If you are a regular reader you will know that my garden is my ongoing experiment. Some things do not meet my expectations, many exceed them. each season and year I learn new lessons and implement them the following year.
Last year at harvest time I was away and did not get to harvest my leeks. In the previous season I was mesmerized by the leeks grown by a local organic farmer. They were are thick as my ankles and had long luscious white stalks. I asked him to share his secret for the longs stems and he told me that the soil must be build up around the plants continually while they grow. I am trialling his advice this year. I will keep you updated on how this impacts my crop.
I plant my leeks each year at the same time that I plant my garlic and onions. Leeks are a member of the onion family and share a long growing cycle with them (18 – 25 weeks). Each year I grow my leeks from seeds. I have tried numerous brands, organic and non organic and have not experienced any issue with any I have planted.
If you have not got any planted yet, don’t despair. In a temperate climate you can get some seeds and get started now. Plant the seeds in trays and protect them from the end-of-Winter frosts by bring them indoors (if possible). They will be ready to plant out in the coming months.
The leaves of the leek are a lovely blue/silver with a lovely fold down the center of each leaf that forms a V-shape They look pretty in rows in the garden – which is lucky given that they take up the space for about 6 months.
Plant seeds into trays and then transplant to the garden once established and around 10 cm tall. Plant them about 15 cm apart in rows that are around 20 – 30cm apart.
As described above, leeks produce long white bodies if the soil is built up around the bases to the point where the foliage branches. This is referred to as blanching and is done to exclude sunlight from the stalk. It ensures that you maximize the amount of tender vegetable to eat.
Leeks are cold tolerant and will also grow in semi shade. In previous years I have treated my onions, garlic and leeks the same – plant, leave them for ages, pick and eat them – easy and no fuss! I do fertilize with compost a few times over the growing period and give an occasional water with seaweed solution.
I have not experienced any issues with pests impacting my leeks to date (touch wood!). They are said to be a good companion plant for carrots.
Harvest leeks when they are large enough to eat. I leave them in the ground and harvest them on the day I wish to eat them.
To remove leeks from the soil loosen the surrounding area and use a garden fork or hand spade to gently extract them. If they are not gently removed from the soil the stem can be easily broken.
This year I am paying my leeks much more attention, banking up soil around the stems to blanch them. I have been doing this about once a fortnight since they gained some bulk and now am keenly awaiting this year’s crop to see if the extra time I have spent pays off.
Prior to eating leeks they should be rinsed well. Soil seems to be able to get into the layers of the stem.
I enjoy the soft, creamy flavor of leek. It is a little bit sweet and pairs perfectly with chicken. These are some of my favorite recipes that I have made with leeks:
Do you have Leeks planted in your garden? Do you blanch the stems?
Do you have any other growing tips you can offer?
Successful Gardening – Annette McFarlane
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