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How to grow leeks


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#1 Guest_4r2_*

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Posted 05 January 2006 - 10:35 PM

Last summer a farmers market vendor introduced me to leeks. What a wonderful vegetable with such a lousy name! Following the vendors advice, I now add leeks to many dishes. I brown it with meat, where the mild leeks pick up the meat flavor, serving as a low-calorie "extender". They may look like scallions, but they sure don't taste like them.

Now the seed catalogs are tempting me to add some to my garden next year. Would I be better off ordering sets? I get the sense that they're a long season crop and I'm not too good at starting veggies from seed.

How do you grow them? How do you keep them? Sometimes I can't find them in the produce section of the store and I have a feeling that I can keep them a long time like you can carrots or potatoes. Any tips?
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#2 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 07 January 2006 - 10:53 PM

Hi

Could it be there's a "leek pusher" out there this year? Because I, too, got turned on to leeks by a farmer's market seller this year. Never having grown them I'kll wait here with you, hoping we'll catch an expert opinion!

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#3 PamPalechek

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 02:24 AM

I'm not an expert at growing leeks but I'll be glad to share what I do know. You probably want sets. Leeks are biennials that are direct seeded in the south in fall, grow over winter and produce handsome leeks the second season. In the north seeds can be sown in hotbeds, greenhouses or under growlights( March). They can be planted out from the middle of April -middle of May. When they are several inches tall you and begin "hilling" (partially cover with soil) them so you blanch the bottom of the plant. As the stem grows bring up more soil. This needs to be done in small increments and without packing the soil because it is easy to rot the bulb. For prizewinning plants try the trench method. Dig a trench 12" deep & wide. Fill the bottom 6" with finished compost or compost and 50/50 mix, light & organic. Then use a dibble/trowel to make holes 6" apart and plant seedlings(look like blades of grass) so growing tip well exposed. Even if you buy sets I like to start them in advance of planting them outside so they sprout and I can see the direction of the leaves (like V). I like to plant them at a 45 degree angle to the row so they all line up and the leaves do not shade each other. When they grow a bit bring a little soil in from the side so the expanding base is blanched and the green leaves are always exposed to sun. Each time you hill them also add a little fertilizer. 1 ounces 5-10-5 for every 2' of row. They are generally ready to pull after 4 months. They should be anywhere from 1/2" -2" diameter with a blanched stem (edible part) 4 - 8" long.
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#4 Guest_4r2_*

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 09:58 AM

Thanks, . I think I'll buy sets.

I've got just the perfect place to grow leeks -- in the front part of a raised bed of landscape shrub roses. Lots of pine bark soil conditioner; loose fluffy soil. The terrain slopes so one wall of the bed is quite tall. The roses are at least three feet away from the wall and are just sprayed occasionally with Daconil or Mancozeb fungicide. Those sprays are approved for food crops and, in fact, I saw Mancozeb advertised in a catalog of onion plants. I think I'll plant them in clusters, not rows, so they look more decorative. I do that now with garlic -- the tops of Zemo develop the greatest corkscrew curl just before they bloom. People are always asking me about "that cool perennial" in the rose bed.

Question about starting the sets prior to planting outdoors -- how far in advance, how deep to plant, what type of planting mix, what temperature? We keep our greenhouses very cool in the winter -- heated to 34 deg F; vented at 45 deg F. We're trying to keep the roses dormant. It's too cold for seed starting. I've tried, even used heat mats. Is this too cold for starting leek sets?
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#5 PamPalechek

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 11:48 AM

Leeks like it cold, but not that cold, especially when they are germinating. Sow several leek seeds to a cell, cover them lightly with soil, moisten them carefully, the seeds are very small so it's easy to 'sink them'. Cover them with plastic wrap and put them in a warm spot (75 degrees) in bright light. Remove plastic when most of them have germinated (10 days or so). Thin to 1 seedling per cell a month after germination. Feed with dilute liquid fertilizer (fish emulsion) every 2 weeks and in 8 weeks you are ready to begin hardening off. Gradually lengthen exposure (add a few hours each day, move to brighter, more exposed location as the week progresses). Then plant out about a month before your last average frost date. You start seeding about 12 weeks before last average frost. Now if all of this sounds like a lot of work for a few leeks you might order seedlings from The Cooks Garden (www.cooksgarden.com) or (1-800-457-9703). They send them for planting out around April 15. Its the only place I know of that sells seedlings, I'm sure there are others I haven't discovered. Seeds of Change, Johnny's and Shepherd's Garden Seeds all sell seeds for the do it yourselfer.
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#6 Guest_4r2_*

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Posted 14 January 2006 - 03:21 PM

I received a catalog fromn Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs, TX. They specialize in onions and also offer sets of leeks, much cheaper than the sets offered by Cook's Garden. In fact, the Cook's catalog says they ship "direct from their grower in Texas". Makes me wonder if Dixondale grows leeks for Cook's. I know Cook's is a great source, but I think I'll try Dixondale this year since they're cheaper and I can specify a ship date -- I'm not tied to April 15 as with Cook's.

In a previous post, , you said something about starting the sets ahead of time, too. So how do you do this? Could I do it in our greenhouses which are heated to 34 deg F and vented at 45 deg F? We have a heat mat I could set up, but I'd really like to avoid that hassle since there's never any open space near an electric outlet and extension cords create a safety hazard.
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#7 Guest_KarinAndresen_*

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Posted 03 March 2006 - 05:25 PM

I've been ordering Leek sets (and onions, potatos, etc) from Dixondale farms for years. Always receive good quality products.

My Mom adores Leeks so I always grow a lot of them. Rarely would I get those nice fat and long white parts -- until I used a new planting method this year that really worked well. I top dressed the bed with compost first. Then, from The Randon House of Vegetables: "Traditionally, leeks are placed in the bottom of holes about 15cm (6 inches) deep, made with a dibber. Then they are merely watered in.". Yep -- didn't fill in the hole. The watering throughout the season gradually filled it in and I ended up with the nicest leeks I've ever had. Even though I grow a large quantity of leeks, the number in the Dixondale leek sets bundles far exceed what I have room for using standard spacing. So, I planted them twice as close and harvested every other one over the summer for that "gourmet" delight: baby leeks. Great on the grill. If you leave them close together, they won't mature into the nice fat leeks you'll want later in the year.

Last tip. I usually have leeks left by the time winter arrives. LEAVE them in the ground. If the ground thaws just a bit, I have leeks handy for stocks and soups through the winter and into spring. Once they shoot up their flower stalks they become too tough to eat but, they make cool twisty stalks and seed heads. I keep a few in the bed for fun and interest in the vegetable garden. Plus, I assume some type of beneficial insect appreciates them (anybody know for sure?).
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#8 Guest_4r2_*

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Posted 19 April 2006 - 05:39 AM

Here's a leek update. I ordered two bundles from Dixondale Farms, along with two bundles of onions. We don't really eat that many onions, but you know how a good catalog description can tempt you. Besides, they were cheaper the more you bought!

They arrived about two weeks ago. The onions were fairly large -- the size of scallions. I planted some in our kitchen garden, enough for a sampling, and gave away the rest. The leeks were really small -- some no thicker than a yarn needle. After reading the posts here, we decided to plant them in our bed of Meidiland shrub roses. It's a raised bed with very high organic contect. It has good winter accessibility. We planted them in clusters, kind of like you would tulip bulbs between and in front of the roses. We dug deep holes, planted the leeks and just filled the holes an inch or so. This weekend, my husband added another inch of soil. He'll add a bit more every week or so as they grow.

Surprisingly, they all look good, even the ones that were really tiny.

We love leeks and use 5 - 7 a week, but we still probably overplanted. It's good to know they can keep over the winter right between the roses.

I wonder what Stephen Scanniello will think of our idea of "Rose Companions"?
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#9 Karin Andresen

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 01:18 PM

The website GrowingVegetableGardens.com includes detailed information on growing, tending and harvesting leeks.
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