Does anyone have experience with a permanent leek bed?

veggieluvJanuary 28, 2006

I'm an inexperienced vegetable gardener, put in a few seeds last year, spent the winter reading up on vegetable gardening, now ready to put in a lot more seeds this year.

I ran across a few references to permanent leek and bulbing onion beds, but I need more detail. Could anyone here tell me how to establish and maintain a permanent leek bed, and/or bulbing onion bed? Much obliged for any advice.

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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

I'd like to know too. could keep fertility up easy enough--but would diseases develop? wondering too---

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 8:37AM
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Thanks for coming onboard ceresone! I know full well that Garden Lad and Martin keep permanent leek and onion beds because I've been reading their posts back to 2004. But this information came out by-the-by in discussion of other topics, so I don't know exactly how they do it. Hopefully one of them, or maybe someone else, will eventually answer our Question. (Old Buddist saying: make haste slowly)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 11:11AM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

I don't have what one would call a permanent leek bed. That would be one where some leeks would be harvested and some left on a perpetual basis. Can't have it both ways since leeks are a biennial. What you can do is have leeks growing in one area for eating and another area for supplying seed. I used to just let them decide where to lay their heads down for the winter and then transplant as many seedlings as needed in a a safe area. Wherever they are planted, that area becomes tied up for 2 years. For tilling purposes, it would be most advantageous to set up a permanent area for leeks. One part would have plants of this year while another smaller one would be reserved for a few plants of the previous year.

By bulbing onions, I suppose that one could include some of the walking onions in that classification. Most again need a permanent location for maximum use. That is, early scallions, topset pearl onions, and bulbs.

In either case, leeks or onions, the first consideration would be creating a good bed of soft soil with good drainage. (Remember that that soil isn't going to be tilled again for several years so it has to be a loose type to not compact after a few heavy rains.) Then add twice as much compost, manure, or other rich organic matter as you'd use in an annual garden. After that, you keep adding nutrients when you mulch in the fall for winter protection.

All along, the keys to permanent allium beds are soil condition and nutrients. Fleshy feeder roots need loose soil and access to a quick and easy meal. Tend to both of those and you'll never have a problem.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 11:41AM
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Thank you for your advice, Martin. There is still a little bit of mystification for me related to the leek bed and I wonder if you would entertain another Question:

I had the idea -- with leeks being biennial and producing something to eat one year and then seed the next year -- that I would sow seed this year AND next year, and that might be the only seed I would need to sow. Because they would self-perpetuate themselves year after year, sequentially. In the same bed. Am I on the right track here or not?


    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 2:18PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Brenda, sounds close enough! It would depend upon how you wanted to use your leeks. If you wanted them like those you buy in a store, then you'd be adding soil or transplanting to deeper holes. If you are like me and just prefer the leeks like green garlic or green onions, then you could have a mix of old and new plants in the same bed. Your only problem would be a massive thinning job every May or thereabouts. I left mine alone last season and ended up with virtual leek sod. Much of the growth was stunted but I didn't want big thick stems. I'll be doing a lot of thinning there to allow only a half dozen or so plants set flower stalks.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 3:30PM
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Thank you so much for your opinion, Martin. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions and to let me know what I'm getting into. I think it would be nice to have more than enough leeks!


    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 9:05PM
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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

One thing more that is seldom mentioned, any 2nd year leak that has gone to seed and then dried, will have one or more little leak "bulbs" attached to or almost a part of the main stalk right the bottom of the stalk. Some varities have one to three fairly large bulbs. Some are quite small.
So far I have harvested these and replanted where I want them. They get off to a much advanced start over seeds.
I would assume that they would sprout if just left in place. I know that some I have which were called Wild Leaks do so. I was able to replant about 30 this fall and they are doing quite well. They came from a "Permanent" bed of which pictures were posted several years ago. These have several small bulbs in the fall.
You would probably be ahead if you collected the seeds when ripe and just planted as much as needed. Otherwise, as Martin said, they will be a forest of seedlings.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 11:52PM
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I have read about these leek bulbs. It's one of the things which makes the idea of leek culture mystifying to me. Is it better to not allow the plants to set seed, relying on the bulbs for propogation? Allow one or two seed-heads to develop and collect/save that seed for back-up in case of crop failure? Any further comment on this would be welcome to me.

My goal is to have a sustainable garden with some crops harvestable or at least storable in the ground over winter. BTW, if anyone else interested in this topic, I am still harvesting turnip greens planted last summer. Used a clear plastic storage bin 32" x 14" purchased for under $10, turned upside-down over turnips. Makes a dandy portable cold-frame for those of us past our physical prime and without money to burn.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 8:44AM
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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

Most alliums produce bigger bulbs if not allowed to develope seed. Don't think you would get more, just bigger. Why not try some both ways? Of course, those you eat won't produce either. So, I would insure enough for seed to have enough to perpetuate your "Permanent Bed".
I intend to do just that with the wild ones. Just have to build a raised bed with wire botton. My pet gopher just about destroyed my Elephant garlic this year. Went right down the rows and only missed a little on both ends and about 6 scattered through the double row.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 12:01AM
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Thanks for thinking along with me on this, coho. I realize there's no clear direction, a bit untraditional attempting leek culture without buying new seed every year.
Last evening I revised my 2006 garden plan to put in 2 leek beds; one for developing bulbs and the other smaller one to grow some seed for collection. So I was happy when I got up this morning to find out from an experienced gardner that I'm still on the right track! This kind of thing can really wear out one's brain.
I didn't know you kept a pet gopher. I used to have one until I found his hole and put some moth balls into it. Now I have something more challenging to keep -- pet deer come by for something to eat pretty regularly.

Many thanks to all who answered my Questions. GardenWeb rocks!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2006 at 10:03AM
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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

Yesterday I found 2 clumps of 3 leaks where I had leeks last year. This area was kept irrigated thru fall as it is next to some raspberries. I surmise the main problem would be to keep the clumps thinned so the leeks do not become too crowded and small.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 12:30AM
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Thanks, coho. I'll be thinking of you as I do my Grand Leek Experiment this year (and next year too, I guess). I'm getting the distinct impression that leeks grow pretty well and the thing is to slow them down to where they're useful. A lot different from some other veg. fer sure! Best wishes, Brenda

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 12:01PM
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lil_rhody(z6b RI coast)

How can you have a permanent leek bed if you harvest the leeks to eat the bulbs. That would be like having a permanent carrot bed or tunip bed or radish bed.
Each plant is grown to be consumed.
A perpetual bed maybe but PERMANENT? Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Paul B.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2006 at 6:04PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Paul B, the key is that you DO NOT consume them all. With leeks being biennial, consuming them all means that you have to buy seeds annually. I've had the same strain going since 1982 or 1983 and I didn't even buy them. A friend sent them from Czechoslovakia!


    Bookmark   February 20, 2006 at 8:41PM
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Seems to be some confusion over the term "permanent" bed.

As I've used it in the past, it merely means that the bed is dedicated to alliums. Onions, garlic, whatever get grown in the same bed over and over again. The exact opposite of rotation planting.

The idea of such permanent beds goes back to the 19th century, when commercial onion breeders discovered they actually get better productivity from using the same beds over and over again.

The whole idea of crop rotation, as it turns out, has been greatly overplayed in almost all cases. There are only two reasons to rotate crops: Depletion of nutrients and soil-borne disease. In the average home garden, neither of these problems can be fixed by rotating crops. There just isn't enough room.

However, assuming you replace the nutrients (that's what compost and other amendments are all about, people), and in the absence of a heavy infestation of a soil-borne disease, there is no reason not to grow onions, or garlic, or, to put a point on it, leeks, in the same bed over and over again.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 7:02AM
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Appreciate your comment on permanent beds. My grandparents and parents kept the cold frame in the same place always. Another 'forever' bed had the various aliums.

All got yearly applications of mixed barnyard nectar and grew lushly. Few weeds.

cella jane

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 8:20PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

I have limited experience with permanent leek beds. Mine are on their third year. The old leeks, too tough now for eating are sprouting smaller, more succulent leeks off their bases. I've started defrosting a duckling in preparation for my favorite leek recipe--Shanghai duckling with leeks--yummy!

This year I'm also going to let the mature leeks flower as well.

I've really grown to appreciate the leek. It takes whatever winter and summer has to dish out, even being neglected by me, surrounded by weeds around their established bed, forgotten on the watering, AND YET THEY LIVE! I finally get around to chopping down the 4' tall weeds and find my leek beds still thriving. If only all our vegetables were this foolhardy!

I also found the link below which describes leek beds in more detail.

Here is a link that might be useful: Leek Propagation from Master Gardener Intern

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 11:35PM
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A source of:
Babbington Leeks Perennial top setting bubils

I am not associated with this site but have ordered several times and been very pleased!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Permanent bed for collards(plant are 4 years old),
Jerusalem Artichoke, why not leeks.
Never tried Leeks, what am I missing?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:47PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

I have been experimenting with green onions that were bought at farmers market. When cooking I cut off the bottom 1cm with tiny rootlets still attached and plant that little fragment in the garden. Wonder of wonders, they are regrowing, nice new root growth and green shoots coming up. Now I am trying to do the same with garlic, elephant garlic, leeks and even onions to see how far I can push the envelope.

Would it be possible in a 'permanent leek bed' to simply cut the leeks close to the ground, leaving the roots and very base of the stem and have them regrow from the base? If so, how many times would one be able to harvest 1 leek? I am certain you will not end up with cosmetically perfect supermarket veggies, but if I can harvest the same allium 3 or more times without replanting, that is a big win in my book.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 12:18AM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Was wondering if anyone has experience with the type of leek described in the link below?

Here is a link that might be useful: perennial leeks most generous vegetable

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 12:16AM
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Campanula UK Z8

I grow onions in a bulb frame because the whole allotment site is infected with white rot. The bulb-frame was my old 1.2m x 6m coldframes with the lights removed. I have been growing onions in the same bed since 2003 although I usually remove the top inch of soil and top dress with an inch of sterile loam (John Innes 3) and use a balanced organic fertiliser (Maxicrop) once a month during the growing season. Iplant either sets or seedlings depending on how together I am around Xmas. At transplanting time or when planting sets, I include a small amount of soot into the planting hole....and have managed to bring in crops while the rest of the site has been an epic failure for shallots, garlic and onions (leeks seem to be OK as do spring onions and ornamental alliums). Admittedly, the onions are not huge....but they keep well and I can grow 160 heads of garlic and 320 onions - enough for us all year.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 6:26PM
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Leeks have been growing in a large pot since spring 2013. They are only about 2-2 1/2" in diameter, a few are developing seed 'heads'. Are these leeks too old to be harvested & used in recipes, (just for the flavor)?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:48PM
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