Growing Leeks

You’ll need full sun; a deep, pliable, loamy soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0; and a growing season of 110 days or more. Early season varieties like King Richard or Lancelot should grow to two to three feet tall.

Use transplants for better, faster results than seeds. Set the transplants when they are no more than 10 to 15 weeks old. After a brief hardening off period, they can be planted when temperatures are above 45 degrees.

Set transplants in a trench about six inches deep and firm into place. Space plants three to six inches apart and rows 18 to 24 inches apart.

Add soil or compost to the trench every few weeks. This will blanch the stems and eventually give you tender, edible white stalks. (The green leaves are also edible, but are not as tender.) Try not to get dirt inside the leaves or they will be harder to clean at cooking time. Moist but not wet soil and a monthly triple mix fertilizer will keep leeks actively growing.

Harvest when leeks are one inch in diameter. They’ll be more flavorful after a light frost. Gently twist and pull or spade out what leeks you need.

Stella Otto is the nationally recognized author of The Backyard Orchardist and The Backyard Berry Book. [email protected]

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