Sunday, March 8, 2015


Leeks are part of the Allium family along with chives, garlic, onions, scallions and shallots. Leeks are a great choice for growing in Sitka for several reasons. If seeds are started in March, leeks will grow large, mild and delicious by late fall. Leeks are easy to harvest and easy to clean. Slugs don't like leeks. Best of all, with a little mulching, leeks overwinter! We harvest and enjoy eating leeks from fall through spring. The leeks in the photo below were harvested in late January:
Leeks harvested January 2015 

We have grown many leek varieties over the years and have been happy with all of them. Choose seeds and be prepared to start them in March. I like to use a casserole sized container with holes in the bottom. It's easy to make your own container from something recycled like the aluminum pan in which the Thanksgiving turkey was cooked. Poke holes in the bottom with a screwdriver or something similar. Second hand stores often have a variety of old, low cost pans. Poke holes in the bottom and there you go. My green containers are about 4 inches deep. Your container with holes in the bottom will need to fit into a container that has no holes in the bottom to catch excess water.
Fill the container(s) with potting soil:

Sprinkle leek seeds evenly over the entire surface of soil.
After sprinkling the seeds, cover over the entire surface with a half inch or so of fine sand. Two of my three containers below have been seeded and covered with fine sand. One more to go. All three containers fit nicely inside an old commercial sheet cake pan to catch excess water.
 The three leek varieties planted above are Tadorna, Large American Flag and Giant Musselburgh.

Don't forget to label each container. Gently moisten completely with room temperature water. Cover loosely with plastic. Place the covered container in the warmest location in your home or on a seed warming mat. Remove plastic to water regularly, each time replacing the plastic cover. The leek seeds will germinate in a week or two. Remove the plastic cover permanently once the leek seeds germinate.  The leeks will happily grow in their containers for 6 to 8 weeks in a warm, well lit window indoors. The leek plants will continue to grow in those same containers for another two weeks to a month out in the greenhouse. They will harden off, get used to cool nights, in the greenhouse. 

When it seems warm enough, the leeks need to go out into a garden bed which has previously been fertilized and tilled. The leek roots will be entangled in the container, but they will separate easily by lifting out a clump with a fork or spoon and gently pulling the plants apart.
Grab a short length of rebar or a stick about 1" in diameter and poke holes into the soil of the garden bed. Each hole should be about 4 to 6 inches deep. No need to be exact. You can trim the roots of each little leek plant to 2 or 3 inches, but it is not necessary. Drop a leek plant into each hole. No need to fill in the hole  with dirt. The surrounding soil, when watered, will gradually fill in the holes over time:
Individual leek plants dropped into awaiting holes.

I know. This particular garden patch has an unusual amount of gravel,
but the leeks don't mind.

It is best to always keep leeks covered with a floating row cover. They really do need the extra heat the cover offers in order to bulk up. No need to uncover to water. Rain and sunshine pass through floating row covers. Uncover to weed and then replace the cover when finished. Simply lay floating row covers loosely over most garden beds and hold down sides and ends with rocks or anything available with a little weight to it. We use old pieces of rebar quite often. In the case of leeks, it is best to elevate the floating row cover over the bed. Garden suppliers carry many items all prepared to accomplish this. Or make your own. We cut up plastic pipe... old, used or scrap water line. We take two foot pieces of rebar and bang one foot into the ground along both sides of the bed. Then we slide the ends of the plastic pipe over the awaiting rebar. The row cover is held in place with plastic clips we made from little slices of the water line. Creative gardening friends have suggested holding the elevated row covers in place by stretching old fish net over it, fencing and the like. Excellent ideas. Floating row covers get mighty restless on windy days! Yes, gardening in Sitka can be challenging.
This floating row cover was severely tested
during an unusually windy season.
And, raven curiosity and foraging were not stifled one bit by the fake owl!

Here are leeks uncovered for weeding and looking happy later on in the season:

Leeks are easy to harvest.  Take a shovel or fork and dig down under a clump to loosen. Grab onto the leeks down low to the soil and pull up gently. Once harvested, gently rinse the soil off the root end with an outside hose, if possible. Trim ragged and loose tops off of each leek. Cut the root end off just above the roots.  Bring the leeks indoors and slice them length-wise. Rinse off any soil or debris. Done! 

We love eating leeks every which way that onions are used... raw and cooked.

Here are leeks looking delicious when cooked and blended with parsnips into a soup. Season to taste. Top with a little bit of crumbled bacon. Add a crusty piece of bread lathered with leek pesto! Yum


  1. Oh my! That soup looks so good, and the bowls look beautiful on that countertop. I can't believe how huge your Leeks get....mine are always so puny.

  2. Thanks, Lori. A friend had me over to lunch and served a similar soup. I was hooked!
    The variety of leek you choose is probably the most important factor influencing size. When I did a trial... same location, soil, fertilizer etc., the size varied significantly by variety as is so obviously true with carrots. The Giant Musselburgh batch of leeks was the largest of the four varieties I grew as a trial.