every little leeklet grows, some bigger than others, but grow they do. Secondly, they take very little looking after. They need watering and weeding but that’s it – no pests to worry about, no supports, no pruning… Thirdly, they stay in the ground for as long as you need them. No need to worry that they’ll be past their best if not pulled out in time, so no storage problems either. In addition they’ll happily put up with whatever the winter throws at them. Plus they’ll reproduce from their own seed so no need to buy any more seed packets. Next year is the first time I’ll be trying this, I have a couple of dried flower heads from some plants left in the ground over the summer so with luck they’ll germinate in the spring. So all in all a fuss free, hardy, reliable cropper. Oh, and they taste good too of course! Long live the leek!