Leeks are a popular winter vegetable. Thinly sliced and sautéed in butter, boiled until they are deliciously soft, or added as a crunchy topping to a cottage pie – there is no end to what you can do with a bunch of leeks!
It’s also very easy to grow leeks at home if you have a patch of garden going spare. In this post, we are going to give you a quick and easy-to-follow guide to planting and cultivating leeks. You can either sow your leeks from seed or buy a bundle of young plants from our nursery and nurture them in your garden.
Planting from Seed
If you want to grow leeks from seed, you need to plant them in the spring. Early season leeks are typically ready to pull in the autumn, whereas late-season leeks will be ready to eat over winter and into the following spring.
To plant leeks from scratch, sow your seeds in compost in the greenhouse and when they have grown into small plants, you can move them outdoors into the bed where they will mature into fully-grown plants ready for harvesting.
Planting young plants
It’s important to get your young plants in as deep as you can. Using a large dibber, punch a hole into the ground at least 4 inches deep. Plants should be spaced seven inches apart in rows.
Top dress with general fertiliser in the Autumn. (Ideally before a good rain!).
Water your leeks when it’s hot and dry and keep weeds under control with a weekly hoe session.
Weeds are a gardener’s biggest headache (apart from garden pests, of course!). The last thing you want is to see your precious leeks overrun with weeds, which will compete for soil nutrients and water. To make it harder for weeks to take over the bed, plant salad greens between your plants. These grow quickly and can be harvested while your leek plants find their feet.
Leeks are characterised by long white stems. To get white stems, you need to bank up the soil around the shanks (stems) 2-3 weeks before the plants are ready to harvest. Banking up the soil prevents light from reaching the stem (light activates the plant’s chlorophyll, which gives it the characteristic green colour).
Time to Harvest
When your leeks are ready to harvest, use a garden fork to carefully lift each plant at the root. Lever it up and pull it out by the leaves. Rinse the soil away and take them straight into the kitchen. If you are leaving your leeks in the ground over winter, remember to dig some up before a hard frost sets in, or you’ll have no leeks until spring.