Leeks are known by many names. Some know the plant with the botanical name Allium porrum certainly also as leek. But we are talking about the same plant. No matter what you call them: Leeks should not be missing from your garden. It is an ideal vegetable for the second half of the year, is easy to care for and is also very healthy due to its ingredients!
Leeks probably originate from the Mediterranean region. The up to 80 centimeters tall plant belongs to the bulbous plants and is related to garlic and onion. Varieties are divided into summer, fall and winter leeks based on when they are harvested. Visually, early varieties tend to form loose shafts, the light gray to blue-green leaves are often much lighter in later types as well. More importantly, winter leeks can also cope with cold weather. Summer leeks like Erik should be harvested before the first frost. Varieties like Blue-Green Winter or Avano, on the other hand, you can overwinter in the bed if it doesn’t freeze for weeks on end.
Sowing and growing leeks
You can grow leeks ahead as well as sow them directly. Especially with early varieties, it is a good idea to grow the plants on a bright windowsill or in a warm greenhouse. Depending on the variety, sow the seeds one to two centimeters deep in shallow seed trays starting in February. It can take up to 14 days to germinate. Remember to prick the plants if you sow too densely.
When the plants are about as thick as a pencil, they can be moved into the garden from May onwards. Place the leek vertically in the planting hole. The leaf axils must not be covered with soil! The distance between the individual plants should be 15 centimeters, so that the stalks can develop well. The rows should be 20 to 30 centimeters apart from each other.
From April you can also sow leeks directly into the bed. With winter varieties you can sow directly until June. Here the young plants are planted in the bed until the beginning of August.
Location and care
Leeks need a sheltered, sunny to semi-shady spot in the garden. A deep, nutrient-rich soil is ideal for them. Leeks belong to the group of medium-hardy plants and are considered more demanding than onions. Therefore, you should fertilize it from time to time during the summer – preferably with liquid fertilizer, because it needs sufficient moisture to thrive anyway.
Pile on leeks regularly so they form long, white shafts. As with planting, you must also make sure that you do not cover the leaf axils with soil.
Problems can be caused by leek moths, leek and onion flies and fungal diseases such as leek rust. If the winter is very severe, we recommend you cover even hardy leeks with a fleece. In its second year, the plant produces a pretty spherical flower that attracts many insects. However, the leaves are then no longer edible.
Harvesting, use and preservation
Depending on the variety and planting time, you can harvest leeks from June onwards. To do this, lift the stem, including the roots, out of the ground. Summer leeks should be harvested before the first frost at the latest, as they are not winter-hardy. Winter leeks can either be overwintered in the bed or dug up together with the roots and stored in a cold frame or a frost-free box. You can harvest it from September to March.
Fresh summer leeks are good raw for salads and cottage cheese. Basically, you can use the finely spicy and slightly sweet-tasting vegetable as a side dish, for soups and stews, casseroles or savory cakes and quiche. By the way: Not only the white shank, but also the green can be processed in part!
As a rule, only harvest leeks if you intend to use them. You can also freeze or pickle them. Not only does it taste best fresh, but the healthy ingredients are also preserved. Leeks contain a number of essential oils, minerals and vitamins which, among other things, strengthen the immune system and are said to be digestive, expectorant and detoxifying.
Our tip, if you don’t have a garden or no more leeks: fresh leek sprouts! They are easy to grow on the windowsill.