top of page

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Leeks

growing leeks

Leeks, scientifically known as Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum, are a type of vegetable that are frequently used in culinary applications across a multitude of cultures. While their origin traces back to Central Asia, they're now cultivated and used globally, adding a sweet and subtle onion-like flavor to our dishes.

Leeks are recognized by their long, cylindrical white stalks and flat green leaves. Unlike some other vegetables, every part of the leek can be used in cooking, from the white bulb to the dark green tops, each offering a slightly different flavor and texture.

In addition to being a versatile culinary ingredient, leeks also offer an array of health benefits. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and they provide a good source of dietary fiber and manganese. Furthermore, they contain important antioxidants that support overall health and well-being.

Growing leeks in your own garden can be a satisfying endeavor. Not only will you have a fresh supply of this delightful vegetable, but you'll also enjoy their tall, leafy presence, which can add an element of beauty to your vegetable patch.

In the upcoming sections, we'll delve into how you can plant, grow, and harvest leeks in your own garden, ensuring that you're never short of this versatile vegetable when you're cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

Optimal growing conditions for leeks - Climate, sunlight, and soil requirements Optimal

Leeks, known scientifically as Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum, are cool-season vegetables that thrive in the rich, well-drained soil of your garden. Here are the optimal growing conditions for leeks:


Leeks prefer a cooler climate and can tolerate frost, making them an excellent choice for gardeners in temperate regions. They can withstand temperatures as low as -5°C (23°F) and are typically grown in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.


For optimal growth, leeks need plenty of sunlight. At least six hours of direct sunlight each day is ideal. However, they can tolerate partial shade, especially in warmer climates where intense midday sun might be too harsh.


Leeks prefer well-drained, loamy or sandy soil. The soil pH should ideally be between 6.0 and 7.0 for leeks to absorb nutrients effectively. Amending your soil with compost or well-rotted manure can enhance its fertility, providing the nutrients leeks need to grow big and strong.

In summary, while leeks are relatively low-maintenance vegetables, they do have specific requirements for climate, sunlight, and soil. By ensuring these conditions are met, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of this delicious and nutritious vegetable. Stay tuned as we delve further into the planting process and how to care for your leeks as they grow in the subsequent sections of this guide.

Step-by-step Guide to Planting Leeks

growing leeks

When to Plant – Best time of the year for planting leeks

The timing of when you plant leeks can have a significant effect on their growth and the success of your harvest. Let's explore the unique qualities of leeks and the optimal time for planting them.

Leeks are a cool-season vegetable that can tolerate frost and even milder winters. They have a long growing season, typically around 120-150 days from planting to harvest. That being said, it's important to plan your planting schedule accordingly.

For most regions, the ideal time to start sowing leek seeds indoors is late winter to early spring. By starting them indoors, you give the leeks a head start and ensure that they are robust enough to be transplanted outside once the weather conditions become favorable.

When it comes to transplanting, you can do so as soon as the soil is workable in spring, usually when soil temperatures are consistently at 45°F (7°C) or above. Be sure to harden off the seedlings (acclimate them to outdoor conditions) for about a week before planting them outside.

In regions with milder winters, leeks can also be planted in the fall for a winter or early spring harvest. Just remember, leeks require plenty of time to mature, so plan accordingly to ensure a successful crop.

In the next sections, we'll cover the intricacies of seed selection and site preparation to ensure your leeks have the best possible start in your garden. Keep reading to master the art of growing leeks at home.

Seed Selection – Choosing the right seeds for your garden

The success of your leek cultivation begins with choosing the right seeds. The quality and variety of seeds you select will greatly affect the growth, flavor, and overall yield of your leek harvest. Here are some pointers to help you make an informed choice.

1. Consider Your Climate

Choose a variety of leek that is well-suited to your local climate. Some types of leeks are better adapted to warmer climates, while others can withstand cooler conditions. For instance, 'Winter Giant' is a popular variety known for its hardiness in cold weather.

2. Size and Flavor

Different leek varieties offer different sizes and flavors. 'King Richard' and 'American Flag' are favored for their large size and sweet, mild flavor. If you prefer smaller, more delicately flavored leeks, 'Baby Leek' or 'Carentan' might be your best bet.

3. Disease Resistance

Choose varieties that have been bred for resistance to common diseases that affect leeks, such as leek rust or white tip disease. This will make your gardening endeavor more manageable and your crop more robust.

4. Seed Quality

Only purchase seeds from reliable sources to ensure their quality and viability. Check the packaging for the seeds' origin, harvest date, and germination rate. Remember, fresh seeds (usually less than two years old) have a higher germination rate.

Remember, seed selection is not just about the current planting season; it's also about future seasons. Consider saving seeds from your best-performing leeks to sow in your garden in the following year. In the upcoming sections, we'll walk you through preparing your garden for planting and the steps to properly sow your chosen leek seeds. Happy gardening!

Site Preparation – How to prepare the garden bed or pot for planting

growing leeks

A crucial step in planting leeks is the preparation of the site. Proper site preparation can significantly influence your leek crop's overall health and productivity. Here, we outline how to prepare your garden bed or pot for planting leeks effectively.

1. Select the Right Site

Leeks prefer a sunny site but can tolerate partial shade. The area should receive a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. If you're planting in a pot, make sure it's positioned in a sunlit area or under suitable artificial light.

2. Prepare the Soil

Leeks grow best in well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Start by loosening the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches using a garden fork or tiller. This depth is necessary as leeks have long, straight stems that grow underground.

Enrich the soil by adding well-rotted manure or compost. This will improve the soil's structure, enhance its nutrient content, and ensure good moisture retention, all of which are beneficial for the growth of leeks.

3. Dig Trenches or Holes

In a traditional garden bed, leeks are often planted in trenches that are 6-8 inches deep. The trenches should be spaced about 12 inches apart, which will provide ample room for the leeks to grow.

If you're growing leeks in a container, ensure the pot is at least 12 inches deep and has adequate drainage holes. You can either make one large hole or several smaller ones for multiple leeks.

4. Water the Soil

Once the soil has been prepared and the trenches or holes are dug, water the soil thoroughly. This initial moisture will provide a good start for your leek seeds or seedlings.

Site preparation may take some time and effort, but it's an investment in the success of your leek crop. The healthier the soil and the better the site conditions, the stronger and more bountiful your harvest will be. In the next section, we will guide you through the planting process for leeks.

Planting Process - Detailed Steps on How to Plant Seeds or Seedlings

Once your site is prepared and ready, the next step is to plant your leek seeds or seedlings. Here are detailed instructions to guide you through the planting process:

1. Choose Your Planting Material

You can grow leeks either from seeds or seedlings. Seeds are more commonly used, but seedlings can give you a head start, especially in areas with a shorter growing season.

2. Planting Leek Seeds

If you're planting seeds, sow them directly into the prepared trenches, about 6 inches apart. Cover them with a layer of soil and water gently. Leek seeds typically germinate in 10 to 14 days.

3. Planting Leek Seedlings

If you're using seedlings, plant them about 6 inches apart in the trenches or holes. Gently fill the hole with soil, leaving the tops of the seedlings exposed. Water them well to settle the soil around the roots.

4. Hilling

One unique aspect of growing leeks is the process called 'hilling.' As the leeks grow, soil is hilled up around the stems to blanch them and keep them tender. When your leeks are about a foot tall, start drawing soil up around the stems, leaving only a couple inches of the green top exposed. Continue this process throughout the growing season.

Remember, leeks require patience. They're slow to grow but well worth the wait. Once planted, the key is to provide regular care and attention to help them thrive. In the following sections, we'll discuss watering, fertilizing, and how to tackle common diseases and pests that can affect your leek crop.

Care for Growing Leeks

growing leeks

Watering – How often and how much to water the plants

Watering is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy leek garden. Leeks thrive best in soil that remains consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Here's how to ensure your leeks receive the right amount of water:

1. Frequency of Watering

The frequency of watering depends on your local weather conditions and the state of the soil. As a rule of thumb, you should water your leeks at least once a week. In hot and dry conditions, your leeks may require watering every 2-3 days.

2. Quantity of Water

When watering, make sure the soil is thoroughly soaked. A good, deep watering encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the plants more resilient and drought-resistant.

3. Mulching

Mulching is an excellent way to conserve water, reduce weed competition, and maintain a steady soil temperature. Organic mulch like straw or compost can help retain moisture in the soil, reduce the frequency of watering, and add nutrients to the soil.

4. Watering Method

Watering at the base of the plants, rather than overhead, can help prevent disease and ensure that the water goes directly to the roots where it's needed most. Drip irrigation or a soaker hose can be a very effective method for this.

Remember, while leeks enjoy consistent moisture, overwatering can lead to problems like root rot. So, it's a balance of maintaining damp but not saturated soil.

In the next section, we will discuss how and when to fertilize your leek plants for optimal growth and health.

Fertilizing – The type of fertilizer needed and how to apply it

Fertilizer application plays an essential role in growing healthy, robust leeks. This section will cover the type of fertilizer needed for leeks and the best method for application:

1. Type of Fertilizer

Leeks require a high amount of nitrogen to promote leafy growth, so a fertilizer high in nitrogen is crucial. A slow-release granular fertilizer with a N-P-K ratio like 10-10-10 can be applied. For organic gardeners, compost, well-rotted manure, or a mixture of both, can serve as an excellent source of nutrients for leeks.

2. Application Time

Fertilizer should be applied at the time of planting. If using granular fertilizer, it should be mixed well into the soil before planting the leeks. If you're using compost or manure, it should be incorporated into the top layer of the soil.

3. Top Dressing

Leeks are heavy feeders, and a mid-season boost can help support their growth. About 6-8 weeks after planting, when the leeks have established, you can apply a top dressing of compost or a balanced liquid fertilizer around the base of the plants to give them an extra nutrient boost.

4. Avoid Over-Fertilizing

While leeks require a high amount of nutrients, over-fertilizing can cause excessively lush growth, making the plants more susceptible to pests and diseases. It can also lead to a reduction in flavor. Therefore, it's crucial to strike a balance.

Remember, a successful gardening experience with leeks does not solely depend on fertilization. Consistent watering, proper planting, and suitable growing conditions are equally important. The next section will guide you through the process of protecting your leek plants from common diseases and pests.

Disease and Pest Control – Common diseases and pests that can affect leeks, and how to manage them

Growing leeks, like any other plant, comes with its set of challenges, including a few pests and diseases that can affect their health. This section covers the most common issues you may encounter and how to manage them effectively.

1. Pests

Leek Moth: The leek moth is a common pest that targets leeks. The larvae can cause significant damage to the foliage and stems. Control measures include using floating row covers and regular inspection to remove any visible larvae.

Onion Thrips: These small insects can damage the leaves by sucking sap, causing the leeks to wilt. Using insecticidal soap or introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs that prey on thrips can help control their population.

Slugs and Snails: These pests enjoy munching on the tender foliage of leeks. Using slug traps or organically approved slug pellets can help control their population.

2. Diseases

Rust: Rust is a fungal disease that causes orange pustules on the leaves. Ensure proper spacing between plants for good air circulation, use resistant varieties, and apply a fungicide if necessary.

White Rot: This is a soil-borne disease causing yellowing and wilting of leaves. Crop rotation and proper sanitation practices are essential in controlling white rot.

3. General Pest and Disease Management

Healthy plants are less susceptible to pests and diseases. Ensure your leeks get proper nutrients, water, and light. Regularly inspect your plants for early signs of any problems, as early detection can help prevent severe infestations or disease spread. Also, practicing crop rotation can significantly help in reducing the incidence of many diseases.

Remember, the health of your leeks starts from the seed and depends on the growing conditions you provide. In the next section, we'll identify the signs that indicate when your leeks are ready for harvesting.

Harvesting Leeks

growing leeks

When to Harvest – Identifying signs that the leeks is ready for harvesting

After diligently tending to your leek plants, the moment you've been waiting for finally arrives - harvest time! Here's how you can identify when your leeks are ready for harvesting.

Leeks can be harvested at different stages depending on the size you desire and the specific variety you're growing.

However, the general rule of thumb is that leeks are ready to harvest when the stalks are about an inch in diameter, which typically takes between 100 to 120 days after planting, depending on the specific variety.

While leeks can be left in the ground over winter for early spring harvest in some areas, there are few signs to look for to ensure you're harvesting at the right time:

Size of the Stalk: The most common sign is the thickness of the stalk. A leek with a diameter of around 1 to 2 inches is generally considered mature and ready to harvest.

Foliage Appearance: Leek leaves should be thick and dark green. A healthy leek ready for harvest should have leaves that stand upright.

Season: Leeks are a cool-weather crop. They are typically ready to harvest in late summer to early fall for summer-planted leeks and late winter to early spring for overwintered varieties.

It's essential to note that leeks can be harvested earlier for baby leeks, which are smaller but have a more tender and mild flavor.

In the next section, we will look at the techniques for harvesting leeks to prevent damage to the plant and to ensure maximum yield.

How to Harvest – Techniques for harvesting leeks to prevent damage to the plant and fruit

Harvesting leeks properly is crucial not only to ensure the quality of the produce you'll bring to your table but also to minimize damage to the plant and ensure a productive next harvest. Here are some techniques to guide you through this process:

Loosen the Soil: Because leeks are root vegetables growing deep into the ground, it's crucial to loosen the soil around them first. This helps prevent pulling up the entire plant or damaging the leek. You can use a fork or a spade to gently loosen the soil.

Pull Gently: Once the soil is loose, reach down to the base of the stalk, get a firm grip, and pull the leek upward. If the soil is sufficiently loose, the leek should come out easily.

Remove Extra Soil and Leaves: After pulling, remove extra soil from the roots. Trim the green part of the leaves, leaving about 1-2 inches above the white stalk, and the roots, leaving a small stub.

Leave Some Plants in the Ground: If you want your leek plants to keep producing, you can leave some in the ground for a second harvest. These plants will often send up new shoots from the base, which can be harvested when they're big enough.

Remember, leeks are quite hardy and can be left in the ground until you're ready to use them. However, be sure to harvest all of your leeks before the arrival of heavy frost or the ground freezes.

In the next section, we will look at how to properly store and preserve your harvested leeks for maximum freshness and longevity.

Post-Harvest Care and Storage – How to store and preserve leeks for maximum freshness and longevity

After successful harvesting, the freshness and flavor of your leeks depend largely on the storage methods you adopt. Here are some effective methods to store and preserve your leeks:

Cleaning: Gently brush off any remaining soil from the leeks but avoid washing them if you plan to store them. Moisture can accelerate spoilage.

Refrigerating: Leeks can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Wrap them loosely in a plastic bag to retain moisture and keep them in the vegetable crisper drawer.

Freezing: If you want to store leeks for a longer period, you can freeze them. Clean and chop the leeks, blanch them in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then cool promptly in ice water. Drain them well and pack into freezer bags, removing as much air as possible. They can be stored this way for up to 3 months.

In-ground Storage: If the weather allows, leeks can be stored right where they grew in the garden. As long as the ground doesn't freeze, you can dig them up as needed through the fall and winter.

Dry Storage: Another effective preservation method for leeks is drying. Clean and slice the leeks thinly, spread them on a baking sheet, and dry them in an oven at a low temperature. Once completely dry, they can be stored in an airtight container and used in soups, stews, and stir-fry.

Remember, no matter the storage method, always check your stored leeks periodically for signs of rot or spoilage and remove affected parts immediately to prevent it from spreading.

In the final section, we will recap the main points in our guide and provide some encouraging words to spur you on your gardening journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the growing stages for leeks?

Growing leeks typically involve these stages:

Seedling Stage (Weeks 1-12): Leeks are usually started indoors from seeds about 8-12 weeks before the last expected spring frost. The seeds are sown in a seed tray filled with a seed-starting mix and lightly covered with soil. The tray is then kept moist and in a warm place. Germination usually occurs in about 10-14 days.

Transplanting Stage (Weeks 12-16): Once the seedlings are about 8 inches tall and have grown pencil-thick stems, they can be transplanted into the garden. This is typically about 2-4 weeks after the last spring frost.

Vegetative Growth Stage (Weeks 16-26): After transplanting, the leeks will continue to grow and thicken. They need regular watering and a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to support their growth.

Bulbing Stage (Weeks 26-36): The leeks start forming a thick, elongated bulb as they mature. During this stage, soil is often mounded up around the plants to blanch and lengthen the stems.

Maturity and Harvesting Stage (Weeks 36+): Mature leeks are usually ready for harvest in late summer or fall, about 100-120 days after transplanting. The timing of harvest can vary depending on the variety of leek and growing conditions.

Remember that these timings can vary based on the specific variety of leek you're growing, your specific location, and the weather conditions during your growing season. Always refer to the seed packet or plant label for specific growing information for your variety of leeks.

Recap and Final Thoughts: Time to Start Planting, Growing, and Harvesting leeks

Growing leeks can be an incredibly rewarding venture, but like any gardening project, it requires knowledge and care. As we conclude this comprehensive guide on how to plant, grow, and harvest leeks, let's recap the main points:

1. Optimal Growing Conditions: Leeks prefer a cool climate and full sun, with fertile, well-draining soil that's been enriched with organic matter.

2. When to Plant: The best time to plant leeks is in early spring, about 6 weeks before the last expected frost.

3. Seed Selection: Choose disease-resistant and high-yielding leek varieties suitable for your region.

4. Site Preparation: A garden bed or pot prepared with ample organic matter is key for growing robust leeks.

5. Planting Process: Plant leek seedlings deeply to encourage the growth of the white, edible shaft.

6. Watering and Fertilizing: Regular watering and a nitrogen-rich fertilizer will keep your leeks growing strong.

7. Disease and Pest Control: With good crop rotation and hygiene practices, most leek pests and diseases can be effectively managed.

8. Harvesting: Leeks can be harvested once they are about an inch in diameter, and they have a long harvesting window.

9. Post-Harvest Care and Storage: Leeks can be refrigerated, frozen, or stored right in the ground for future use.

The process of growing leeks may seem detailed, but remember, the joy of gardening comes not only from the harvest but also from the journey. There's nothing quite like the taste of home-grown leeks, tender and sweet, nurtured by your own hands.

So, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. The world of leek gardening awaits you. Trust in the process, have patience, and soon, you'll be harvesting and enjoying your own home-grown leeks.

Establish Growers is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Establish Growers (14).png

Welcome to Establish Growers, we are an online haven, devoted to all aspects of gardening, microgreens, houseplants, and vegetable cultivation.

Your all-in-one guide to growing and savoring nutrient-dense microgreens at home.

5 eBooks (7).png

Follow Us:

  • Pinterest


Join our Newsletter to receive our latest posts about growing!

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page