Leeks, as they are also called, are healthy, tasty and popular vegetables. And with a little preparation and patience, it can easily be grown in your own garden. If the right variety is chosen, it can even be harvested in the middle of winter and thus enriches the menu. However, there are a few points to consider for a high yield.
Table of Contents
The variety choice
In the trade, leeks can be found in various cultivated forms. Some can withstand even severe frosts without any problems and are therefore wonderful winter vegetables. Others, on the other hand, are suitable for growing in spring and are already productive in early autumn.
Which variety should be chosen depends on the desired harvest time.
Frost-hard leeks are:
- Blaugrüner Winter
- Winter of Saint-Victor
Leek varieties that are only conditionally frost-hardy are:
- Autumn giant Hannibal
- Blue-green autumn
Location and substrate
The leek needs a sunny location that can be a little protected. Especially with leeks that are harvested in winter, additional protection is useful when there is clear frost. This can be smaller and thinner if the bed is behind a hedge and thus protected from the wind.
However, the leek is not particularly picky about its location; the sun is enough for it.
Leek is a heavy eater, so it needs large amounts of nutrients. Above all, nitrogen is necessary for growth.
In addition, the soil should be deep, fresh and loose.
The easiest way to meet these requirements is to dig up the bed. The soil does not necessarily have to be sieved, but larger clumps should be broken up.
On the nutritional side, organic fertilizers, manure or compost provide the necessary concentrations. It is also possible to enrich the fresh soil with nettle liquid manure or grass liquid manure made from lawn clippings. The funds should be dug under directly when digging, in this way they are distributed more evenly.
In preparation for growing the leek, the bed should be treated as described for at least two to three months before sowing or planting out.
Leeks can be sown directly in the bed. However, it is cheaper to prefer it.
On the one hand, this eliminates the laborious task of separating the young plants in the bed. Because the shoots can be placed in the rows of plants directly from the nursery pots.
On the other hand, the leek plants are less susceptible to pests and diseases when they are pre-grown in the house.
Pre-growing from seeds is quite simple:
- Use the soil from the bed, a mixture of peat and some sand or potting soil as a substrate.
- Small growing pots with an area of 5 cm x 5 cm are sufficient.
- Place the seeds individually in a substrate depth of one centimeter and cover loosely with soil.
- Water abundantly.
- Put in light at a room temperature of at least 16 ° C and water regularly.
- The first shoots appear after about 14 days.
Time for pre-breeding and cultivation
Due to the different demands of the varieties, a clear recommendation for the right time cannot be made.
Varieties that can be harvested as early as August are preferable in January or February. On the other hand, seeds for the winter vegetables in June.
So here it only helps to stick to the information on the respective leek variety.
Whether the leek seeds are preferred or young plants that have already been sprouted have been purchased from retailers, if they have reached the length of a match – i.e. about four to five centimeters high – they belong in the bed.
There are two variants available for designing the extension.
The cultivation in plant holes
- A level and well-loosened bed is sufficient for growing leeks in planting holes.
- With a piece of wood, holes about ten centimeters deep are pressed into the earth.
- The leek plants are used with the substrate from the nursery pots.
- Finally, the young plants are abundantly poured and slurried in this way.
Through rainfall, watering and occasional loosening of the substrate, more soil accumulates around the plants all by itself. This keeps the bars nice and bright and there is no need for manual bleaching.
Cultivation in trenches
- For the cultivation of the leek in trenches, the soil in the bed must also be loosened.
- Then ten to twenty centimeters deep trenches are dug. The substrate that is dug up in the process can be left directly between the rows of plants.
- The plants are placed in such a way that the green leaf sections look out of the earth.
- Finally, the trenches are well watered.
- The leek stalks can be bleached by repeatedly raking some substrate into the trenches as they grow.
Whether seeds are sown directly in the rows of plants or young plants are planted, in holes or ditches, the distance within the row should be ten to fifteen centimeters.
A distance of twenty to forty centimeters must be maintained between the rows of plants. This arises by itself when the leeks are grown in trenches.
With this variant, however, it must be ensured that there are additional walkways in the bed.
From planting to harvest, the leek basically only needs two maintenance measures. These are watering and fertilizing.
Leek needs plenty of water to thrive. The sunny location also contributes to this.
The substrate should therefore be kept moist as evenly as possible. The top layer can dry out a little between waterings, but prolonged drought and waterlogging should be avoided.
Because of its high nutritional requirements, even a well-prepared substrate enriched with compost is not sufficient for the entire growth.
The first nutrient application should therefore take place one month after the young plant has started. Plenty of watering with nettle or grass liquid manure is optimal. Alternatively, a liquid vegetable fertilizer with a high nitrogen fertilizer can also be used.
The next fertilization should ideally take place a month later.
Harvest can begin five to six months after planting in the bed.
If the selected leek variety is harvested in summer or autumn, the entire yield should be collected before the first frost. This can be done gradually and as needed. The stalks will continue to grow even in slightly cooler temperatures.
Leek varieties that are suitable as winter vegetables can be harvested as required in the cold season. However, best on frost-free days, because if the frozen poles are touched, they will be damaged.
Two different variants are available for harvesting.
On the one hand, by cutting off the required number of bars. If the conditions continue to prevail, the leek will develop new shoots. The newly sprouted stalks are then usually a bit narrower but no less delicious.
On the other hand, by lifting and removing all the leeks. To do this, a narrow hoe or rake is put under the roots and the plant levered upwards. This step is best done in the morning. Then the leek plants should rest for a few hours. On the one hand, they lose nitrite, and on the other hand, a possible worm infestation is more noticeable. In the afternoon, the poles can then be pulled completely out of the earth and the remains of the earth can be removed.
Protection in winter
As a winter vegetable, the leek has a high nutritional value and is not susceptible to frost. Protection is still useful.
A layer of straw or garden fleece is suitable for this. This is particularly recommended when there is a cold frost.
Storage and preservation
Especially when the harvest is very rich and should be brought in immediately, there is simply not enough space in the refrigerator and stomach.
However, the leek can be preserved very easily. To do this, it should be washed, cleaned and cut into slices. Frozen in portions, the leek will keep for at least a year.
Preserving or pickling, however, are not suitable measures.
When is the leek inedible?
Leeks can be harvested for a very long time, regardless of the variety. In the case of winter varieties, not even persistent frost can change that.
But as soon as flowering sets in in spring, the stalks become inedible.
However, if you want to continue growing leek, you can take advantage of the bloom. There are two ways of doing this.
The first option is to obtain seeds after flowering. These can then be used again for cultivation as desired.
The second option is to cut off the inflorescences. About a month after this measure, brood bulbs form around the braids of the leeks. If these are dug up and replanted, the pre-cultivation of the seeds is no longer necessary. This variant only requires a small amount of effort and is therefore particularly recommended.
Typical diseases and pests
Leek is a robust vegetable, but it can still be attacked by diseases and, above all, by pests.
The following are responsible for the most common infestations.
- Leek grate
- Leek leafminer fly
- Onion fly
Leek rust is manifested by pustules on the leaves that take on yellowish or reddish tones. If the infected parts of the plant are removed, the leeks can still be eaten. Since it is a fungal disease, a lowering of the humidity and a reduced fertilization with nitrogen help.
The traces of the pests, i.e. the leek moth, leek leaf miner and onion fly, are very similar. The larvae of the insects eat passages in the leaves and rods. These can discolor, rot, and even kill the entire crop. Once an infestation has established itself, the affected plants must be removed and destroyed. Subsequent treatment with appropriate pesticides is unavoidable. However, pest prevention is much cheaper and requires less effort. This should be done by two measures.
The first measure concerns the creation of a mixed culture with carrots. In addition, cucumbers and lettuce can be grown. Other types of leek and onion, however, should not be near the leek.
The second measure is the complete deployment of a protective net. Due to their small size, leek leafminers can still cause damage through common plant protection nets. Here it has to be nets with a very narrow mesh size, which is less than half a millimeter.
Such nets in turn restrict extensive ventilation. Therefore, the pouring amount must be adjusted accordingly.
Growing leeks can quickly lead to delicious enrichment in the garden and kitchen. Those who stick to the few measures do not even have to make a lot of effort. However, mistakes in maintenance and gaps in protection are quickly noticeable and should therefore be carefully avoided.