Newest Review: ... with a rose on when the leeks are small, so the pressure doesn't knock them over. Leeks should be ready in late summer, but will happil... more
Member Name: houseofberries
Advantages: Grow in most soils, cheap to produce, versatile.
Disadvantages: Small amount of land needed, not great if you don't like onion flavours
I was introduced to growing leeks 4 years ago, I purchased a tray of baby plug plant leeks from Homebase, popped them in the soil and was amazed at how easily they grew.
Leeks are a member of the onion family, they grow happily in most soil conditions and are very versatile in the kitchen. The flavour is milder than most onions and they work really well in soups and stews. The can be chopped at the bottom and the outer leafs removed, then cut into pieces and boiled to soften to have as an side dish, or just boil for 6-7 minutes, then cover with oil and roast in the oven.
Since my initial Homebase purchase, I now grow the leeks from seed. I usually purchase them from Amazon or Ebay as they seem to work out cheaper that way for the amount of seeds in the packet. Usually paying just over a pound delivered for 50 seeds or so. I've also seen them in Aldi for 39p a packet at certain times of the year.
The seeds are then grown inside, in trays on window sills. They can be put straight in the ground but will usually germinate quicker inside or in a greenhouse. I sew them around April in trays. Depending on the variety and conditions they take around 10 to 14 days to germinate.
When the weather warms up a little I start putting them outside to harden off in their trays. After a week or two and I feel totally happy that the frosts are gone, I put them into a well dug soil. A dibber is really useful for this, to make little holes around 10-15cm deep (depending on the size of the baby leeks). They can then be gently pulled from the trays and transplanted to the soil, obviously pushing the soil around to support them. Each one is spaced around 20-30cms apart.
If you have children, transplanting is a great way to get them involved too. They can make the little holes in the ground with minimum guidance, then with a little help, put each leek into the ground or even do it on their own dependent on age. My boys really enjoy doing this and seeing what they planted grow though the summer months.
It's best to keep watered through the drier weather, apparently lack of water means they will be less tender. I've never exercised that theory however and just kept them watered with the rest of the growing fruit and vegetables through the summer. I use a watering can with a rose on when the leeks are small, so the pressure doesn't knock them over.
Leeks should be ready in late summer, but will happily keep in the ground through the Autumn. I've even kept them in the ground during the winter snow and the leeks have still been fine. Overwintering leeks successfully can depend on the variety used.
When it comes to harvest time, if the soil isn't too dry you should be able to just pull the leek out of the ground, if not you can always use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the leak and dig around the area to release it from the ground. They store reasonably well for a few weeks, I find it best to pull up a leek or two when I'm ready to use them for freshness.
If you want to try and get your own seeds from the leeks, leave a few in the ground from the previous year through to the next, during the summer months the leeks will bolt and produce what looks like a large flower head on the top. I've found I needed to put canes alongside them and tie them to the cane for support, they are nearly a couple of meters tall and rather spindly so they definitely needed it. That and the fact that my boys were using them as punch bags, staking them has thankfully put a stop to this. You'll see the dark brown seeds develop in the flower head when they are ready. Just give them a shake in a paper bag to catch all the seeds. I'm hoping next year I'll have enough seeds from ours to save buying any.
Leeks can be quite expensive to buy in the supermarkets, if you have a bit of spare garden or even a deep pot it's worth putting a few in the ground. They'll sit there and happily grow with very little attention required.
Summary: Easy to grow, low maintenance vegetable