Growing leeks is easier than you might think. Leeks are related to onions and garlic and are a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. Leeks are known for their rich onion-like flavor, and they are a great source of heart healthy flavonoids.
Getting Started with Leeks
Leeks are available in many varieties. Varieties differ in terms of days to maturity and taste. There are even heirloom varieties, like “Blue Solaise” known for its dark green almost blue leaves, available.
Leeks are typically sold as seed by commercial garden centers and plant sellers. They grow quickly and easily from seed.
Growing Conditions for Leeks
Leeks prefer cooler climates and wetter soil than most vegetable plants. However, with proper care, they can thrive in warmer, drier climates. Leeks grow best in full-sun conditions with 8-12 hours of sun exposure daily. The soil should be well drained and fertile.
Leeks are easy to grow from seed. In cooler climates, they should be started indoors in the spring and moved outdoors once the threat of hard frost has passed for an early fall crop. In warmer climates, leeks may be planted directly into the ground in early fall for an early spring crop.
If you are beginning your leeks indoors, sow the seeds approximately 2-3 weeks before the projected last hard frost of the spring season. Sow the seeds thinly in a container, covering the seeds with ¼ -1/2 inch of soil. Lightly water in the seeds after planting.
In warmer climates, leek seeds may be sown directly in the soil. Again, sow the seeds thinly, covering with ¼-1/2 inch of soil, watering in the seeds after planting. For ease of cultivating and harvesting your leek crop, leave 18 inches of space between rows. Apply a light layer of mulch over the leek crop after planting for protection during the cooler winter months.
Leek seeds will germinate 14-21 days after planting. If you are in a cool climate, it is necessary to harden off your seedlings by placing them in a protected area outdoors prior to transplanting to your garden. This will acclimate the seedlings to the cooler outdoor temperature. Transplant the healthiest of the seedlings into the ground, placing the seedlings 6 inches apart, with 18 inches between each row. Apply a light layer of mulch after transplanting. If you are growing your leeks in containers, simply move the container outdoors or transplant the seedlings to a larger container, thinning out the weaker seedlings.
In the early stages of growth it is important to prevent the young plants from wilting. Allow the soil to dry somewhat between watering. Leeks do not require much feeding, and the mulch should provide adequate nutrition, or you may opt to apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer mid-season.
Leeks reach maturity anywhere between 98-110 days after sowing. Depending on the climate where you live, your leeks will be ready for harvest in early fall or early spring. Generally, leeks are ready to harvest when the base of the stalk has grown to 1-2 inches in diameter. Harvest by gently twisting the plant and pulling it out of the ground. Both the green leafy stalk and the creamy white bulb portion of leeks are edible.