Let Leeks Leak into Your Garden

Reader Contribution by Karin Eller
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This is the time of year when home gardeners are making their final seed selections for planting in their garden, ordering their choices from colorful seed catalogs. When deciding what to plant in your garden consider adding leeks to your garden. Leeks, which often hide in the shadows of their more famous allium cousins, can actually make gardening easier this year. They are delicious, low maintenance, take up very little space in your garden, are beneficial to other garden plants and preserving them is a breeze.

Leeks grow best in full sun, and prefer a fertile soil in a well prepared bed. Your leek transplants should be at least 1/16 inch in diameter, at least six to seven inches tall. Plant them mid to late Spring in the garden. Harden off your plants before planting. Ready the planting bed for your leek transplants by creating a trench approximately five inches deep. Take some of the soil, and crumble one inch of the dirt on the bottom of the trench. Softening the soil will help to ensure good root growth. Plant the leek plants six inches apart, leaving at least three inches of leaves above the soil. Every six weeks after planting, pull soil around the stalks to encourage blanching. Leeks are usually ready to harvest in three months. When harvesting your leeks make sure to dig up the leeks and not to pull them. You take the chance of tearing them apart or ruining the root system if you are planning on re-planting your leeks. There are a few varieties like ‘Lexton’ or ‘ Bandit’ that are Winter hardy. We live in zone 5 and have gone out to the garden with at least six inches of snow on the ground and dug our leeks. They were fresh and delicious.

Two of the more advantageous benefits of growing leeks are economical weapons called companion planting and crop rotation. Companion planting is the practice of interplanting various plants in the garden to repel pests. This is easily accomplished with leeks because they are high in sulfur content. Sulfur is one of the oldest known pesticides, and when leeks are planted in abundance, they can prevent the development of disease and fungus around other vegetables. Minimize insect and disease problems and you will have a healthy plant that can ward off many problems. This delicious member of the allium family could serve as a border around the garden. Interplanting with leeks also keeps weeding to a minimum because they can be planted closely together. Crop rotation is another possibility that can help deter soil pests. Because leeks are abundant in sulfur content, they could possibly leave trace amounts of this element in the soil. This could discourage harmful soil pests.

Leeks can also be preserved by freezing and dehydrating. To freeze leeks , wash leeks thoroughly and cut off the root. Chop leeks and spread out on a cookie sheet and put into the freezer. This will prevent the leeks from freezing together. When frozen place in a freezer bag. To dehydrate, clean properly, chop up leeks and place in your dehydrator. When finished drying place the leeks in a clean dry jar. Remember to put all unwanted leek scraps on the compost pile.

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