Leeks are sweet, easy-to-grow, elegant cousins to onions—they play the role of onions in our dishes, only that they are a bit toned down. Unlike onions, they don’t produce bulbs; they store their flavor in juicy stems, similar to giant scallions. They are famous for leek and potato soup and are also great when steamed like asparagus, chopped in quiche, oven-roasted, or when wrapped in ham and baked.
Growing leeks is pretty simple and doesn’t require much space in the garden. Frost-tolerant leeks can survive well in cool weather conditions. In zone 7 and warmer areas, they can overwinter, making them suited for planting in fall.
Planting and Care
Leeks do well in sunny spots with fertile and well-drained soil. They need to be spaced 6 inches apart during planting and can thrive in conventional garden beds, raised beds, or containers. Leeks need lots of nitrogen and consistent moisture. Accordingly, endeavor to add organic fertilizer or compost to the leek garden or bed prior to planting. After planting, try to mulch the leek bed with organic materials to help the soil around them retail moisture.
To develop succulent stems, leeks need to be blanched—hidden or covered from the sun. So ensure that you plant them in deep holes. Inconsistent moisture yield leeks with tough stems, so it is best to water leeks as appropriate—an inch of water in a week.
You can begin harvesting leeks just about any time. Typically, it’s recommended to allow them get at least 1 inch or bigger in diameter; however, you are allowed to dig young ones to eat like scallions. In zone 7 and warmer areas, you can harvest them all winter long. In cold areas, however, it is advisable to extend the harvesting season by deep mulching (up to 1 feet deep) before a hard freeze. Leeks can still be harvested until they are locked frozen in the ground. However, there is no need of waiting for that to happen; you can harvest and store. Before you store leeks, wash the stems to remove the soil or grit which may have been trapped between the leaves.
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