Delicious & Decorative
Leeks Allium porrumare onions but they’re not. There are several reasons why I grow Leeks as well as Onions.
Their flavour is more subtle and if we know the secret they are much sweeter tasting than Onions. They do have quite a limited storage life but they can be left in the ground much later and that is their secret. The sweetness that makes them worth growing, develops as they experience a few frosts. Do not be in a hurry to remove them from the garden.
How Do I Start Them? They grow quite readily from seed but they are a long term crop. Most varieties are in excess of 100 days to reach maturity. In shorter season areas like mine that means a couple of months head start under the lights. They can go out into the garden fairly early. Mine usually follow the plants that I rush into the ground as soon as the soil can be worked. If you are a dedicated Leek grower who wants to take them to the county fair and win prizes then they need the longest possible white section at their base. This can be increased by hilling them up a few times as they grow so that they sunlight does not reach their lower portions. I’ve tried it. Not worth the effort unless the red ribbon is important to you.
Which Variety? There is much less choice in Leek varieties then in Onions. I have tried most of them and quite honestly there is more difference season to season then I have ever seen in the actual variety. Read the seed catalogue descriptions and choose the one that sounds best to you. Unless it is one of the newer Hybrids, you will get many more seeds than you can use in the smallest of packets. Luckily this seed keeps quite well for a couple of years. I have grown a newer hybrid for the last two years as well as the older varieties and for a home garden I cannot see much difference.
Growing Secrets?They need to grown in a fertile, friable soil. A good supply of compost will take care of that and should also help with water retention. They are shallow rooted and will appreciate a couple of cm. Of water every week but they will rot and die quite readily if they are struggling in a very wet location. I transplant my little seedlings about 8 -10 cm apart. Make a deep hole with a dibble, insert seedling and fill about half way. Letting the rain finish the backfilling will work a bit like hilling them up. I’m not going to thin them so they have to have room to fully develop. A few rows of Leeks will require at least one tiresome hand weeding. To make that easier I tend to plant them in a single row along the edge of my walkways. They are quite decorative there as soldiers guarding the garden and they are easy to get at to do the weeding.
Harvest? After a couple of frosts is the big secret. You will probably need a fork to get them out of the ground. They may be shallow rooted but there are lots of those roots and they are tenacious. Nothing is more irritating then pulling hard on a fat juicy Leek and getting half of it in your hand and leaving the other half in the ground. When it is finally time to dig the remainder of the crop, I wash the roots and trim them close to the base of the plant without actually cutting the plant. Trim off most of the green tops and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. There are approaching unuseable after a couple of months. The better option is to make a large batch of Leek soup with them.
You can search my entire site for answers to your gardening questions or sign up below for my free ezine.
return from Leeks to Vegetables main page