Leeks Not Leaks!

Source Cornell University
Source University of Minnesota
leek2 Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) are a gourmet vegetable that have a mild onion flavor and are usually used in soup, salads, eaten raw, braised, or in casseroles.

Leeks resemble overgrown green onions, with a long, cylindrical white shaft, but the leaves are thick, flat and folded. Plants grow to 2-3 feet in height. The edible portion is the shaft, usually 6-10 inches long and up to 2 inches in diameter.

GROWING LEEKS Most leeks require a long growing season of about 120-150 days, and a minimum of eight hours of bright sunlight daily. Some newer cultivars require as few as 90 days to maturity, and these may be most suitable for northern gardening conditions.
Leeks do best in a slightly acid soil, with a pH of 6.0-6.8, but will grow well in even a slightly alkaline soil.

Start leek seeds indoors in late February or March. For best results, transplants should be no more than 10-15 weeks old when set out in the garden. Harden off the plants for 5-7 days before transplanting. Transplant leeks as soon as early spring weather has stabilized and daytime temperatures are at least 45 degrees. Trim the roots of the transplants to 1” to facilitate transplanting. Plant them 2-6 inches apart with 12-36 inches between rows. Leek leaves consistently emerge opposite each other, directly above the previous leaf. Close spacing works well if plants are set out so the leaves will grow into the between-row space, rather than towards the plants on either side. This will make the best use of space, light and air circulation.

To produce long white shafts, some gardeners plant leeks in furrows. Set transplants at the bottom of a six inch deep furrow. As the plants develop, raise the soil level along the stems up to
the leaves, gradually filling the furrow. Another method is to hill leeks by planting them at normal soil level, then mounding compost or similar mulch material around the plants several times during the growing season. A transplant solution of half strength 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 fertilizer will get them off to a good start. In mid-summer, side-dress with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at a rate of one cup per 10 feet of row.

leeks1 Leeks are fully developed when the stem diameter exceeds one inch. Some smaller varieties mature at ½”-¾” diameter. A quality leek should have a firm, white shaft more than 3 inches long.

Leeks are fairly frost tolerant, so you can delay harvest until after the first few frosts. Temperatures as low as 20F may not harm some varieties! Mound mulch around your leeks to protect them, and you can enjoy digging fresh vegetables out of your garden well into late fall and early winter.

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2 responses to “Leeks Not Leaks!

  1. Good article. It is said that leek seeds remain viable for only one year. Sure enough, I sowed some of last year’s Giant Musselburg seeds and not one germinated. I have bought more. Also I read that a good way to wash out the dirt that might be lodged in between the layers (from the “hilling up”) is to slice the leek lengthwise, then cut into slices and put them in a bowl of water. When you swish them around (separating the layers) the grit will fall to the bottom.


  2. Maybe this year I’ll have more luck after reading this.


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