Leeks can thrive year-round in a garden. If you want to enjoy a steady supply of leeks from your garden, you should be familiar with how to care for the plant.
Leeks are the easiest member of the onion family to cultivate and the ideal option for winter use. Leeks have tough, flat, bluish-green leaves that encircle each other to form a cylindrical base at one end and a fan of folded leaves at the other.
Leeks are part of the onion family that boasts a milder, more herbal aroma that sweetens as it cooks. When it comes to appearance, leeks strikingly look the same as scallions, but they are bigger. Leeks have been a favorite addition to soups, white meat dishes, side dishes, and casseroles for their mild flavor.
Leeks are known for their bulbous form with white flesh and leafy green tops. The bulb is slightly bigger than the stem close to the roots. If the bulb is more rounded, the older the leek.
How to Grow Leeks in Toilet Rolls or Other Tubes?
Leeks can be propagated using a common material at home – toilet paper rolls. You can grow leeks using toilet paper rolls since it blocks out direct exposure to the sun. It keeps most of the leek white and tender rather than turning green similar to the top of the stalks.
You can use one 4-inch toilet paper roll, which is long enough to serve as a collar for two leek plants.
An alternative is to plant leeks from seed and place the collars after the seedlings start to emerge.
Step 1: Prepare a hole with a depth of at least 8 inches using a garden spade or
any digging tool on hand. Add in a few inches of organic matter such as manure or compost if you have poor-quality soil. Ensure that you choose a site that receives full exposure to the sun to allow your leeks to grow optimally.
Step 2: Create several furrows around 7 inches deep and with 12 inches between each furrow. A hoe will come in handy in pulling the soil aside when creating the furrows.
Step 3: Position the leek seeds or seedlings at 8 inches apart in the furrows. You should plant the seeds ½ inch deep and plant the seedlings in the same depth in the original containers. Press the soil into the trench around the leek seedlings, filling in the furrows to the area below where the leaf base links with the whitish flesh portion. When the seeds start to germinate, thin out the seedlings to 8 inches apart by pinching them off at the soil line.
Step 4: When watering the leeks, I suggest doing it thoroughly until the soil is moist but not overly saturated. You should water at least once a week or as needed.
Distribute mulch around the leeks once the seedlings start to emerge. The objective is to trap moisture in the soil but avoid pushing the mulch directly against the leeks.
If you started with seeds, you must wait until the leeks reach up to 6 inches in height and have at least two sets of leaves before adding mulch.
Step 5: Prepare the toilet paper rolls by cutting them in half, making sure that each piece is 2 inches long. Wrapping paper tubes and paper towel rolls suitable alternatives when cut into 2-inch segments.
Step 6: Position the toilet paper rolls over the leek leaves and slide them down the shaft to the soil. Drive down the tubes to set them at ½ to 1 inch into the soil
Step 7: Apply a complete, all-purpose fertilizer to the leeks at least once every week or every other week. It all depends on the growth rate of the leeks. The fertilizer mixing rates tend to vary among various products. A good example is mixing an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer at a rate of 1 tablespoon of fertilizer to 1 gallon of water.
How to care for Leeks
When your young leeks reach 6-8 inches in height, you should transplant them to their permanent site.
You should water your leeks thoroughly the day before lifting and transplanting.
Prepare holes that are 2 inches wide and 6 inches deep at 6 inches apart in rows. Transplant each plant into every hole. Fill every hole with water to help the roots settle. You can add water as needed to allow the plants to establish, but avoid filling the hole with soil.
If you have several seedlings, you can place 2 or 3 plants in every hole.
Most of the varieties require a long growing season of 120-150 days, while some modern cultivars have shortened seasons that last around 90 days.
Leeks are ready to harvest once the base has at least a 3-inch white section and feels firm and solid.
When it comes to the light requirements of leeks, they prefer direct sun and must be planted in a site that receives a lot of sunlight. Make sure that they receive up to 8 hours of bright sunlight daily during the growing season.
As for the soil, leeks thrive best in a sandy, well-draining soil mix with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. A nutritious soil mix is a key to achieve a good leek harvest, so it is best to amend the soil with organic matter or rich compost.
When planting leeks, make sure to provide enough spacing of at least six inches apart.
After a few weeks, you can boost the white stem’s length by blanching the plant above ground. Blanching is a method to conceal a section from sun exposure so that it will not produce chlorophyll and turn green. Simply wrap around 4 inches of the plant’s base in newspaper and pull dry soil around the stem to exclude light.
You must take care not to introduce soil in between the leave since it can cause a gritting eating experience.
Leeks have shallow root systems and require frequent watering to thrive well. In most environments, a weekly routine of deep watering is usually enough.
During periods of prolonged drought, you must water the plants thoroughly by providing a good soak every 7-10 days. Make sure to keep weeds away throughout the growing phase by hoeing between the plants.
Temperature and humidity
When growing leeks, the temperature is not an essential factor. You can plant your leeks during the chilly early spring months, but other than that, you do not have to worry.
Additionally, leeks are cold hardy, capable of enduring temperatures below freezing. Depending on the hardiness zone where you live, you can even grow leeks throughout the winter season.
When growing leeks, you need nutrient-dense soil to ensure a good harvest. Take note that nitrogen is vital to the growth, so you need to side-dress the growing area with a balanced fertilizer around halfway during the growing season.
Common pests and diseases
When caring for leeks, you should watch out for slugs since they feed on the leaves along with other pests that target onions, such as onion maggots, thrips, and leaf miners.
A recommended solution is neem oil, which is an organic solvent to get rid of most pests. Sadly, if an infestation occurs, the best move is to rip up the affected plant before the pests can spread to nearby plants.
Watch out for other common diseases such as leek rust and blight. Most of these diseases develop during damp weather. A remedy is to remove the affected leaves and improve air circulation.
When it is time to harvest the leeks, carefully lift the leeks. If necessary, you can use a garden fork or hand fork. You can also lift baby leeks when they are still small to ensure a prolonged harvest period. Remember that leeks will stand throughout the winter without harm.
Most varieties of leeks store well in the ground. You can leave them in place until needed. In case you are going to overwinter leeks this way, you have to hill up the soil around the plants and cover it with a thick coating of mulch. The mulch will keep the base of the plant warm and allow it to stay in place.
Just like onions, you can store leeks outside the refrigerator as long as in a cool, dry place. When storing leeks, do not wash them. Simply dust off any soil and allow the exterior to dry out. In the best conditions, you can store them for up to 3 months.
Different Uses of Leeks
When it comes to cooking, leeks have various uses such as the following:
• Roasted. When you have leeks around, clean and slice in half to add to your next pan of roasted vegetables or pot roast.
• Main dish. Depending on the dish you are preparing, leeks will stand out from the crowd.
• You can include raw leeks in a green salad.
• Garnish. Leeks are the ideal garnish. Simply dice or thinly slice and sprinkle onto a salad or soup for a lovely pop of color.
•Addition to soups or stews. If you want to achieve a slightly different flavor, you can add leeks to soups or stews similar to what you do with onions.
If you want a vegetable that you can quickly grow in your garden, you can try leeks. As an easy-to-grow plant, it is possible to grow your supply at home. Since you can use leeks in various dishes, now is the time to start growing them at home!