How to Grow Leeks from Seed to Harvest
You plan to grow leeks in your garden or on your balcony? Great! It’s fairly simple and also quite a lot of fun.
I provide you with all the information you need to grow leeks from seed to harvest step-by-step.
I also included some videos of other passionate gardeners to make this leek grower’s guide even more comprehensive.
Without further ado, let it grow! 😉
Leeks Plant Profile
|Size||1 – 2 feet tall, 5 – 7 inches spread.|
|Climate||Leeks grow best in rather cool climatic zones with temperatures ranging between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|Sun Exposure||Leeks grows best in full sun and you should therefore offer your leek plants as much sun as possible.|
|Soil Requirements||Leeks grows best in slightly acidic soil with an optimal pH between 6.2 and 6.6.|
|Country of Origin||Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.|
|Growing Difficulty||Easy – Intermediate. While growing leeks is not that difficult, you should still use all the tips and tricks I show you in this article.|
|Perennial?||No, leeks are harvested in the first year.|
|When should you start?||If you want to start indoors, you should start growing leeks around one month before you expect the last spring frost in your region. If you want to start directly outdoors, I recommend you wait until you don’t expect spring freeze anymore.|
|Expected Yield & Harvest||One leek crop per plant. Even though this may not sound like much, leeks can get quite big and it can still be worth it to grow leeks at home.|
|What to do with it?||You can use leeks for various different sauces, salads or soups.|
What Types and Varieties of Leeks can you grow?
There are many different leek varieties you can grow at home. I listed the most popular ones for you below:
- Pot leek
- Tadorna leek
- Mammoth Blanch leek
- Jolant leek
- Giant Winter leek
- Carentan leek
- Blue Solaise leek
- Axima leek
- Atlantic leek
- Almera leek
My favorite leek variety to grow is the Almera leek since it tastes quite decent and also provides high yields. However, this is just me.
Especially if you have never grown leeks at home, you should probably go for a handful of different leek varieties so that you can figure out your favorite ones which you can continue to grow for many years.
Moreover, growing more than one leek variety is also more fun since you will get plants and crops of different shapes compared to just growing a single one.
When should you start to grow Leeks?
The best time to start growing leeks is between 4 and 6 weeks before you expect the last frost.
This is usually between March and April in most moderate climatic zones.
However, please note that this is only valid if you want to grow your leek seedlings indoors and transplant them outdoors later on.
If you want to start growing leek directly outside, you should wait until you no longer expect freeze and plant your seedlings at this point in time.
How long does it take to grow Leeks from Seed to Harvest?
Growing leeks from seed to harvest usually takes between 140 and 200 days.
The exact growing time also depends on the leek variety, the overall climatic conditions, the soil conditions you provide for your leeks, your level of experience in gardening and so on.
As you can see, there are many factors that play a role for the time that it will take you to grow your leeks from sowing to harvest and you should not be discouraged if it takes you a little bit longer than expected.
After all, growing your own vegetables at home is not only about the harvest, it’s about loving the journey.
Hence, just enjoy your growing experience and don’t worry too much about how long it will actually take you to reach your goal.
What is the best Climate to grow Leeks?
Leek is a cool weather plant and grows best in moderate to cool climatic zones. Bigger plants can also easily tolerate frost.
Although leek my grow best in cooler climates, that doesn’t mean that you will not be able to grow leek if you live in warmer climatic zones.
It just means that it might take you longer and that your yields may be smaller.
However, especially if you live in a warmer climatic zone, make sure to start out with your leek growing project pretty early in the year so that your leek has a few weeks until the warm weather arrives.
What Temperatures does Leek like?
The best temperature range to grow leeks is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yet, as mentioned before, even if you can’t provide those optimal conditions, you will still be able to grow leeks at home.
It will just take you longer, especially if you live in warmer climates since hot weather will slow down the growth of leeks.
What plants should you grow with your Leeks?
If you want to know what plants you should grow with your leeks, make sure to check out the best and worst leek companion plants.
What do you need to grow Leeks?
To grow leeks in a decent manner, you need some equipment which I listed for you below:
- Growing bed (to grow your leeks seedlings, only necessary if you don’t grow your leeks directly outside)
- Flower pots (only necessary if you don’t have a garden to grow your leeks)
- Leek seeds
- Fertilizer (you can also make your own organic fertilizer for which I give you the instructions below)
- Slug fence
- Watering can
- Garden shovel
- Potting soil
- Compost (optional)
What Yield can you expect when you grow Leeks?
You will only get one leek per plant. However, this doesn’t mean that your overall harvest will be small.
In fact, leeks can get quite big and if you follow all the steps in this article, you will be quite happy with your yield at the end.
This is especially true if you have a big garden and can grow many leek plants.
In this case, you will even be able to give away some of your yield to family and friends.
Why should you grow your own Leeks?
Many people claim that it would actually be much easier just to get leeks from the store instead of growing them at home.
And they are right. You will have to put in more effort if you want to grow leeks at home.
However, this doesn’t mean that it is not a good idea to grow your own leeks.
In fact, there are many important advantages to growing your own leek.
For instance, by growing leeks at home, you do no longer have to rely on leeks from your grocery store.
Leek from conventional stores often contains harmful substances since pesticides and herbicides are used in the growing process.
By growing your leek in your garden or on your balcony, you can make sure that you grow them in a fully organic manner and your health will likely thank you for that in the long run.
Apart from the health aspect, growing leeks is just quite a lot of fun.
I really love growing leeks and other plants and gardening has just become a nice hobby for me. It doesn’t feel like work since I am passionate about it and it just makes my life so much better.
Especially if you have kids, growing leeks at home can make quite a lot of sense since you can educate your children about how our food is actually produced and how much effort is necessary to do so.
In turn, your children will value their food much more and will be more likely to avoid food waste later on in their lives. Finally, growing leeks at home can also help you to reduce your overall stress level.
Especially if you work in an office job for long hours every day and also have to take care of your family, chances are that you will feel stressed quite often.
In such a case, gardening can greatly help you out since it can slow down your stressful daily life and it can also be quite nice to come home from work and just sit next to your plants.
For all those reasons, growing leeks at home can make quite a lot of sense, even though it might not make sense from an effort perspective.
Growing Leeks: Step-by-Step
1. Select a Site for your Leeks
The first thing we have to do when it comes to our leek growing project is to select the optimal site for our leeks. I answer various questions related to this topic in the following.
Do Leeks like Sun or Shade?
Leeks grow best in full sun. However, they also grow well in half-shady environments. Please note that we are talking about optimal conditions here.
Nothing in life is perfect and if you can’t provide full sun all day long for your leeks, just make sure that you choose the sunniest spot in your garden or on your balcony and you will be good to go.
What are the Soil Requirements of Leeks?
The optimal soil pH for growing leeks is between 6.2 and 6.6. However, leek is quite tolerant towards the acidity level of the soil as long as you are not too far off. If you get potting soil from your local garden center, you will just do fine.
You can also add some compost to the soil or also mix it with soil from your garden.
Just make sure that your soil will be well-drained so that no water puddles form and your leek plants will grow in a decent manner.
How much Space do Leeks Plants need?
While leeks can reach a decent height, they will not grow bushy and therefore don’t need too much space.
I suggest you plan around 1 square foot of space for each leek plant so that your leek can get sufficient nutrients and sunlight.
Of course, if you have a big garden and space is not a limiting factor for you, you can also give your leeks more space.
The more space you offer your plants, the more nutrients and the more sunlight your leeks will get, which will translate into better growth most of the time.
Should you plant Leeks in a Pot or in your Garden?
You can either grow your leeks in a pot or in your garden. I personally prefer growing leeks in the garden since you can just provide more natural growing conditions and you can also grow many more leeks compared to just using a pot.
Of course, where you want to grow leeks also greatly depends on your individual circumstances.
If you only have a balcony instead of a garden, you will simply have no other choice than to grow your leeks there.
However, if you want to grow leeks on your balcony, make sure that you provide your plants with sufficient soil and also that they get sufficient sunlight to grow in a decent manner.
2. Plant Leek Seeds
After you found the perfect location regarding where you want to grow your leeks, it is time to get into the leek seedling process.
Should you buy Leek Seeds or Seedlings?
While some garden centers offer you to buy leek seedling, I’m not a big fan of that. In fact, I think that it is part of the game to start growing your plants from seed so that you get the full leek growing experience.
If you learn how to grow leek seedlings, you can also transfer this knowledge to various other growing projects, which will benefit you quite a lot in the long run since you will no longer have to rely on seedlings from the store in most cases.
Hence, just grow your own leek seedlings. I show you everything you need to grow leek seedlings step-by-step in the following chapters.
Should you buy Leek Seed or produce Seeds by yourself?
If you have never grown leeks before, you will simply have no other choice than to rely on seeds from a seed company.
Of course, after you have grown your first leeks, you can save seeds from your plants and can use them for many years to come.
However, until then, make sure that you just get some seeds online or from your garden center.
How to plant Leek Seeds
Now that you got your leek seeds, it is time to plant them into your growing bed.
Of course, if you want to start growing your leeks directly outdoors, you can skip this step.
However, I don’t recommend you do so since the germination rate will be far lower and also more seedlings will die off.
Hence, I suggest you grow your leek seedlings indoors and transplant them outdoors later on in the year. For that, just fill your growing bed with soil and place your seeds onto the soil.
Make sure that you leave around 2 inches of space between each seed so that your leek seedlings will be enough space to grow in a decent manner.
Also make sure to plant enough seeds. Quite often, beginners make the mistake and expect to get one leek seedling per seed.
However, it doesn’t work like that. Many seeds will simply not germinate at all and will rather rot in the soil.
Hence, make sure to plant around the double number of seeds compared to the number of seedlings you want to produce.
For example, if you want to produce 10 leek seedlings, you should plant around 20 seeds to reach your goal.
After placing all of your seeds, just cover them will some additional potting soil of around 1 inch in height and place your growing bed in a warm and bright spot inside your four walls to optimize the germination rate.
Finally, just water your growing bed and wait for a while.
How long does it take to see the first Leek Seedlings?
When I grow leek, I expect to see the first seedlings around one to two weeks after I planted the seeds.
Please note that this doesn’t mean that all of your seeds will germinate at the same time.
In fact, it can take up to one month until you will see the full results of your growing efforts.
However, if you haven’t grown enough leek seedlings after one month, you should no longer expect any new seedlings reaching the soil surface and you should plant additional seeds into your growing bed if you need more seedlings.
How to protect your Leek Seedlings indoors
Your leek seedlings will be properly protected indoors in your growing bed and there will be no reason to protect them any further.
This is the big advantage of starting to grow your leek seedlings indoors compared to directly planting them into your garden.
Your seedlings can get bigger and stronger before you transplant them outside without having to worry about potential attackers that might wait for your seedlings outdoors.
When should you transplant your Leek Seedlings?
You should transplant your leek seedlings outdoors when both of the following criteria are met.
First, make sure that there will be no freeze anymore before you transplant your seedlings outdoors.
Second, also make sure that your leek seedlings have a certain minimum height so that they are resistant enough to deal with the harsh outside conditions.
I suggest you wait with transplanting your seedlings outdoors until your leeks have reached a height of at least 8 inches.
If you think that the right time has come, make sure to prepare your growing site. You can plant your leeks in rows.
Dig those rows around 1 foot deep in your garden. Make sure that each row has around one foot of space to each other.
After you dug those rows, make sure to fill them will a soil mix that consists of potting soil from the store and the soil from your garden.
You can also add some compost or natural fertilizer to the soil mix if you want to make the soil even richer.
Also make sure that the soil mix is loose enough so that roots can develop in an optimal manner and also that it is well-drained so no water puddles occur.
After you filled your rows with the soil mix, just transplant your leek seedlings to your growing site.
Make sure that each plant in a row also has at least one foot of space next to each other so that your leeks can grow in an optimal manner and don’t have to compete for sunlight or nutrients with each other.
Water your leek seedlings and you are done. Alternatively, if you want to grow leeks in a pot, you can just fill your pots with potting soil and transplant your seedlings into your pots.
However, as mentioned before, if you have a garden, I suggest you just transplant your leek seedlings there since it will make your life just much easier.
What kind of Protection do Leek Seedlings need outdoors?
Now that your leek seedlings have to deal with the harsh outside reality, it is time to add some protective measures.
While some gardeners rely on chemical measures to keep away snails and other smaller animals, I am not a big fan of that since those substances are often quite harmful to our environment and don’t do a good job.
Instead, I suggest you just use slug fences to protect your leek seedlings. While slug fences are rather simple, they do what they should. Not only will they protect your plants against snails, they can also deter bigger animals.
Consequently, just install some slug fences and you are good to go. You can also reuse them for future growing years.
3. The Leek Growth Process
Now that you properly protected your leek seedlings, most of the manual work is already done.
If you made it to this point, congratulations!
I know it takes plenty of effort, but if you enjoy gardening like I do, it will not feel like work at all.
From now on, you can let your leeks grow and don’t have to interfere with nature too much anymore.
However, there are still some open questions regarding the further growth process which I answer for you in the following.
Should you prune your Leeks?
No, there is absolutely no need to prune your leeks. In fact, since you will harvest the plant material, pruning your leeks can do much more harm than good and may potentially lower your yields quite a lot. Hence, just let it grow.
Do you have to pollinate your Leek Plants by Hand?
There is no need to pollinate your leeks. Just let it grow and let nature do its work.
Should you stake your Leeks?
There is also no need to stake your leeks. In fact, leeks reach quite decent heights, yet they don’t grow bushy at all.
Due to their extensive root system, your leek plants will stabilize themselves and there will be no need for staking or stabilizing from your side.
4. The Leek Harvest
After following all the steps mentioned above, you should be able to harvest quite decent yields when the time has come.
When should you harvest your Leeks?
As mentioned before, it will take quite a long time to grow your leeks from seed to harvest. Most often, you will have to wait at least 5 months until you can harvest your leeks. The exact harvesting time is up to you.
The longer you wait, the bigger your leeks will get. However, if you wait for too long, your leeks will start to rot.
Hence, just harvest them when they have reached a decent size and you are good to go.
How should you store your Leeks?
While you can just store your leeks in the fridge, you can also store them in a box in a cold and dark spot inside your home.
However, I still recommend you consume your leeks the days after you harvested them since they will contain the most nutrients at this point and will also taste the best.
What should you do with your Leeks?
Leeks can be used for a variety of different dishes. While you can just use them to create sauces for your roast meat, you can also use your leeks for salads or soups.
Just try different things and you will be surprised how many different dishes you can create from your leeks.
Leek Plant Care Tips
After giving you a step-by-step approach of how to grow leeks from seed to harvest, I also want to share some general leek plant care tips with you so you can optimize your growing experience even further. I answer several questions in this regard in the following.
How often should you irrigate Leeks?
While your leeks will not need much water once they are still young, this will change quickly and once they get bigger and outside temperatures become hotter, you will have to water your leeks on an almost daily basis.
If you are not sure whether it is time to water your leeks or not, you can use the following simple irrigation trick.
Just put your small finger a few inches into the soil next to your leek plant and pull it out again.
If soil sticks to your finger, this means that the soil is still wet enough and that you don’t have to water your leeks right now.
If no soil sticks to your finger, this means the soil is dry and you should water your leeks pretty soon.
Of course, as time goes by, you will get a pretty good intuition regarding when your leek plants need water.
However, at the beginning of your gardening career, the trick mentioned before can be quite useful.
At what Time of the Day should you water your Leeks?
If you can, make sure to water your leeks in the early morning. However, please note that this is not mandatory at all.
In fact, I haven’t seen too much difference between watering my leeks in the morning or at nighttime.
Just make sure that your plants get sufficient water and that you water them on a regular basis and you don’t need to worry about the exact time of the day too much.
How often should you fertilize your Leek Plants?
If you used the soil mix mentioned earlier in this article, there will be no need to further fertilize your leeks later on in the year.
In fact, many beginners make the mistake to use too much fertilizer, which can do more harm than good since it can burn the roots of your leeks.
Hence, make sure to give your plants sufficient space to grow and provide them with a decent soil mix and there will be no need to add additional fertilizer later on in the year.
What kind of Fertilizer should you use for your Leek Plants?
If you really want to use additional fertilizer, make sure that you rely on organic fertilizer rather than using chemical alternatives.
While those chemical fertilizers work, they can be pretty harmful to our environment and in my opinion, its just not worth using chemical fertilizer when there are good organic alternatives out there.
You can either buy those organic fertilizers online, get them from the garden center or make your own natural fertilizer. In fact, it is not difficult to make your own natural fertilizer.
You just have to collect some stinging nettles from your local forest or meadow, put them in a bucket full of water and wait for a few days.
After a few days passed, just remove the plant material and you created a perfectly natural fertilizer that is not only suitable for fertilizing your leek plants, but also for various other plants you may want to grow in your garden or on your balcony.
Just add some of the stinging nettle liquid to your watering can and you can fertilize your leeks on a regular basis.
Should you use Pesticides or Herbicides for Growing Leeks?
There is also no need to use any chemical pesticides or herbicides. Since leek plants are quite resistant to pests, you will not have to worry too much in this regard.
If you want to take protective measures, you can use the stinging nettle liquid and just spray it onto your plants.
Many pests don’t like the taste at all and will vanish quite quickly. Instead of using chemical herbicides, you can just remove weeds by hand.
Also make sure to get detailed information on how to control leek pests and plant diseases.
What’s left to say?
Thanks for reading my leek grower’s guide. I know it was quite a long ride. However, I wanted to give you all the information that you need to grow leeks from seed to harvest in the best possible manner.
If you liked this article, make sure to share it! Also feel free to read my growing leeks FAQ section to get even more information about growing leek at home.
About the author
My name is Andreas and I’m really passionate about our environment and also about growing plants. In fact, I have grown several different plants over many years. I love to see my own plants grow and always try new things.
In my blog posts, I want to share my experiences with you so that you can become successful in growing various different plants, even if you are still a beginner right now.