Grow leeks, leek (Allium porrum) is a horticultural plant of the lily family, very interesting to grow because of its many uses in the kitchen, but also because it is harvested almost all year round.
Being quite resistant to freezing, it is a perfect winter vegetable, suitable for populating our land in a period when the garden is often empty.
It is not a difficult species to manage in organic cultivation, although there is an insect that can cause very serious damage: the leek fly. In addition to this, it is particularly important to prepare the soil so that there is no water stagnation, which can cause diseases to the plant.
There are also some important precautions, such as the reinforcement for whitewashing. So let’s find out in detail how to grow leeks, from sowing to harvesting.
Prepare the soil and fertilize
The leek is a plant that requires draining soil, to cultivate it it is better to start with a good digging and milling or hoeing that refines the clods.
Working with a hoe we can take advantage of it for basic fertilization, the leeks will be helped by the presence of organic substance and nitrogen, which is supplied with well-ripened compost and manure. Sulfur is a precious microelement for increasing the flavor of the vegetable.
Sowing and transplanting of leeks
The leek is sown from the end of winter, you can do gradual sowing that allows you to cultivate this plant practically all year round. There are several varieties, so you can choose both summer and winter leeks.
To start from the seed it is better to use a seedbed, rather than direct sowing. At the beginning of the year (February) let’s do it using a seedbed in a warm bed, then as temperatures increase, protection will not be needed.
In the family garden, leeks are planted in a scaled manner, carrying out several transplants during the spring and summer season, starting from the end of April. The seed germinates in about ten days, it can be transplanted after a month. The seedlings are transplanted with bare roots when they are about 10-15 cm tall, the transplant must be followed by abundant irrigation.
For those wishing to learn more about the planting operation, you can read the article dedicated to the sowing of leeks.
Sixth of planting and crop cycle
The rows of leeks must be at least 40 cm apart, to allow for tamping, while between one plant and another you need 10 or 15 cm of distance depending on the variety, maximum 20 cm between giant leeks. If the leek is transplanted by placing it in a deep enough hole (so that the rain brings earth into the hole and makes a natural hilling. Alternatively we can choose not to hedge and then plant with a sixth plant that provides shorter distances (25 cm between the rows, always 10-15 cm between the plants).
Leek crop cycle
The leek can remain in the garden until it is seeded, it is a biennial vegetable garden that goes to seed in May of the year following that of sowing. It has a long crop cycle, it takes up the garden for 4 months after transplanting. Here are some tips to understand when to harvest leeks.
The leek is not difficult to grow, it is an extremely resistant plant to adverse climatic conditions and very suitable for the organic garden. Let’s discover the secrets to improving the quality of the vegetable and keeping our leek seedlings healthy.
Intersociations and rotations
The intercropping between leek and carrot is famous for their respective protection from insects, but it can also go well with cabbage and lettuce. However, proximity to legumes such as peas and beans is not recommended. The leek can very well happen to new potatoes and peas, while it should not follow other lily plants (onion, shallot, garlic, chives, asparagus).
Leek plants are narrow and vertical, let’s take care of the soil around them because it is not sufficiently guarded by the leaves of the leek itself. To keep it clean we can use a weeder, as long as we do it gently: leeks have rather superficial roots.
Mulching can also be used, which is very useful to save time and benefit the soil. The problem in mulching is then not being able to do the reinforcement work, so you have to choose whether to carry out the bleaching or lay a mulch.
Leeks should be bathed very regularly at the time of implantation and throughout the juvenile period in which the plants must root. Then the irrigations are evaluated according to the season: in summer crops it will be necessary to wet often, while in autumn or spring the rains often compensate. We must avoid wetting the leaves, directing water on the ground, to avoid favoring pathogens.
Reinforcement for bleaching
Tilling is necessary to improve the quality of the vegetable: it serves to have a well-developed white part, being the best one for consumption. The bleaching method is very simple: it involves covering the lower part of the plant with earth, so that the leaves do not photosynthesize and remain more tender and tasty.
Leeks grow back one month after transplanting, a second heap for more bleaching can be done a month before harvesting our vegetables.
Defense from harmful insects
The main problem that leeks can have is the leek miner fly, which lays its eggs inside the plant and then lets the larvae devour it. This can be prevented by covering the cultivation of leeks between mid-September and October.
Then there are a series of possible parasites, which are common enemies of the plants of the lily family. An annoying insect, in particular, is the onion fly, it can be fought with the bacillus thuringiensis or it can be kept away with the intercropping of leeks and carrots.
Diseases of the leek
The leek can also be damaged by some diseases, such as rust or downy mildew. In the organic cultivation method, it is essential first of all to prevent such problems, by means of correct soil processing.
In case of infection, it is important to notice the first symptoms and intervene promptly. Sometimes it is better to cut the leeks at the base, leaving a finger, the plant grows back in two months, it remains only a little less developed. The cut part must be destroyed and not used for compost, so as not to spread the spores.
Harvesting of leeks
The leeks are harvested about 4 months after transplanting, the exact duration of the crop cycle depends on the variety we have chosen. We pick this vegetable when it reaches the desired size, this too varies according to the seed (there are giant leeks and cultivars that remain to a lesser extent).
The kinship of leek with garlic and above all with shallots and onion is immediately understood by the marked taste, ideal for flavoring many recipes.