How to grow prize winning leeks

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Growing the prize-winning leek requires obsession. Sabotaging your competitors requires obsession. Even raising the annual prize money calls for unprecedented levels of devotion.


How to grow prize winning leeks

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Growing the prize-winning leek requires obsession. Sabotaging your competitors requires obsession. Even raising the annual prize money calls for unprecedented levels of devotion.


Step One

To grow a prize-winner takes a lot of time and an extraordinary effort. Selecting the right seedlings is the first step. Any real leek grower will have let some of last year’s stock go to seed. This provides the raw material that will be coaxed, loved and nurtured into next year’s champion leek.


Step Two

But some growers may be starting from scratch. Sabotage, theft or simply poor planning may have left them without the basic ingredients for a prize-winner. Fortunately new seedlings can be bought – at a price. The going rate is currently £25 for 12 seedlings, each no larger than a couple of blades of grass and with no guarantee that they will reach maturity.


Step Three

Once the essentials have been acquired the cloud of secrecy falls. Seedlings are potted up and bedded down with concoctions not seen since the heyday of witchcraft. Specially prepared trenches are filled with anything and everything believed to give the leeks that extra bit of bulk.


Step Four

It is not quite eye of toad and tail of newt but leek trenches are known to have been fortified with dead dogs, old mattresses, carpet and various human and animal by-products. Such is the reputation of these cocktails that anyone with the slightest knowledge of show leeks will steadfastly refuse to eat one.


Step Five

It is not quite eye of toad and tail of newt but leek trenches are known to have been fortified with dead dogs, old mattresses, carpet and various human and animal by-products. Such is the reputation of these cocktails that anyone with the slightest knowledge of show leeks will steadfastly refuse to eat one.


Step Six

It is not quite eye of toad and tail of newt but leek trenches are known to have been fortified with dead dogs, old mattresses, carpet and various human and animal by-products. Such is the reputation of these cocktails that anyone with the slightest knowledge of show leeks will steadfastly refuse to eat one.


Step Seven

Joe Varty is a second-generation leek grower. He claims to be moving away from colourful concoctions to a more scientifically based approach. Nitrogen is the way to go, he says, because it makes the leeks grow faster.


Step Eight

Joe Varty is a second-generation leek grower. He claims to be moving away from colourful concoctions to a more scientifically based approach. Nitrogen is the way to go, he says, because it makes the leeks grow faster.


Step Nine

Keeping them undercover also offers better protection from one of the greatest perils of the leek world – slashers. “There won’t be a single grower who hasn’t had his leeks slashed,” says Varty.


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