How Paul Rochester grew the World's Largest Leek
1. Where are you from?
I’m from Seaham, County Durham
2. How long have you been growing leeks?
I got into growing leeks 19 years ago when a local club started a leek show, I won nearly every class at the beginning of the shows. On one Show day, two old guys were standing talking and I heard them say “his dad grew all them.”
My father passed away, when I was 39 years of age and this made me more determined to get stuck in and prove a point. The next year I won all around the table again and saw the two old boys standing talking about my show winners. I said to them “I suppose my dad grew them,” they shook my hand and said “your father was a good gardener but you could be a better one.”
Following this achievement, I was determined to have a go at growing giant Onions. In 2007, I obtained some onion seed from Billy Lamb in. I germinated these and grew them on and showed a 14lb onion in local club show. That same year, I had bigger ones so I entered the world leek and onion championship at Ashington where I won with a leek weighing the 15lb 6 1/2 ounce. This netted me a £1000 in prize money.
Following this, I was eager to have a go at growing big leeks.
3. What is the variety of leeks that you grow?
The World Record was achieved with my own Yorkshire giant plants. I also grow the Cumbrian Pot Leek and have bred a new leek which is named after my granddaughter, it’s called the Ellie leek.
4. What’s your current world record weight?
My current world record weight is 21lb 8 ounces.
5. What your top tip for novice growers and top tip for long established growers.
Don't listen to too many people as doing this you will get yourself confused. Leek growers tend to be too kind and give too much feed to the leeks. This does more harm than good.
6. When do you start off your leeks?
I start them off the second week in October.
7. Do you use supplementary lighting? Which one. How long for.
Yes. T5 8 tubes. 8 hours a day for one month
8. What growing medium do you use at the start of pips? What growing medium do you use until they are planted in the greenhouse?
Start the grass off in seed trays with levingtons F1. When they have rooted, prick the seedlings out and transplant into 3 inch points using F2. Repeat this exercise for a 3inch, 4 then 5 and so on, try pot up every 4 weeks so the leeks get their feet in fresh compost. All I use is multi-purpose, no feed added just a sprinkle of root blast.
10. What base feed do you put into the soil? Do you do this a few weeks before planting?
I Plant my leeks into the ground in a prepared raised bed under cover. The base has added Peat, Sharp Sand and Barley Straw. I start the programme below 4 months before I plant out. Different growers will plant out at different times, but I plant out during April.
First thing to do is to get your PH up to 7. Once this is achieved add the following to the Square Yard
2ozs of potash
2ozs of super phosphate
6ozs calcified seaweed
Water this in and cover with black plastic and let it stand for a month
6ozs of John innes
4ozs calcified seaweed
Moisten the soil again and cover for another month
3ozs john inners
2ozs dolomite lime stone
Water the above, cover and let it stand for another month.
Prior to planting out add 6ozs of Base Top Dressing and 4ozs of dried blood. Water the growing area and allow to stand
Just before planting out, give your trench a good watering. When the leeks are planted, do not give them any water for two to three weeks. This will make the roots go searching for water and the nutrients in the trench.
11. Do you feed over ground if so what soluble feed do you use? Do you use trickle irrigation. Warm water? Rain water?
No, I don't feed as all the feed should be in the trench. I use an evaflow water system which runs straight from the tap. I water twice a week Wednesday and a Sunday for 10 minutes at a time, as the season progresses I reduced the water to once a week for five minutes.
12. Why do you use Black and White plastic?
This is used to stop the evaflow system spraying water on the leeks. It also keeps the weeds down and keeps the soil moist.
13. How do you support your leeks?
I do not support my leeks.
14. Do the leeks need to be inside or can you grow them outside?
You can grow them inside or out. The main advantage of growing them inside is that you get a more superior leek. When it's outside the leeks are more prone to the elements. You will never grow as big outside as you will inside in the UK
15. How do you control thrips and are there any other pests to look out for? Do you have leek moth? How can you tackle this pest?
I control thrip and red spider which is the main pests. Before I plant out I sprinkle 5 grams of vyadate in each hole and that should stay with the leek for up to 3 month. With growing inside I have netting all around the bottom and around the doors to stop any leek moth or butterflies from entering and laying eggs on the leeks.