One of my favorite winter vegetables are leeks. These non-bulbing, onion-family plants, have a mild flavor, are easy to grow and are beautiful in the garden. Of course, I'm not growing any leeks in late January, but I am thinking about them. They freeze really well and we're still making delicious potato-leek soups in winter.
But, also I'm thinking of leeks because soon I'll be starting their seeds. Leeks need a good 8- to 10-weeks of indoor growing before transplanting in early spring. So, if you're planting in mid to late April, you'll need to start seeds in February. Try different varieties of leeks to stagger your harvest. 'King Richard' is a summer leek maturing in late July. 'Megaton' is an early fall leek that matures in September. 'Tadorna' is a late fall leek that matures from October into winter.
When growing leek seedlings, give them a haircut every few weeks to encourage stronger root growth. Also, add an organic liquid fertilizer at the same time.
When transplanting outdoors, take a cue from the English. On loose, well-drained, compost-rich soil, use a dibble to poke a narrow hole 6- to 8-inch deep into the soil about 6- to 8-inches apart in rows. Drop your leek seedling into the hole and backfill it. This will encourage the stalk to naturally blanch so you get more of that white stalk that's mild, tender and tasty.
Harvest leeks at any stage for eating. Clean them by cutting the leek lengthwise, then chopping it into small piece. Float the pieces in cold water agitating it and letting the soil drop to the bottom.