Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Sleek leeks

The mildest member of the onion family is also one of the easiest to grow


Varieties

Note: Days to maturity are from transplanting dates.

‘Arena’ (110 days) Hardy, long, white shafts; suitable for overwintering and storage

‘Blue Solaise’ (105 days) Large, very hardy; good for storing and overwintering

‘Giant Musselburgh’ (105 days) Heirloom variety; thick, succulent stems; good for overwintering and storage

‘Jolant’ (100 days) Excellent-quality summer type

‘King Richard’ (75 days) Fast-growing summer type; tall, slender and tender; can be sown close together to produce baby leeks to use as a garnish

‘Sheriff’ (110 days) Hardy; suitable for storing and overwintering

‘Siegfried Frost’ (125 days) Large, hardy; good for storing and overwintering

Never buy seeds again
The enthusiastic gardener can propagate next season’s crop by overwintering plants.

No protection is required on the West Coast, but elsewhere, you’ll have to mulch the leeks deeply with straw, hay or leaves. In areas with severe winters (Zone 5 or below), before the first heavy frost, dig them out, leaving a large ball of soil around their roots. Stored at 0°C with high humidity, they should survive to be replanted the next season.

Leeks are biennials, and overwintered plants will send up stalks that produce huge, round, lavender blooms the following spring. Left on the plant, the flowers set seed that can be collected and, when thoroughly dry, stored in a cool, dry place for planting next year. Different varieties of leeks will freely cross-pollinate, producing hybrids unlike either of their parents. If saving seeds, only grow one variety if you want it to stay true to type.

Alternatively, you could leave the plants in the ground after flowering. In the fall, dig them up and gather the small bulblets that have formed around their bases; plant these the following spring. The bulblets produce plants identical to their parents, so more than one variety can be grown without worrying about crossing.

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