Leek

Introduction

Leeks are root vegetables that look quite similar to onions, to which they are related. Their flavor is onion-like but much milder.  Unlike onions, leeks don't form much of a bulb on the end of the root. Instead, they remain cylindrical, with perhaps a slight bulge at the end.  The leek is a vegetable that belongs, along with onion and garlic, to the genus Allium, currently placed in family Amaryllidaceae, subfamily Allioideae. Historically many scientific names were used for leeks, which are now treated as cultivars of Allium ampeloprasum.

Types and Varieties

LEEK VARIETIES
SUMMER/FALL
FALL/OVER-WINTER
Belton
Lancelot
King Richard (open pollinated)
Lexton
Lincoln (open pollinated)
Megaton
Surfer
Tadorna
SUMMER
 
Rally  
Runner  

Soil Fertility

See the Soil Fertility sections for Onions.

Planting

For best results, leek seeds should be sown in the greenhouse about 2.5 months before field setting. About 2 to 3 lb of seed are needed to raise enough plants to set an acre at average spacing (0.25 to 0.5 oz per 100 feet of row). Plant seeds no more than ½” deep in 288 deep cell trays. Before setting, clip plants to a height of 3" to reduce wind damage in the field. Set plants in the field from late April to late May depending on location and earliness desired. Plants can be set in early July for a late fall harvest, or in milder locations, growers may wish to try overwintering the more cold tolerant leek varieties using  straw mulch or row covers. Rows can be from 15" to 30" apart depending on equipment; plants should be about 3" to 6" apart (200 to 400 plants per 100 feet of row).

Field Culture

To develop a long, white stem, leeks can be planted in a trench 3" to 4" deep. The trenches are gradually filled as the leeks grow and then soil is hilled around stems to a height of 3" to 4". Several hillings may be required per season.  Self-blanching varieties are grown without trenching and hilling and require less cleaning.

Harvest and Storage

Leeks can be harvested once the base reaches at least 1" diameter. Soil often clings to freshly harvested leeks. Carefully using a pressure washer or hose nozzle with a strong jet of water may be required to sufficiently clean soil particles from leeks for storage or market. Optimum storage conditions are 32° F with 95 to 100% relative humidity to prevent wilting. Storage length while maintaining quality typically lasts two to three weeks. Under ideal conditions, up to eight weeks is possible. Store separately from ethylene-producing crops.