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Australian Grow Guide: Leeks

The best part about growing leeks in your garden is once they’re planted, they require very little care. The only thing you really want to do is keep them watered during periods of dry weather.

I love growing leeks in my garden and I’ve even grown them in large pots. They are so easy to grow and don’t really demand too much attention.

I love how versatile this vegetable is because you can add it to so many dishes and who doesn’t love potato and leek soup?

When to plant leeks in Australia

planting leeks 1 | Fruit & Vegetables

The best time to plant leeks is in autumn and winter. They do best in cold and temperate climates but will also survive in warmer climates. Leeks are generally considered a cold-climate crop but in many parts of the country, they can be grown all year round.

Just bear in mind that once the plant flowers, the inner core will become quite woody and hard. However, you can still use the outer leaves and even the flowers are edible.

In fact, people who follow a FODMAP diet and can’t tolerate onions and garlic can often handle the outer green leaves quite well.

Generally, I like to let a few plants go to seed so I can then harvest the seeds for the following crop. If you really love leeks, you can plant successive crops every couple of weeks so that you have a steady supply to harvest.

How to plant leeks

planting leeks | Fruit & Vegetables

You can plant leeks either from seeds or from seedlings that you’ve purchased. But, first, you need to prepare the soil.

Leeks prefer a nice loose, friable soil that has had organic matter added to it previously. The pH should be fairly neutral in the range of 6.5 to 7.0. 

It’s best to prepare your soil beforehand in order to let the organic matter and manure settle a little. This will ensure that the soil is not too acidic when it comes to planting time. If you do find that your soil is acidic, you can just add some lime to neutralise it.

The soil should also be free-draining and the leeks prefer to grow in a nice sunny position.

Growing leeks from seeds

When I grow leeks from seeds, I like to start them off in punnets or small pots first. This allows me to transplant them into the garden using a good spacing system. 

leeks in punnets | Fruit & Vegetables

To do this, you want to use a decent seed-raising mix, or what I normally do, is mix coconut coir with premium potting mix at a ratio of 50 percent each. This creates a nice open mix for the seedlings to push through and the coconut coir helps to retain moisture as long as you don’t allow it to dry out completely.

You will find that your seedlings will be ready to transplant within around 10 weeks. This brings us to the fact that leeks are not fast-growing. In fact, it can take around 6 months for your leeks to reach maturity.

However, I often don’t wait that long and harvest some when they’re still young and slender as they’re quite delicious at this stage.

How to plant your leeks in the garden 

Whether you’ve grown your leeks from seed or purchased seedlings, planting them in the garden is the same. The easiest way to do this is to create a trench that is around 10 cm deep.

Lay your leeks in the trench sideways, spacing them around 10 cm apart. This will give each plant enough room to grow. If you’re planting multiple rows of leeks in your garden, these should be spaced around 30 cm apart.

leeks in rows | Fruit & Vegetables

Once you have all your seedlings lined up in the trench, backfill with the soil and firm down gently to help the little seedlings stand up straight. If you find it difficult to get them all to stand up, don’t worry because they’ll stand up on their own when they’re ready.

Gently water your seedlings once you’ve planted them. You might also like to add a layer of straw or similar around the plants in order to keep the soil cooler and prevent weeds from growing.

How to care for leeks

leeks | Fruit & Vegetables

This is the best part about growing leeks in your garden because once they’re planted, they require very little care. The only thing you really want to do is keep them watered during periods of dry weather.

If you want those nice tender white stalks that you see on commercially available leeks, you can cover the lower part of the stems with milk cartons or something similar so that the sun doesn’t get to them. This results in the bleaching of the stems.

However, I generally don’t do this to my leaks because I don’t mind if the stems are green. They still cook up the same and are just as delicious.

How long do leeks take to grow?

young leeks | Fruit & Vegetables

From seed to full maturity, leeks can take up to 6 months to grow but you can harvest some of the younger stalks earlier than this.

If you purchase seedlings, you can have fully mature leeks in around 3 to 4 months.

When to harvest leeks

harvested leeks | Fruit & Vegetables

Leeks can be harvested whenever they’ve developed a stem that is thick enough to slice up for cooking.

The younger leeks will be quite tender and delicious in all sorts of dishes but the older stems will have developed a much stronger flavour.

How to harvest leeks

Harvesting leeks is as simple as just pulling them out of the ground gently. You might want to use a trowel to gently ease them out so that you don’t disturb the plants growing nearby.

Leek pests and diseases

Luckily, leeks don’t have many pests and diseases to bother them. You might find that snails like the tender young seedlings, but these are easily controlled with some Multiguard snail and slug pellets.

Leek companion plants

Leeks have a range of suitable companion plants including:

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Beetroot
  • Spinach

Avoid planting your leeks near legumes such as peas and beans as these fix too much nitrogen into the soil.

FAQ

Are leeks easy to grow?

Leeks are exceptionally easy to grow and require very little care after planting.

Do leeks come back every year?

Leeks do not come back every year as you harvest the entire plant.

Do leeks like sun or shade?

Leeks prefer a nice sunny spot in your garden.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.

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