Leeks

All the general advice seems to show that leeks are fairly easy to grow so they went straight on my list for this year. I have tried them before and if I’m honest they were less than impressive but that might be more my fault than the plants. This time around I’m reading up on all the information I can find to hopefully improve the results.

Sowing seeds

As with most vegetable growing make sure you prepare the ground well by digging in a good load of  well-rotted manure (or compost) in the autumn. I have seen some websites suggesting that an alternative is to limit the amount of compost and manure and instead add in a little fertiliser like fish, blood and bone before planting.

A common approach is to sow leeks in a seed bed which is somewhere separate from the final growing site but this seems to be because the plants take up so much space for such a long time period. You can start them off elsewhere and use the veg plot for something else while the seedling develop.

The choice at this stage is whether to sow leeks directly in the ground or into seed trays but this decision is really down to personal circumstances and preference. The most common time to sow leeks is around the end of March or early April.

As I am only working with smaller quantities I’m going to use my home-made modular seed trays (toilet roll tubes) and  sow one seed per module. If sowing in open ground then use rows about 15cm apart and sow thinly just below the surface (about 12mm).

Planting out

Once the plants get to be about the thickness of a pencil they should be ready for planting out. There is various advice on the spacing from 15cm to 25cm but the deciding factor is whether you want larger leeks or not as the bigger the spacing the larger the plant should grow.

The most common advice for planting leeks is to make a hole for the seedling and just drop it in, do not backfill the hole with soil. Instead you should water in the new leek plants which also acts to bring the earth down around the roots.

It all sounds believable to me so I’ll be doing that but I might experiment with a couple of plants where I do something different just to test these expert theories!

A couple of websites (e.g.  the RHS) talk about trimming the root tips when planting out but I’ve found other websites (e.g. Allotment.org) that suggest this does not have any benefit and may even harm the plants.

Care and maintenance

There is  very little attention needed for leeks apart from keeping the vegetable plot clear of weeds and making sure the plants have enough water during dry spells.

The other thing to keep an eye on is for blanching the leeks as they develop. This increases the length of white stem and  involves drawing dry soil up around the stem in stages. Take care not let any soil fall between the leaves otherwise the leeks will be a little too crunchy when you eat them!

Harvesting and storage

Harvesting can begin as soon as the leeks reach a suitable size and only requires gently lifting the plant out with a fork. It is an idea to start lifting leeks while they are still a fairly small so that the harvest period is extended and that makes sense to me.

There are no particular storage requirements for leeks because the plants can be left in the ground through the winter and they are available to be harvested as you need them

Further information

The following links give excellent information on leek growing but this is not meant to be a complete list of all available leek resources on the web:

RHS – Grow your own – Leeks

BBC Gardeners World

Allotment.org.uk – planting leeks

2 Comments

  1. thanks for puling together this information, I grew leeks for the first time last year but they just never seemed to bulk out. Will be giving them another go this year so fingers crossed I will have more success.

    • That sounds like my one and only past experience with them which is what prompted me to find out as much as I could before starting again. I’d rather not face any further ridicule from the family about the “spring onions” I’ve grown 🙂

Please leave any comments or questions and I'll respond as soon as possible