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Leek growers! I need some advise!

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

My leeks are putting up seed stalks. I pulled one up and it's super tough and hard in the center. What did I do wrong? I deeply planted leek plants that overwintered from last year. Do you start new plants every year from seed? They sure would not get very big here in Iowa if that's the case. These leeks had nice long shanks since I buried them about 6"deep but they really can't be eaten since they are so tough. If anyone is an expert on growing leeks please give me some suggestions on how to grow them. My family loves leeks and since they are so expensive in the stores I really want to master growing them in our garden.

Bordentown, NJ(Zone 7a)

I believe that leeks are biennials, and will send up a flower stalk in their second spring. You did nothing wrong, but if you didn't harvest last year's plantings before now, they will flower and make seeds. You could have harvested them last fall or even into the winter.

As for them not becoming very big, I am not an expert but have read that they are "heavy feeders."

Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)

I am not an expert, but I have grown leeks before. I start them in my GH in Feb. in a small flat. You could do this in a sunny window in a small container--even a cut off a milk carton with holes punched in it for drainage. Or read all about winter sowing on DG. Then, when weather permits, I transplant them into my garden beds and grow them all summer into fall and winter. They are best after a cold spell. Plant them deep, just as you did before. Remember, there are all sizes of leeks. Tall ones, smaller ones, wide, narrow at the eating end. So, you should do research on the type you want. Leeks can stand a lot of cold. Before they become woody or the weather gets way too cold, pull them, clean them, and put them in the fridge crisper. They will last quite awhile. Make soup, chop into stews, into fried potatoes. Wonderful. Try them again and you will see.

Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)

Oh, yes. One more thing. When you plant them, you can make a deep ditch, lay the leeks in the ditch, backfill util the whites don't show and make them upright. Then, as they grow keep back filling from the mound you made along side them until they are deep. They actually like that treatment a lot.

Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

IowaAnn--I'm in your zone, and I do start leeks from seed every year. I start mine indoors about 10 weeks before our last frost date., and they do get to a good size by the fall. I've most often grown "American Flag" variety, but this year I'm also trying one called "Megaton". I tried "Roxton" last year, but didn't get as good of results with that one in terms of size.

I occasionally overwinter a few of mine, but harvest them in early-mid spring, before they flower and they are just fine.

I usually plant about 40 - 50 leeks or more every year (I actually grow mine in containers). When I harvest, I usually freeze most of them in portions after sauteeing them. They hold well this way, and can be used in almost all recipes.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Wow, great information! Thanks! Should I go ahead and let them go to seed since they are to tough to eat?

mom2goldens, tell me more about growing them in containers. I think that would be a great idea and would love to know more! Do you leave them in the containers in the fall and bring them in a garage to store? That would be a great way to keep until you need one. In potting soil? Soil less mix? Very interesting!

Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

IowaAnn: I've been growing my leeks in Smart Pots for the last few years, and have been using a soil-less medium (past 2 years have been coco coir, but have used other types as well). The Smart pots are the 15 gallon ones. I roll down the top a bit, fill with my medium and fertilizer, then plant my leeks about 3-4" deep. As they start to grow, I can roll up the top of the bag and add a few more inches of my medium to continue the "blanching" process.

Last year, I actually just kept the smart pots with overwintering leeks outside; I put some shredded leaves on top and packed some other smart pots (with medium, but no plants) and bags of mulched leaves around them, just to protect them a bit. We had a horrible cold, icy winter and they survived, so I guess they are pretty hardy. I think the snow actually serves as an insulator, as well.

Leeks are really easy to start from seed---just take a 3 or 4" pot, and sprinkle your seeds on top. I probably planted a couple of dozen seeds/pot. They stayed in these pots for all 10 weeks til transplanting; they are really easy to separate at planting time. No need to plant individual seeds in cell packs. You can trim the tops back slightly during their seedling stage. I usually keep mine trimmed to about 4-5"; otherwise they get really tall and lanky.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Awesome! Thanks mom2goldens! I'm going to try this next year. Sounds like a good way to get long white shanks. Did you start your seeds in Feb. or March?

Coos Bay, OR(Zone 9a)

However we start them, I think leeks are a very high end veggie that we can grow ourselves. When you consider the cost of leeks in the super market compared to the cost for you to grow them, the difference is amazing. Plus the added advantage of how much better they taste.

Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

I think I started mine in February--I give them at least 10 weeks before planting out, and it's ok to plant them out before your last frost date, as they can take some cooler weather.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

I agree beebonnet! I love leek potato soup and braised leeks...they are sooo expensive in the stores that my goal this year was to try to figure out how to grow them myself. Thanks to mom2goldens I might be more successful next year.

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I too start mine indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. When they were large enough (6 inches) with tiny bulbs I plant them out in ditches as mentioned above. Last year was the first year that I overwintered them since they were still fairly small in the fall. They got really large. In the early spring I harvested them and made a super batch of vichyssoise - yum. Here is the recipe I used which I found on line - it was perfect!

Classic Vichyssoise For 4

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon butter
3 leeks, bulb only, sliced into rings
1 onion, sliced (preferably sweet)
5 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
5 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large stock pot melt butter over low heat. Add leeks and onion, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and stir well. Cover pot and continue to cook for 12 minutes.

3. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, partially covered for 30 minutes.

4. Puree soup in blender or food processor and cool.

5. Prior to serving add cream. If you are serving this soup warm you need to reheat the soup slowly so that the cream does not change consistency.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Gardadore, So they continue to grow during the winter? Did you mulch them with straw or something? recipe sounds great!

Does anyone know if leeks freeze well? I'm assuming that if you can freeze onions you should be able to freeze leeks..right?

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

IowaAnne, I assume mine continued to grow all fall and then in the early spring - don't know about them actually growing in the winter but I did used straw as a mulch and of course had kept putting dirt around them as they grew so they would be white for about 3-4 inches. Mom2goldens above mentions sauteeing them and then freezing them for later use. I will consider doing that if I get a very good crop. My first planting some critter dug around in the soil so I had to search for the babies and replant them! Really messed up the nice "ditch" I had made!! They seem to be doing fine now. I added compost and rabbit poop to the soil before planting and will continue to water with fish emulsion every couple of weeks.

silver spring, MD(Zone 7a)

They freeze very well. I slice them then blanc and spread them on a cookie sheet freeze and then store them in a zip lock bag. I've left them in the bed over the winter here in Maryland and they've made it through no problem.

Elkhart, IA(Zone 5a)

Yehudith, you blanch them first then lay them out in a single layer to freeze? When you leave them in the ground overwinter do you need to use them right away in the spring. If not, will they go to seed? I think that's what happened to my leeks. I probably should have dug them up and used them up right away (or froze them) instead of replanting them deeper. I'm learning!!! ; )

silver spring, MD(Zone 7a)

I blanch them to put them in the freezer so I can use them later in soups etc.

I left some in the beds over the winter and had no issues with them going to seed this spring before I used them. I didn't do anything to them when I restarted the bed. Maybe I threw some extra soil over them, I don't really remember, but it wasn't intentional.

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