Growing Leeks: How To Grow Lovely, Luscious Alliums

Have you ever tried rising leeks? Luscious and scrumptious, they’re on each tremendous chef’s menu someplace. Within the UK, they’re a staple of the each day weight loss program, they usually seem closely in Asian delicacies as nicely. Leeks are present in essentially the most elegant dishes and on the best eating places.

You’ll discover leeks rising within the best of gardens, too. Their onion-like taste is superb for soups, roasts, risottos, stir fried, or in tarts. Harvesting leeks in summer time, fall, and generally winter is a celebration. Planting leek seedlings that develop into fully-formed stalks filled with taste is a reward in and of itself. 

At present, we have a look at the leek, discover among the variety of this allium, and study the easiest way to domesticate these culinary delights. Leeks aren’t wherever close to as intimidating as they seem, they usually’re nicely definitely worth the effort and time spent rising them!

Leeks: Fast Care Information

Homegrown American Flag leeks. Supply: Lorin Nielsen
Frequent Title Leeks
Scientific Title Allium ampeloprasum
Days to Harvest 80-130 days
Mild Keen on full solar
Water Persistently moist soil
Soil Nutritious, well-drained soil, nitrogen-rich
Fertilizer Compost-amended soil. May use fish emulsions or kelp-based liquid fertilizers, or a slow-release granular fertilizer.
Pests Leek moth, thrips, onion maggots
Illnesses Leek rust, downy mildew, powdery mildew, white-tip illness, botrytis leaf blight

All About Leeks

Crosscut leeks
Crosscut leeks. Supply: dbnunley

By now, you’re in all probability asking precisely what’s a leek? The leek vegetable is part of the allium species of the Liliaceae household. This is similar household of crops that encompasses onions, garlic, chives, and lots of others. Just like the onion, a leek grows in layers. It’s most much like the inexperienced onion in that regard. The place do leeks develop? That’s additionally a typical query. The leek has an extended historical past.

Initially cultivated in central Asia, it unfold all through Europe as a consequence of its tasty nature. Eaten by the Egyptians and the Romans, it quickly established footholds in most cuisines of Europe and northern Africa. Later, it got here to the New World with the settlers, taking its place within the Americas. Scrumptious leeks have a subtler taste than the onion and are sometimes in comparison with scallions. Nevertheless, they’re milder than their extra pungent kin.

All leeks have shallow root methods and produce layers of inexperienced leaf plenty from a barely bulbous base. Like large scallions, their slender stems develop by way of delicate winters and are prepared for harvest in spring. If they’re left to bolt, they’ll produce a big globular flower, simply as onions or garlic would. These are an amazing attractant for bees. 

Beneficial Leek Varieties

Leek seedlings
Leek seedlings. Supply: eakspeasy

Whether or not you select to develop leeks from seed or through plugs, listed below are among the finest kinds of leeks to incorporate in your backyard this 12 months. Can’t resolve on which season to plant? Strive the Autumn Big selection, a midseason leek that takes roughly 100 to 120 days to mature. 

Early Season Leeks

  • King Richard: 75 days. Extremely popular. Mild inexperienced slender shafts. Tolerates gentle bouts of freezing temperatures. King Richard leeks are a extremely popular selection!
  • Hannibal: 75 days. Thick stalks which are pure white, darkish inexperienced leaves.
  • Roxton: 85 days. Uniform stalks. Doesn’t bulb. Shiny inexperienced leaves. It may be laborious to seek out.
  • Varna: 80 days. Lengthy, slender crops with shafts which are typically harvested early for finest taste.
  • Megaton: 90 days. Bluish-green leaves. Thick leeks, similar to late-season varieties.
  • Daybreak Big: 98 days. Gigantic leeks! Typically used for competitors.
  • Pandora: 90 days. Very uniform, non-bulbing. Bluish-green leaves. 
  • Runner: 105 days. Deep bluish-green leaves, very erect, straightforward to domesticate.
  • Striker: 86 days. Very straightforward to wash. Lengthy, thick shaft. Illness-resistant.

Late Season Leeks

  • American Flag: 105 days. Grows extraordinarily nicely. Frost-resistant pressure.
  • Lancelot: 95 days. Dependable and traditional selection. Wealthy inexperienced leaves.
  • Surfer: 115 days. Illness and pest-resistant selection with clear white stalks. Blue-green leaves.
  • Bandit: 100 days. Extraordinarily cold-tolerant. Minimal bulbing.
  • Big Musselburgh: 105 days. Very previous selection. Tremendous-thick stems and cold-tolerant.
  • Blue Solaise: 110 days. French selection, leaves are darkish blue-green however flip purplish after a chilly snap.
  • Carentan: 130 days. Previous European selection that’s shortly turning into uncommon. Excessive yields, vigorous.
  • Jolant: 120 days. Winter-hardy selection with blue-green leaves and medium-sized stalks.
  • Tadorna: 110 days. Illness-resistant cultivar. Overwinters in all however the coldest areas.

How To Plant Leeks

Young leeks growing
Younger leeks rising. Supply: mrvklaw

Plant quicker-growing, early-season leeks within the early spring for harvest within the late summer time or early fall. They’re typically smaller than late-season species and even milder in taste. Some individuals use these to develop mini-leeks which are utilized in meals. 

Late-season leeks are additionally planted in spring, however they’re harvested in late fall and even into winter. These take longer to develop. They’re additionally cold-hardy and considerably frost tolerant and deal with gradual temperature modifications. A couple of will be planted within the late spring for fall/winter harvest. Rising leeks in areas with delicate winters is feasible too. On this case, a fall planting is finest for an early spring harvest.

Plant leeks open air anytime after the final spring frost date has handed. Begin seeds indoors in late winter utilizing a seedling warmth mat and develop gentle. Direct sow leek seeds about 4 weeks earlier than the ultimate frost, and they’re going to come up within the spring. Leek seeds don’t like deep plantings, and spring rains can wash the seed away. Use some kind of cowl defending your backyard till the leeks have sprouted.

It’s also possible to develop leeks in containers. House them out to permit their shallow root system to unfold. Plant leeks in clusters of not more than 2 to three crops. Skinny leek seedlings nicely after a thick direct seeding the place they’re sown densely. You’ll be able to germinate a number of crops in a single seedling starter tray. Whenever you transplant seedlings, take people who produce clumps and gently separate their roots by swishing them in a bucket of water.

Make a 4 to 6-inch deep gap utilizing a shovel deal with or extensive stick. Gently set younger crops into it, ensuring the leaf suggestions are above the soil degree. Sprinkle a tiny dusting of soil round to cowl the basis. Don’t fill the outlet in utterly, as nature can deal with that. Simply ensure the roots themselves are coated. 

For many crops, use the trenching technique. Make an extended, deep trench within the floor or in raised beds. Place a leek in it and push sufficient soil to maintain the seedlings upright, masking the roots. Because the leek grows, push extra soil round it to maintain the stalk coated. Proceed including soil over time, retaining the stalk coated to advertise blanching.

Caring for Leeks

Leek scapes
Leek scapes. Supply: kendura99

For essentially the most half, after you transplant leeks, they’ll deal with themselves. Nevertheless, if you wish to have essentially the most flavorful stalks, right here’s the easiest way to make sure a tasty harvest.

Mild and Temperature

Rising leeks in partial shade is good, however the leek may also deal with full solar simply tremendous. The stalk itself should be shielded from the brilliant daylight so it blanches. Whereas the perfect temperature is 60°F, and leeks favor delicate climates as a cool season crop, they’ll survive in heat climates too. In the event you develop leeks by way of a lightweight frost, that’s okay. They will deal with it. 

Most leek varieties tolerate warmth so long as they’ve loads of water. Lengthy-growing, cool-season varieties are considerably frost-tolerant too. In instances when the bottom freezes or when the soil temperature could be very low, place a cloche or chilly body over the crops to maintain them secure. Frozen floor can freeze leeks, and frozen leeks tackle harm and are usually not edible. 

Water and Humidity

Rising leeks requires about an inch of water per week as soon as they’re established. Leek seedlings want a bit extra. Whereas leeks develop poorly in soggy soil, retaining them persistently moist is good. Water leeks with soaker hoses for this objective. It’s also possible to mound across the base of the plant with both soil or with mulch. This may assist the soil across the roots keep moist. So long as you will have well-draining soil, you possibly can water leeks typically, and in heat climates, you’ll need to do that.

Soil for Leeks

Plant leeks in nitrogen-rich, lightly-packed soil that has a lot of natural matter. Nicely-drained soil is a should, and sandy soil filled with vitamins is good. Earlier than planting, loosen soil in your raised beds, containers, or backyard floor, and work compost by way of it to a depth of about 12 inches. 

If you wish to blanch the stalks naturally by beginning them deeper, amend the soil to 12 inches beneath the bottom level you propose to plant every leek seedling. This ensures the transplant leeks have loads of nutritious soil all through the rising season.

Fertilizing Leeks

Leek seedlings and mature leeks are heavy feeders, however they don’t want way more by way of the rising season than compost-enriched soil. Work compost into the bottom earlier than planting. Rising leeks with some blood meal or bone meal additionally helps leeks thrive. If you wish to use fertilizer, select a slow-release balanced granular fertilizer or water-soluble plant meals. It’s also possible to use a liquid fish emulsion or simply add extra compost often.

Propagating Leeks

Leek bulbils
Bulbils develop from the bottom of the dad or mum leek. Supply: Lorin Nielsen

Propagate leeks from seed or by bulbil. Leeks develop extra reliably from seed. Observe the method to begin seeds indoors within the Planting part, and also you’ll develop leeks simply. Propagating by bulbils (generally known as pips) will be difficult. First, your leek must be producing bulbils alongside the stalk, which will be laborious to establish whereas it’s within the floor. In the event you harvest a leek and discover some, attempt to replant them!

Rigorously separate the bulbils from the mom stalk, then tuck the bottom gently into soil to root it. So long as the bulbil’s shoot is inexperienced, you will have an opportunity of rising leeks which are a precise clone of their mother and father. Re-plant leeks to encourage extra offspring. If a plant generates a number of bulbils, it could already be previous the edible stage. A plant with just a few bulbils shouldn’t have noticeable taste modifications.

Pruning and Coaching Leeks

You don’t need to prune whenever you’re rising leeks until you need to. Some varieties, comparable to American Flag, have edible greens which will be trimmed and utilized in cooking. When you have a spread that doesn’t have bitter greens, trim the primary inexperienced leaf or two often for kitchen use. Don’t take greater than two or three leaves from a given leek throughout its development cycle, although!

Whenever you develop leeks, mound soil across the crops to cowl the stalk as much as the bottom of the leaves. This naturally blanches the stalk and encourages it to develop taller. Double your efforts by planting your leeks in a trench or gap initially, then regularly enhance the quantity of soil across the leeks.

Harvesting And Storing Leeks

A green-to-white rainbow of cut leeks
A green-to-white rainbow of lower leeks. Supply: sethoscope

In spite of everything that ready by way of the rising season, you will have a tremendous crop awaiting you! When to reap leeks will be laborious to resolve, however let’s go over every little thing you’ll have to know.

Harvesting Leeks

Relying on the range, harvest leeks on the finish of the rising season wherever between 60 and 120 days after sowing seed or after you begin seeds indoors. Begin when the stalk of your leek is about an inch throughout. You’ll be able to harvest leeks (a summer time leek, as an illustration) once they’re youthful than that, however you gained’t have as a lot produce, in fact! 

So long as the soil is free, grasp on the base of a leek and provides it a very good tug. This may free the roots from the soil however might harm the outermost leaf layer. In the event you’re harvesting from heavier clay soil or need to forestall harm, use a fork to loosen the soil round and beneath and dig leeks up. Shake or mud off as a lot soil as you possibly can. Attempt to maintain the roots intact until you will use it instantly, as that helps it retailer longer.

Storing Leeks

You’ll be able to retailer leeks extremely nicely within the floor, so depart them in place till you want them. If you will overwinter leeks this manner, hill up the soil across the crops and canopy them with a thick layer of mulch to maintain the bottom of the plant heat and retailer it in place. 

Leeks, like most different onions, will be saved exterior the fridge so long as they’re in a cool, dry place. Don’t wash them till you might be prepared to make use of them. As a substitute, mud off any soil remnants and let the outside dry. In optimum situations, they retailer this manner for as much as three months. In the event you’re utilizing your leeks quickly, retailer them within the fridge. Trim off the surplus greens and wrap every leek in plastic wrap, masking it utterly. Place them in an hermetic plastic bag and use them inside two weeks. 

Leeks dry fairly nicely in a dehydrator. To organize leeks for dehydrating, slice them finely, and wash them so you will have clear leeks. Put them in a dehydrator set at 145 levels Fahrenheit till they’re crisp. Retailer them in an hermetic container out of direct gentle. In the event you’re storing for an extended time frame, add a moisture-absorbing packet to your leeks.


Leek harvest
Leek harvest. Supply: Muffet

Whereas rising leeks isn’t laborious, they do have some points and plant ailments you want to pay attention to. Let’s discuss these now. 

Rising Issues

Probably the most widespread issues that happens whenever you develop leeks is skinny or spindly development. The trigger is overcrowding. Leeks are heavy feeders, and too many in a single spot will trigger all of them to have issues! Skinny out your leeks, particularly whenever you scatter seeds in an space. Whenever you’re planting seedlings, 6 inches aside is an efficient vary to goal for. You may have the ability to develop them nearer, however you should still discover them to be too skinny.

In the event you overlook to skinny them, and discover that you’ve clumps of 2-3 rising collectively, fertilize and water leeks often. You need to use a fish emulsion, kelp meal, or a thick layer of compost. I’ve additionally had success utilizing natural fertilizer tea or compost tea. Some individuals intentionally develop this technique to maximize their harvest in tight areas.

Whereas we like to see different kinds of flowers, lots of people dread seeing their leek flower. Flowering renders the stalk woody and causes it to go bitter and inedible. Most leek flowering comes from sudden shifts within the climate. When the climate goes chilly, put a chilly body over your rising leeks earlier than they get too chilled. Progressively acclimate them to the brand new situations.

If the leek does ship up a flower stalk, harvest it earlier than it blooms. Congratulations, you now have what’s referred to as a leek scape! Use it in cooking for a light taste. In the event you catch the scape whereas it’s nonetheless small, your leek is not going to endure, and also you’ll nonetheless have the ability to harvest and use it too.


Within the UK, the leek moth and its larvae are a priority for individuals who develop leeks. Tiny caterpillars tunnel into the leaf stalk to feed, inflicting brownish patches. Older caterpillars tunnel down the middle of the stalk, inflicting rotting or withering. After a month or so, the caterpillar pupates. Bacillus thuringiensis, generally known as Bt spray, wipes them out. Take away and destroy affected crops. Hand-pick larvae and stop moths by utilizing floating row covers.

Thrips are small bugs that may be managed by releasing helpful bugs comparable to ladybugs and lacewings into your backyard. Maintain the world close to your leeks away from plant particles and grass, which is a house for the thrips! In case your leek patch has a extreme infestation of thrips, use neem oil to discourage them. Insecticidal cleaning soap may also work in a similar way. Lastly, pyrethrin-based sprays will kill thrips if nothing else works.

The onion maggot is amongst fly species that have an effect on onions, nevertheless it impacts leeks too. The grownup flies lay their eggs on the soil floor, which hatch. Then larvae tunnel into the earth and feed on the bulbous areas of alliums. Younger crops are most inclined to maggot harm. There isn’t a treatment for them, so use floating row covers, and rotate your allium crops often.  


Leek rust is a fungal an infection that appears like orange pustules on the leaves. In the event you uncover rust in your leek, know it’s typically only a beauty problem. Merely take away any rust patches you uncover and destroy them. To stop rust, rotate your crops often so the fungus can’t take maintain. It’s also possible to use a liquid copper fungicide to manage rust when it seems.

Powdery mildew and downy mildew aren’t widespread on leeks however do occur, particularly if close by crops are affected by it. Take away broken leaves, and take away crops if they’re overcrowded. More often than not, you possibly can nonetheless get a harvest from leeks with mildew, however guarantee it hasn’t gotten to the world you’re consuming earlier than you employ them.

Botrytis leaf blight is attributable to Botrytis allii, a fungus that causes mould between layers, a breakdown of the bulbous space of your leeks. This illness is extra prevalent in areas the place leeks aren’t correctly spaced and the soil is overly moist. Forestall these situations to stop the illness. Until you’re prepared to make use of systemic fungicides in your crops, there is no such thing as a remedy. 

Purple blotch is a fungal illness attributable to Alternaria porri. This illness causes water-soaked lesions on extra mature leaves which are both purple or brown, with a yellow ring. The rings then develop right into a bull’s eye sample. Maintain your backyard freed from plant particles to stop the unfold of this illness. Good air circulation and correct watering prevents the illness as nicely. Thrips additionally unfold the illness. Use prevention strategies to maintain this illness at bay. 

White tip or white rot illness, additionally known as white tip of leek, is a fungal an infection. It normally outcomes from contaminated soil splashing up onto the leaves and also can affect onions. Whereas it’s much more widespread within the UK than elsewhere, it’s not completely unknown in america. You’ll want a chlorothalonil fungicide to restore crops affected by white tip.

Lastly, pink root is a illness that causes pinkening of root plenty, which finally flip brown and die. Normally, this illness – which finally causes dieback of your complete plant – is prevalent when leeks are planted late. Attempt to plant early so many of the plant’s development happens early within the season earlier than the fungus can assault. Rotate your crops and plant resistant varieties. 

Steadily Requested Questions

Pale leek flower
Pale leek flower. Supply: safoocat

Q: I heard you can develop leeks from kitchen scraps?

A: You’ll be able to if the leek has roots nonetheless on it. Minimize off the underside of the stem, leaving no less than an inch to an inch and a half of the bottom. Place the basis finish in a cup of water, and put the cup in a sunny window. Rinse off the top of the leek and alter the water each day. Inside every week or so, inexperienced shoots will type. At that time, you possibly can plant the leek in potting combine and let it develop! Many forms of crops can regrow from kitchen scraps.

Q: Are there perennial leeks in addition to annual leeks?

A: Sure! Perennial leeks actively type new bulbils a lot in the identical method {that a} shallot does. Annuals might type bulbils, however solely when the dad or mum plant is previous its prime and able to go to seed. The flavour of perennials is extra oniony than an annual. Nearly all of commercially out there leeks are annual varieties.

Q: What’s the finest month to plant leeks?

A: Relying on the place you reside, the rising season both begins in spring or fall. Plant and develop leeks in March, April, September, or October. 

Q: How lengthy does it take to develop leeks?

A: Leeks take wherever from 80 to 130 days to mature.

Q: Do leeks develop again yearly?

A: Perennial varieties in the precise situations do, sure. 

Q: Do leeks regrow after slicing?

A: They do so long as solely their first couple of outer leaves are harvested. Be sure to have a spread that has flavorful leaves earlier than you employ them in meals.

Q: Can you permit leeks within the floor over winter?

A: Sure, so long as you develop leeks in an space the place winters aren’t harsh, you possibly can overwinter and proceed rising leeks within the subsequent rising season. 

Q: Can I develop leeks in pots?

A: Rising leeks in containers is completely potential, however guarantee you will have sufficient spacing between crops for max harvests.

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