A Guide for Growing Leeks, Planting, Care and Harvesting
Today, we discuss the topic of growing leeks from seed, scraps, roots in containers as well as outdoor gardens. We also cover leek plant care, harvesting procedure of leeks. Leeks are part of the family of onions. Their taste is delicious and mild. These can be used in soups and quiches or you can also saute them. These can also be grown in all the climatic conditions, though they require some additional pampering in places that do not have huge rainfall. By following a few simple steps, you can start growing leeks on your own.
Starting the leek seeds:
- You can start the plantation of leek at the time of autumn or spring based on the climatic conditions of your locality. If you are residing in the mild climatic conditions, you can start planting the leeks at the time of autumn to harvest them at the time of spring, then you will have to start planting them again at the end of spring to get the harvest for autumn.
- The leeks which are planted at the end of the year will live through the winter and start growing at the time of spring. If you are residing in the climatic conditions which see harsh winters, the plantation of leeks has to be done at the early stages of spring as soon as the ground seems to be workable.
- Several types of leeks can be planted at different times. You can ask any of the employees who are working for a local nursery to provide you with information about the varieties which will work best for the climatic conditions of your locality.
- The seeds of leek have to be sown at a location which is warm and sunny. The seed trays have to be filled with seed starting mix and you have to sow the seeds for about one and a half months before the last frost of the winter.
- The seeds of leek will undergo the process of germination at their best when the temperature is around 25°C, so make sure that you are keeping them in a room which is warm and sunny. If you have decided to start the seeds at the time of autumn, you can keep them in the outdoor locations in a sunny place. The starting mixture has to be maintained in a moist condition.
- You can also sow the seeds directly rather than starting them in seed trays. You can start the preparation of a planting bed by making use of a lot of compost. The seeds have to be planted at a depth of half an inch and a distance of several inches from each other.
- The seedlings will be prepared for transplantation when they reach a height of 6 inches.
- Start the preparation of planting bed for the transplantation. You can also go with the preparation of a permanent bed for the sake of seedlings. Select a place in the sun which has the well-drained soil. The compost has to be worked into the soil up to a depth of a minimum of 8 inches.
- You can start digging a trench at a depth of 15 inches. The leeks have to be planted at a depth in the soil so that the stem’s base will not be in the sun and will turn blanched. The part of the plant which is blanched will be white in color and tender and it is also edible.
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Growth of leeks:
- Now it’s time for the transplantation of leeks. The leek seedlings have to be planted at a minimum depth of 6 inches and also at a distance of 6 inches from each other. The soil which is present around the base has to be patted in such a way that it is covering the roots and will reach the cleft where the leaves are spread away from each other. This particular process in which the dirt is mounded slightly is called as Hilling.
- Rather than hilling, you can also help the stems of leeks to undergo blanching by keeping a cardboard tube on every leek plant so that it will rest by being around the base. This will help us in two ways. One is by keeping the plant away from the sun and also by keeping the dirt away from the leaves of the leek plant.
- The leek bed has to be mulched. The roots of the leek are shallow and they must have some sort of protection so that they are maintained in a moist condition. The leek bed has to be watered fully after the plantation is done, then the leek bed has to be mulched by making use of straw for protecting it all across the growing season.
- The ground has to be kept moist. The leeks should be watered regularly so that they will continue to grow healthily and strongly. Make sure that you are not letting the soil to get dried. Leeks have to be provided with a good soaking for a minimum of two times a week and more frequently if you are residing in a place which is dry with a little amount of rain.
- The soil has to be hilled in a periodic manner. In the middle of the growing season, the soil which is present surrounding the base of the leeks has to be hilled once again so that it will reach the place where the leaves are cleft from each other. The size of the edible white part depends on the height of the hill. The higher the height of the hill, the larger the edible part. Anyways, hilling too much will cause rotting to the leeks.
- The leek bed has to be weeded. As the leeks are the plants which have shallow roots, it is essential to weed regularly so that they will not have to compete with the nutrients which are present in the soil. The leek bed has to be weeded more often all across the growing season.
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Growing leeks in containers:
When you are growing leeks in containers, you will be having either few young seedlings of leek or few roots for plantation. In either of the ways, the complete process of growing leeks in containers is simple. Though it is a simple process, there are some steps you will have to follow to make sure that you are growing a crop which is healthy and tender.
- When you are all set to plant the leek in the outdoor location, choose a container which would be suitable for leeks to grow. A container with a depth of about 10 inches and which can bear a volume of 3 gallons would be fine.
- The container has to be filled up to its 2/3 rd with a potting soil which has an excellent quality. Leeks need a large number of organic materials like compost for the maintenance of growth. The potting soil which you select has to undergo some sort of amendments by making use of perlite or sand for the achievement of good drainage.
- The seedlings or the bottom of the leeks have to be planted so that the root part is just below the line of soil. For the leeks which have a medium-size, make use of a planting method which is like an all direction one by making sure that there is at least a space of 4 inches between the plants. If you want the larger leeks, you can plant them at a distance of 6 inches from each other from all directions.
- The container which is planted newly with leeks has to be planted in your garden in a place which will get sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours in a day. Leeks will require full sun for survival.
- The leeks have to be watered so that the soil will be in its moist condition, but make sure that it is not waterlogged. You can water it fully once a week to grow leeks properly.
- As the season goes on and you see your leeks becoming larger, you can prefer the process of blanching the stem. For doing this, the container has to be filled with soil or compost as you see the leeks growing taller. The extra amount of soil will blanch the stem of the leek which will turn it from fiber to shoots which are white and tender. By the time the summer ends, the containers will be filled with soil.
- As long as you are making use of aged compost which has been used for blanching of the stems, fertilizing is usually not needed. If you are interested to do so, a compost tea which has a rich amount of nitrogen can be applied several times during the season. Keep in mind, not to use too much fertilizer as it may lead to the bolting of leeks.
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Growing leeks from roots:
- Irrespective of whether you are giving it a late start or if you do not have enough time for the germination of seeds, you can grow leeks from the rootstocks and that is the best alternative. This will not only save your time but also has less hassle for caring the young seedlings which have to be grown indoors.
- Before a month of the last frost in your locality, visit your local market for buying a few leeks.
- Get the leeks which are grown in an organic way and make sure that they have no pests, diseases and they are not discolored.
- Remove half an inch at the bottom of the leek along with all the roots.
- Continue planting these rootstocks in their actual container.
- They will start rooting and give new growth within a week.
When to harvest leeks:
- Leeks have to be harvested when you see that their stems have reached a diameter of 1 inch. Leeks will be usually ready to consume when their stems reach the thickness of 1 inch. Anyways, if you love to taste the young leeks, you can harvest them any time. The leeks which are younger will not have that much flavor and these are more tender. The leeks which are younger can be consumed like scallions.
- You can also just leave the leeks in the ground until they become somewhat large if you do not want all of them to harvest at once. You can also make a plan to take off all of them before you see the freezing of ground which usually happens before autumn.
- The bases of leek have to be dug and should be pulled out. Make sure that you are keeping the roots intact when you are harvesting the leeks. Make use of a spade for digging around the leek’s base, then pull off the leaves in a gentle manner to remove the base from the ground.
- The stems have to be washed for removing dirt. The leeks should be scrubbed in a good manner for removing the soil from the stems. All the dirt has to be washed away by making use of a vegetable scrub brush.
- The leeks have to be stored in a refrigerator or in a cellar which is cool. You can prefer storing leeks in a refrigerator when you are planning to consume them within a week or 10 days. Then, you will have to wash them and get them dried. After that, keep them in a plastic bag. You can also make use of a vegetable crisper instead of a plastic bag. When you are all set to cook them, the roots and the green part of the leaves have to be removed and you can also process the white part of the stem to make use of them in a recipe.
- To store them for a longer time, the roots have to be kept attached to the leeks and the leaves should be trimmed back until 1 inch of the leaves remain. These have to be stored in a wooden box in an upside-down position and back them by making use of sawdust. The box has to be placed in a cool cellar for up to 2 months.
- The leeks can also be frozen. The roots and leaves should be removed and the white stems should be blanched. The blanched stems have to be placed in freezer bags and then these should be stored for several months.
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Facts about growing leeks:
- Leeks will take about 6 to 9 months to reach the stage of maturity based on the time of the year you are sowing them. Growing leeks throughout the winter will take a longer time for them to reach the stage of maturity and they should be ready by then. You can start harvesting the leeks when they are somewhat small for achieving a long yielding season.
- If you will be careful with the varieties you choose, you will have a very good supply of leeks for harvesting from the middle of summer to the coming spring. Seeds are best when they are sown in rows at a distance of at least 6 to 10 inches from each other. Make use of the corner of a rake and mark a line for making a straight line in the soil at a depth of 1 cm.
- If you find that the leeks which you are growing are too thin, the main cause for that is crowding. This is caused when you are broadcasting seeds or if you are planting them very close to each other. As the plant is grown for the underground stem, it will require some amount of space. You will require to thin the leeks in such a way that they are at a distance of 6 inches from each other for allowing sufficient space in between for their growth.
- Leeks will survive in the raised beds or even in the tall containers. So make sure that you are selecting the one which is the best for you. The leeks have to be kept at a distance of 6 inches from each other at the time of plantation. Leeks will require two main things for survival. Plenty of nitrogen and soil moisture which is consistent. If it is possible, add some compost to the leek bed before the plantation.
- You can directly sow the leek seeds or you can start the transplants in the indoor locations. The varieties which grow for long seasons are the best if you have chosen to start in the indoor locations. The seeds have to be sown prior to a month before the last frost at a depth of 0.5 inches and a distance of 1 inch from each other and when you are planting in rows, make sure that they are at a distance of 20 inches from each other.
- The seedlings of leek will take about 2 weeks to undergo the process of germination. When they are in the process of germination, you will be able to see them above the ground surface and they look similar to grass blades. You can expect most of the seeds to complete the germination process. As soon as you see the seedlings, the pots have to be moved to a place with plenty of light.
- Most of the leeks reach the stage of maturity within 6 to 9 months after the seeds are sown, but some of the varieties mature in about 2 months. The harvest can be started when the stalks reach the diameter of an inch. Based on the climatic conditions, you will have to harvest the leek plants starting from the end of summer until the start of spring.
- The leaves which are dark green are tough and unpleasant to consume. So make sure that you are avoiding the leaves which are discolored. The leek’s shank has to be white and light green and the leaves which are present in the upper section should be in a color which is a dark and vibrant green. Make sure that you are always staying away from the leeks which are bruised, discolored and also yellow.
- Leeks, if they are left to grow, are generally hardy perennials which keep multiplying. Most of the members of the allium family of plants will take advantage of the fact that people can consume the onions which are homegrown all across the year.
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