Growing leeks: sowing, care and harvest time
Growing leeks or leeks in your own garden: We present suitable varieties and give tips and tricks from sowing, through care and fertilization, to harvest.
Leek ( Allium porrum L. ) is ideal for the gardener as it can be harvested almost all year round. For many, the question arises whether leeks and leeks are the same: The answer is yes, the two names are used synonymously. The spicy vegetables do not make great demands on the cultivation and give many dishes a special aroma. So it's high time to take care of the leeks from your own garden. We reveal the best way to do this.
Leeks: origin and characteristics
The leek is most likely a cultivated form of field onion (Allium ampeloprasum ). Its taste and smell indicate the close relationship with the onion ( Allium cepa ). Both belong to the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) and to the genus of the leek ( Allium ). The plant originally comes from the Mediterranean region and has been a popular green vegetable since the age of the Pharaohs. Today's garden onion came to Europe from Egypt through the Romans. Leek was valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans and especially revered for its beneficial effects on the neck. The Roman Emperor Nero reportedly ate leeks every day to strengthen his voice. The vegetable quickly spread across Europe. Not only as a year-round source of vitamins, but also as a remedy, people knew how to use leeks very early on. For example, leeks are said to help lower blood pressure, support cardiovascular health and improve digestion. The leek is so popular in Wales that it adorns the local coat of arms.
Leek is a biennial, herbaceous plant that can reach heights of between 60 and 80 centimeters. In contrast to field onions, the leek does not form onions. The leaves are lanceolate and 1 to 5 centimeters wide. In the lower part of the shaft the leaves are white and overgrown, further up they turn blue-green.
Winter onion can brave the frost and can be grown during the cold season [Photo: Graham Corney / Shutterstock.com]
Choice of variety for leeks
There are different types of leeks to choose from – a distinction is made between summer leek, which is cultivated in the warm months, autumn leek and winter leek, which still grows even in snow and frost. We'll tell you which varieties are particularly recommended in our special overview article on leek varieties.
When growing leeks, the right location and the right approach are crucial. Leek feels most comfortable in a sunny to partially shaded location. In addition, it should be protected from the wind. If the soil is loose, permeable and rich in humus and nutrients, nothing stands in the way of successful cultivation.
The ideal location for leeks:
- Sunny to partial shade
- Sheltered from the wind
- Loose, well-drained soil
- Humorous and nutritious
Tip: Good plant neighbors for the leek are celery ( Apium graveolens ), endive ( Cichorium endivia ), marjoram ( Origanum majorana L. ), carrots ( Daucus carota subsp. Sativus ) and kohlrabi ( Brassica oleracea var. Gongylodes ).
Leek feels good in a sunny to partially shaded spot [Photo: Derek Harris Photography / Shutterstock.com]
Once you have chosen the right location in the garden, you need to plant or sow your leeks. You can either grow young plants from seeds yourself or buy pre-grown plants. You can buy leek plants in many garden centers, garden centers or hardware stores. Alternatively, you can also order young plants and seeds for leek on the Internet. You can find out how to continue growing leeks in the following quick guide.
Brief instructions for growing leek:
- At the end of February, you can start germinating the seeds. To do this, we recommend that you prefer the seeds on a sunny windowsill.
- The soil must be prepared before planting out or direct sowing in the bed. Here we recommend to improve the soil with compost or a fertilizer with organic long-term effects (about 10 liters of compost per square meter). The heavy-eating leek will thank you for that with good yields.
- Our Plantura organic universal fertilizer with organic long-term effects is particularly suitable for leeks and creates the best growing conditions for your leeks right from the start.
- When the young plants that have been grown are about as thick as a pencil, it is time to plant them out.
- You can plant the young plants from mid-April at a planting distance of about 15 cm with a hole depth of about 10 to 12 cm.
- If you want to sow directly, March is recommended for early varieties. For a leek harvest in winter, sowing should be done from May to June.
- After planting, the plants are well watered.
If the location is right, then leeks can be grown successfully in the garden
Maintain the leek
If the leek is in the bed and is growing diligently, it needs regular attention in order to bring you a rich harvest. Chop the bed regularly. How to remove weeds and loosen up the soil. This promotes the mineralization and the water absorption capacity of the soil. In addition, regularly pile up the earth around the shafts of the leek. This makes for a longer white shaft. This then becomes particularly mild and tender.
Leek needs sufficient moisture for good growth. You should water it well, especially on hot summer days. A complete drying out of the soil is to be avoided as well as waterlogging. We already know that leek is a heavy eater. Above all, it needs nitrogen-based fertilization in order to be able to deliver high yields. Our Plantura organic universal fertilizer is ideally suited for this, as it contains all the important nutrients for your leek and also improves soil life and soil fertility in the garden. Due to its long-term effect, it only needs to be topped up every four to six weeks. The situation is different with mineral nitrogen fertilizers. If these are used, you will need to re-fertilize every two weeks.
Watering and fertilizing the leek:
- Chop and remove weeds regularly
- Pile earth around the shaft
- Keep evenly moist
- Avoid waterlogging and drying out
- Nitrogen-based fertilization
- Every 4 to 6 weeks with a fertilizer with an organic long-term effect
Leek needs regular watering, especially on hot summer days [Photo: Lucy Kozyra / Shutterstock.com]
Leek has a relatively long cultivation time: it can only be harvested five to eight weeks after planting. The poles should be at least three centimeters in diameter by the time the leeks are harvested. Depending on whether it is summer, autumn or winter leek, the leek is of course harvested at different times. Summer leeks can be harvested from June to August. Autumn leeks are ready for harvest between September and December, while winter leeks can be harvested between December and May. So you see: if you plan the cultivation correctly, you can harvest fresh leeks from your own garden almost all year round.
When do you harvest leeks?
- 5 – 8 weeks after planting
- Poles should have a diameter of approx. 3 cm
- Summer leek: June – August
- Autumn leek: September – December
- Winter leek: December – May
To harvest summer onion, use a sharp knife and cut the rod just above the root. If the roots remain in the ground, the leek can grow again and be harvested again. This is not the case with winter leeks, as the weather conditions do not allow regrowth in the cold winter. Therefore, winter leek can be loosely dug up with a digging fork and harvested with roots.
Expert tip : The best time to harvest leeks is in the afternoon, as the leaves then have the lowest water content and are less damaged by leaf breakage.
How do you properly harvest leeks?
- Cut off summer onion above the roots
- Leek grows again
- Dig up winter leek with roots
Leeks can either be cut off or dug up [Photo: Graham Corney / Shutterstock.com]
Note on blooming leeks : Many wonder what blooming leek is all about and whether the leek bloom is poisonous. Not poisonous, but inedible becomes leek when it begins to bloom. You should therefore harvest your leeks early, before flowers appear. If your leek does start to bloom, you can use the flowers to gain seeds for the next year.
Store and preserve the leek
Luckily, leeks can be preserved in different ways. It is best to put it in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. The leek will keep there for one to two weeks. But leeks have a very intense smell. The whole refrigerator can smell of leek when it is stored there. If you don't want that, you can also store it in a cool, dry and dark place where the vegetables will last for up to three weeks. The pantry or the cellar, for example, are suitable for this. You can also wrap the leeks in newspaper beforehand and place them upright in a bucket with damp sand. The third way to preserve leeks is through freezing. It lasts up to three months.
Tip: Whipped in airy, the leeks will stay fresh longer in the refrigerator. To do this, remove the uppermost parts of the leaf and then wrap it in a damp cloth. In addition, leeks prefer to be stored upright rather than lying down.
How can you store and preserve leeks?
- In a cool, dark, dry place: 2 – 3 weeks
- In the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator: Approx. 1 – 2 weeks
- In the freezer: up to 3 months
Tip for freezing the leek : The easiest way to preserve the leek for a long time is to freeze it. Many recommend blanching it before putting it in the freezer. But this is not absolutely necessary. Leeks can also be frozen raw. To do this, it is first washed thoroughly, dried and cut into slices. These can then be frozen either raw or blanched.
Do you actually know the difference between leeks, leeks, onions and spring onions? If not, you can learn more about it in our special article.