How to Grow Leeks

Three Methods:Starting the SeedsGrowing LeeksHarvesting Leeks

Leeks are a mild, delicious part of the onion family that taste wonderful in soups and quiches or simply sauteed on their own. They grow well in all climates, though they need extra pampering in places that don't have heavy rainfall. See Step 1 and beyond to learn how to grow and harvest leeks.

Method 1
Starting the Seeds

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    Decide whether to plant in fall or spring. If you live in a mild climate (growing zone 7 or warmer), you can plant leeks in the fall for a spring harvest, then plant again in the late spring for a fall harvest. Leeks planted later in the year will overwinter and grow in the spring. If you live in a climate with harsh winters, leeks should be planted in very early spring, as soon as the ground is workable.
    • Different leek varieties are meant for different planting times. Ask an expert at your local nursery to inform you what varieties work best in your climate.
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    Start your seeds. Fill seed trays with a seed starting mix (not potting soil) and sow the seeds about 6 weeks before the last frost of the winter. Leek seeds germinate best at a temperature around 77 °F (25 °C), so keep them in a warm, sunny room.[1] If you're starting seeds in the fall, you can keep them outdoors in a sunny spot. Keep the starting mixture moist.
    • If you wish, you can direct sow the seeds instead of starting them in trays. Prepare a planting bed with plenty of compost. Plant the seeds 12 inch (1.3 cm) deep and several inches apart.
    • The seedlings are ready to transplant when they grow to be at least 6 inches (15.2 cm) long.
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    Prepare a planting bed for the transplants. Prepare a permanent bed for the seedlings. Choose a spot in the sun that has well-draining soil. Work compost into the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches (20.3 cm). Dig a trench 6 inches (15.2 cm) deep.[2] Leeks must be planted deep in the soil so that the base of the stem stays out of the sun and becomes "blanched." The blanched part is the white, tender, edible part of the leek.

Method 2
Growing Leeks

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    Transplant the leeks. Plant the leek seedlings at least 6 inches (15.2 cm) deep and 6 inches (15.2 cm) apart. Pat the soil around the base of the leak so that it covers the roots and reaches the cleft where the leaves spread apart. The process of slightly mounding the dirt in this way is called "hilling."[3]
    • Instead of hilling, you can help the leek stems blanch by putting a cardboard tube over each plant, so that it rests around the base. This serves the dual purpose of keeping the sun away and keeping dirt out of the leek's leaves.
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    Mulch the leek bed. The leeks' roots are shallow, and must be protected so that they stay moist. Water the leek bed thoroughly after planting, then mulch the leek bed with straw to protect it throughout the growing season.
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    Keep the ground moist. Water the leeks frequently to keep them growing healthy and strong. Do not let the soil dry out. Leeks need to be given a good soaking at least twice a week, and more often if you live in a dry place with little rain.
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    Hill the soil periodically. About halfway through the growing season, hill the soil around the base of the leeks again, so that it reaches the place where the leaves cleave apart. The higher the hill, the larger the edible white part of the leek will be. However, hilling too high can cause the leeks to rot.
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    Weed the leek bed. Since leeks have shallow roots, it's important to weed frequently so they don't have to compete for nutrients. Weed the leek bed frequently throughout the growing season.

Method 3
Harvesting Leeks

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    Harvest leeks when their stems are 1" in diameter. Leeks are generally ready to eat when their stems are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. However, if you have a taste for young leeks, they can be harvested at any time. Younger leeks are less flavorful but they are more tender, and may be eaten like scallions.
    • You can leave leeks in the ground until they get quite large if you don't want to harvest them all at once. Plan to remove them all before the ground freezes in the fall.
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    Dig around the leek bases and pull them out. Keep the roots intact when you harvest the leeks. Use a spade to dig around the base of the leek, then gently pull on the leaves to remove it from the ground.
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    Wash the stems. The leeks will need a good scrubbing to remove the soil from their stems. Wash away all of the dirt using a vegetable scrub brush.
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    Store the leeks. Leeks can be stored in the refrigerator if you plan to eat them within the week. Wash and dry the leeks and place them in a plastic bag or in your vegetable crisper. When you're ready to cook them, remove the roots and the green part of the leaves, and process the white portion of the stem to use in a recipe.
    • For longer-term storage, keep the roots attached to the leeks and trim back the leaves until just 1 inch (2.5 cm) of green remains. Store them upside down in a wooden box, and back them with sawdust. Place the box in a cool cellar for up to 8 weeks.[4]
    • You can also freeze leeks. Remove the roots and leaves and blanch the white stems. Place the blanched stems in freezer bags and store for several months.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden trenches, prepared soil
  • Digging implements
  • Leek seed or seedlings
  • Watering facility

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