Leek cultivation for beginners

This page complements the article Planting leeks.

The leek cultivation in detail

Claim

Leeks germinate without problems, but makes quite great demands on the soil. In addition, it has a long culture duration and is readily attacked by the onion fly. So some gardening ambition should be present.

How leeks grow

Leeks are grown from seed. From each seed grows a leek. Initially, the plant resembles chives. The structure of the plant does not change much over the months, after all, leeks are nothing more than a large grown chives.

Location

Leeks love a sunny location: they need about six hours of sun per day, more does not hurt.

Crop rotation

To follow the rules of the crop rotation is important when growing Leeks very important. Where leeks grow, no other leeks (onions, garlic, leeks) should have grown for at least two years.

Sowing and planting

Sowing

Leeks can either be pre-sown in a seed tray or sown directly into the bed. For direct sowing, the leek absolutely needs a well-prepared seedbed.

The freshly germinated young plants are quite low on the food list for slugs, but hungry slugs eat almost everything that is young. In wet springs, protection from slugs is therefore recommendable.

In case you don’t understand the information on the seed packets, you can find a seed packet interpreter and more details about sowing here.

Space requirement

Leeks’ space requirements are based on soil preparation: a classic vegetable bed is dug one spade deep and walked on for maintenance. So the soil is comparatively firm. In such beds leeks need a distance of 20 cm from plant to plant, the rows among themselves need 30 to 40 cm distance. It’s different in raised or deep beds: In this loose, nutrient-rich soil, a spacing of 15 cm in all directions is sufficient.

Mixed culture

Leeks are quite a character strong plant with their intense odor. It is far from compatible with every type of vegetable, so before planting, be sure to consider the rules of mixed culture: Cucumbers, carrots, parsnips, lettuce, peppers and tomatoes grow happily together with leeks; you should avoid beans and peas as well as cabbage vegetables as neighbors.

Care and harvest

Soil preparation and fertilizer

The most important care measures take place as with any vegetable before the planting takes place.

Leeks are plants that require good soil preparation, as they do not grow in compacted soils. So, in a newly planted vegetable garden, cultivation could be difficult, because usually there is not yet enough compost for proper soil improvement. If you still want to try it, a preculture with deep-rooted vegetables z.B.Spinach or peas, be very helpful. Or think about a purchased soil amendment.

Independently of these measures to improve the soil structure, the leek bed also needs a generous application of fertilizer and compost before planting. Exact amounts of fertilizer needed are always difficult in organic gardens, since we are feeding the soil, not the plant. And every soil in every garden ticks differently. If you don’t want to do a soil analysis you can fertilize according to these guidelines for now:

  • Two buckets of compost and two handfuls of horn shavings per sq. ft. as I do with all strong-hardy plants.

My garden soil was extremely hard and compacted to begin with, so I spread more than two buckets of compost whenever possible. But as I said: every soil ticks differently!

In June, the leek receives another handful of horn sprouts per m².

Water and mulch

Leeks enjoy good soil care in the form of weeding, hoeing and mulching.

Since it grows slowly at first, it is easily overgrown by weeds if not weeded regularly. A mulch cover is very helpful. Leeks can tolerate a few days of drought in between, but large, strong plants will only grow if the leeks are watered regularly. With proper watering, one or two waterings per week are sufficient, depending on the weather conditions.

In order to keep as much of the leek white as possible, the leeks are mounded up. How to do this, you can see in the videos on the leek page.

Harvest

Leeks can be harvested at any stage of development. I sow the leeks quite densely and harvest the excess seedlings as soon as they have reached chive size. The tender little plants taste great raw or cooked. Since I only grow winter leeks, the main harvest takes place when there is nothing else to harvest, i.e. from November onwards.

Pests

Leeks are attacked by the onion fly and the leek moth. Protective measures in the form of a net are therefore useful. Otherwise you will find many nice little animals in your leeks. In case of light infestation, the feeding spots can often be cut away easily. The harvest will be somewhat smaller, but the leeks will remain edible.

Leeks and slugs

Healthy, strong leeks are usually spared, at best they are nibbled on. Sometimes small slugs use the leek as a hiding place. But exceptions prove the rule, so in case of need take protective measures.

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