Ladies and gentlemen, your days are numbered: the last bed of leeks. I will select 3 to go to seed but the rest will be dinner.
It’s the wind-down of the season for certain garden goodies around here. Leeks are the first up at bat. Like most things around here, and even though they’re the longest-lived garden item, these, too, are seasonal!
Can you see how one is enough for three people? Unlike outdoor leeks, I don’t need to remove nearly as many outer leaves on the greenhouse ones so what you see is nearly what we ate. This variety is Fedco’s Bleu de Solaize but it’s from my own seed from last year’s crop.
I am normally such a scrooge with this one particular long-lived allium. They’re somewhat hard to grow, they’re quite lovely, and they bridge the gap in our calendar between storage onions and garlic to new garden onions and (yum) green garlic. But now, well, now this veg gets the royal treatment! One of these big puppies makes a lovely leek tart atop my own somewhat inconsistent puff pastry. We devoured it.
Babies inside their cat-proof fence
And the tyranny has ended for me for the little indoor seedlings of leek. The greenhouses are warm enough, and the leeklings big enough, that they’ve all been transplanted out to their temporary bed. Ah! Now there’s space for new seeds indoors.
I’m jealous every time I see your dirt floor greenhouse with all those goodies in it. Years ago I went down to the local Lumber store and took pictures of one of the small greenhouses they were selling, bought some lumber, built it myself and saved a few bucks. “Why did I not leave the floor dirt” he says smacking himself upside the head. Mine is great for holding seedlings, and fall projects…but not for winter gardening.
I’m thinking of building a hoophouse this year or next…with a dirt floor of course.
Glad to know I’m not so deficient….my leeks are so tiny I can hardly see them! I guess I’ll just be patient. They are planted outdoors.
Mike, I have a gravel floor in my small (8×6) greenhouse; this winter I took some scrap lumber and landscape cloth and added soil….wah lah! I have a permanent soil planting bed along one side of the greenhouse, about 8 inches deep. Currently it’s growing lettuce, carrots (Thumbelina), and zucchini is starting to come up too. And I still get great drainage in the rest of the greenhouse.
I just don’t know how you do it. Maybe I live in too warm a climate (Georgia), but I have had abysmal crop failure every time I’ve tried to grow leeks. Those that sprout die when they’re transplanted. And those that I tried to direct-sow? Despite my tender ministrations, they either don’t sprout (most of them) or they die as soon as they see the sun. I can grow all the other alliums (and do! I have a lovely green onion patch and tons of garlic and onion shoots in my garden), but leeks escape me.
The look beautiful, by the way. I would love them in a nice cock-a-leekie or potato leek soup. It would be a great way to warm up during those last few lion days of March.
I too am jealous of your leek abilities. I tried to grow them twice. Just twice and what a pain in the arse they were! I need to grow my patience with them.
We are building out little greenhouse right now, off the side of the barn. Its small. But I guess its a start. Funds are tight.
I know you must be enjoying these sunny days as much as I am, so much to do outside!!
How did you get them to last all winter? I mean, goodness. Here it would have been history.
My leeks this year, tiny transplants that they are, are actually still alive. First year I’ve gotten them to survive transplant outdoors. It’s been over a week and they are fine.
I remain hopeful but dubious!
Please tell us your Leek Secrets? Is there a handshake we can learn?
I want to come live with you, I want to study with you, I want a green house, I want to grow big leeks…I want, and I want and I want. SIGH
Oh, well, it is lovely coming here to see what good thing is happening.
This year I planted three packets; in February here in San Diego that is about right. There won’t be a lot of growth but I do love leeks.
One thing I don’t know if you try or not is to re-root the leeks for future production from the root end of the mature leek, it works well for me but I need more seedlings to keep me supplied realistically. I do my green onions the same way, use the white root end to re-grow the onions, both green and bulb, like the leeks. Whatever works, and very frugal.
I recently bought leeks (very expensive in LI, NY) to make soup, and just for yuks, threw the cut-off root in water. It immediately started growing, so now have put it in a pot in my kitchen window. Hope to transplant it in late April. Will let y’all know what happens. Leek Pearls sounds lovely!
The leaks are huge! I love them in just about everything, especially with greens. Isn’t it exciting to have things growing outside (well, greenhouse counts sort of, right?) What temperature is it generally in there this time of year?
Yay Mike, another hoophouse convert! Can you make your greenhouse’s floor dirt? Or is it, like, wood and part of the structure? I am of the theory that I cannot improve on Mother Nature so plain old ground dirt works much better than anything I can have in a pot.
Liz you appear to be very resourceful: a very useful thing if you’re a gardener. Leeks are kind of poky I will admit that. Be patient; they’ll flesh out. I remember when I transferred them to these beds thinking there was going to be no way they’d fill them out…
Harmony, you had me heading to my Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog to see if they sell different leeks or if they had different culture requirements in a hot summer. The only thing they seemed to say was they liked a loose somewhat sandy soil and expected lots of water. Well, we have clay and I mulch the snot out of them (mainly with grass clippings)…is that the secret? And I always start them indoors as my direct-seeded ones tend to either dry out or just not germinate so well. All I know is my first year with them was an abysmal failure so I had to start really paying attention, just like you are. Is there a possibility you could plant them in a spot that they’re not blasted by the sun, and also provide lots of mulch? But cock-a-leekie is on the agenda for this weekend, and one can never eat enough potato/leek soup!
Hi Shawna! Yay for you two that you’re building that greenhouse. It *has* been tough for me to get real work done when that sun has been shining and those warm breezes blow…there just seems to be so much to attend to at this time of year. But yeah, leeks (the whole allium family really) require a huge dose of patience from the gardener. They just grow so darned slowly.
Christy, well, I didn’t show you the outdoor leeks: being the last of them, they’re all looking really scraggly. They get deep mulch with leaves and straw so all I see is maybe the top 4″ or so. No fun to harvest though 🙂 No secret handshake: just, well, like most green things, only the toughest survive. So yeah I plant a LOT of leek seeds for the few we actually get to eat!
Linda! hah, it’s my job to persuade you all to cover the world with greenhouse plastic and grow stuff!! It’s fun, even the sore-muscle part, when you get to eat such great things year-round 😉
Bobbi, you know what those little leek babies are called? Leek pearls. Isn’t that a beautiful name? They’re offgrowths from the parent plant so they’re biologically (genetically) the same, like a clone, so if some of mine make it through the winter and throw off pearls, I do try to save THOSE to go to seed because really, how lovely. Some leeks if stressed form bulbs too kind of like elephant garlic. OH the joy. But thanks for the green onions tip: more folks should try that, indoors, in their kitchens the next time they bring some home from the store.
Oh MC I have a whole post about how hot it’s getting in those crazy greenhouses, so stay tuned. But yes I am a complete and absolute convert to the fresh-food-all-year that those plastic bubbles give us. Especially at this time of the year when the weather is fine but we’re so far away from spring lovelies like asparagus and ramps.
Southern Exposure is one of my two main seed sources (the other being Baker Creek) because they sell so many varieties that thrive down in the South. In fact, I bought my leek seeds from them. 😉
I do have a small shady spot in one of my beds that might be just perfect. I bet I did let them dry out too much. We’re in the middle of a significant multi-year drought here, so while it’s 100% legal for me to water any plants used for food I always feel a bit guilty doing it.
I’m going to bookmark this post for later on this year when it’s time to sow those leek seeds. Thanks for the tips!
I painfully learned last year that old seeds won’t do. I’ve got a nice little crop going this year (with fresh seeds), encouraged by some of your earlier postings….
wow! I’m so impressed that you can grow leeks. I fail every year. So you’re planting your leek starts outside now, right? I’m in WA state and am a bit warmer than you, zone 8 so I should be able to as well. Any special tips you have for successful growing?
You’re quite welcome, Harmony. Yep; maybe a touch of shade and some mulch and you’ll be quite leeky too!
Sylvie, yeah, that’s why I let ours go to seed every year, and make sure I select the prettiest/winter hardiest to go to seed…makes me think I know what I am doing anyway!
Hi Kathy. Yeah, I think there’s something about having high expectations for all those little seeds. Germination is kind of sketchy even with the newest seed, and then the odds are stacked against you. I started my leeks indoors (because as far as my alliums are concerned I am a control freak) and then transferred them to the greenhouse in a temporary bed. Once the weather gets warm and stays warm I will transfer most of them outdoors into the garden, reserving a few for late-winter harvest like these in the greenhouse. Hope that helps…no other tricks except vigilance!
I love leeks – learned to love them when I lived in France. I was at Whole Foods the other day and someone had to ask me what they were and how to cook them.
So lovely to read about leeks! I have just transferred my leek seedlings from tray to ground in New Zealand. Our winter is uber-mild, and if you just think backwards, our March is like your September in the Northern Hemisphere. So, here we are at the start of autumn, planting our leeks.
I was probably impatient and maybe should have waited until my seedling were taller. I put them in at sort of index finger height. It was a little bit like planting eye-lashes, and I keep checking dubiously. Will these really grow? It seems impossible. But, they’re still alive, a week later. So I live in hope!
Annemarie in Wellington
Rosemarie, don’t you love explaining things like that? I will say the only thing I really had no idea what it was was a fungus called, alternately, either Hen of the Woods or Chicken of the Woods. Weird-looking! Tasty! Had to explain it to the check-out person!!
Annemarie, how wonderful that you have it so mild you can expect the little babies to grow all winter. What a spring surprise. I have always been curious about you mild-winter types: even in chilly Britain, planting things out that would be absolutely dead here. Shows how very resourceful we gardeners are wherever we are. Had to howl with laughter though at “planting eyelashes” because that is exactly what I did too the other day, planting out some onions that probably could’ve benefitted from another couple of weeks under the lights. They’ll grow, just baby them!
I have just planted the last of my leeks outside up here in Canada. I start the seeds in my greenhouse and put all young transplants outside in June. I poke a 2inch wide by 6inch deep hole in the veg bed,trim the roots and take a third off the top, drop the leek seedlings in the hole and water in well. Do not fill in the hole. Eventually it will fill in and that aids in the blanching of the stem. It also acts as protection from the elements. Leeks need lots of water.I mean LOTS of water. They are also quite heavy feeders. I use worm castings and microbial tea.
Gillian, I have had so-so luck with the trench method, and cutting too of roots/leaves. I tend to cut both on my onions and not on my leeks. I use a dibber for the leeks though. You must have sandy soil: I haven’t noticed that the leeks are particularly hungry OR thirsty. In fact I think they’re great because other than how long it takes them to sprout they ask nothing of me except harvest once they finally get in the ground!
This year I plan on doing more microbial tea and even sprayed natural insecticide: I swear THIS is the year the squash bugs will not win!
Do all leeks go to seed? We have eaten all of ours and i have left one big one hoping it will go to seed. Will it if i leave it long enough?
Hi Jules! It certainly should go to seed. It will get really tall and send up a gigantic seed head; it is really quite pretty! And it is self pollinating so no worries; just let it dry completely and harvest the head whole, you can then pinch out or shake out the seeds into a paper bag for next year.
Brilliant. Thank you!