Since I work a full-time job, I’m all about growing vegetables that are easy and don’t require a lot of time. Onions and leeks are one of the easiest, if they aren’t already on your list of things to plant, add them!! The time to plant them is January for a May harvest.
Yesterday I planted 120 onions and 60 leeks. I can’t wait for May to have an abundance of my own onions and leeks to cook with! You may be saying to yourself, “there is literally no way I can eat that many onions and leeks before they go bad.” This is one of great things about these vegetables. They store VERY well in a cold, dry environment (like your pantry) and will last for MONTHS!
So hopefully by how I have sold you on growing these beauties and I’m sure you’re dying to know how to get started.
Prep Your Soil
You’ll want to have rich, loose soil that is full of nutrients. If you haven’t already, add a supplement to your soil, like compost. For my 4 ft X 8 ft raised beds, I added two bags of compost. Instead of tilling this in, let it sit on top of your soil for a week. This will allow the nutrients to bleed down into your soil, leaving you will a bed of nutrient dense soil!
Buy Your Onions & Leeks
If you’re planting in January, you’ll need to use onion/leek transplants. These transplants are called slips (tiny, thin little onions/leeks smaller than your pinky finger). If you want to plant them from seed, you have to start those in October/November. Your local garden center will likely have slips.
If you’re in Dallas, head to North Haven Gardens. They have multiple varieties of yellow, white, and red onions as well as Italian onions and leeks. The onions are $3.99/bunch and the leeks are $6.99/bunch. A bunch can include 75-100 onions, so plan to split a bunch with a friend! My mom and I bought one bunch of yellow “Texas Legend” onions, one bunch of “Red Creole” onions and one bunch of “Lancelot” leeks. This will be more than enough for us to split between the two of us.
Plant Your Onions
- Dig a trench the full width of your bed that is 4″ deep.
- Sprinkle fertilizer in the trench and add 3″ of soil on top. We use this fertilizer, which can be purchased at your local garden store.
- Plant onion slips 1″ deep with 4″ spacing between each one. You are essentially just going to “set” the onion in the soil, you don’t want to bury it because then it the bulb won’t expand over time.
- Fertilize your soil every 3-4 weeks by sprinkling fertilizer around the base of the onions followed by watering into the soil.
Plant Your Leeks
Even though leeks are in the onion family, you don’t plant them the same way as an onion. A leek does not produce a bulb, but instead has a 6-10″ round stem that can be up to 2″ in diameter. If you don’t plant the leek deeply, this stem will become hard and not edible to eat (which is the purpose of growing them!!)
- Dig a trench the full width of your bed that is 5″ deep.
- Sprinkle fertilizer in the trench and add 4″ of soil on top.
- Plant leek slips 4″ deep with 4″ spacing between each one. As the leeks grow, pile soil up around the base so that no sunlight gets to the stem.
- Fertilize your soil every 3-4 weeks by sprinkling fertilizer around the base of the onions, then watering into the soil.
Watch Out for Freezing Temps
Even though the leeks and onions are growing underground, they are still sensitive to cold temperatures. For the first 1-1.5 months that they are growing, they are developing a resistance to the cold. If temperatures are going to drop below freezing, you’ll need to put frost cloth over the plants to protect them. Pay especially close attention to the wind chill! The temperature may only be 38 degrees, but it may feel like 29 degrees outside and just like you, your plants will feel it too.
If they do get frost bite on top, it will stunt the growth of the plant, and you’ll end up with dwarf onions and leeks.
Don’t forget to share with your friends and family!
Since you can grow so many at one time, this is a great thing to give away to those around you! It can be fun to cook a meal for friends and tell them that you used vegetables you grew yourself. Or you can just give them raw onions and leeks from your stash for them to use themselves.