Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Perennial Leeks - a most generous vegetable

There were a couple of comments from my last post asking about perennial leeks. Call me obsessed, but I couldn't resist devoting a page (and some more pictures!) to this humble veggie.

They are one of my favourite plants in the veggie garden, hardy as anything, good looking and as mentioned previously, very drought hardy. I picked up a small punnet of about half a dozen or so shanks at a local plant sale about 2 years ago and have not wanted for leeks since! Seriously, once you have these little guys in your garden, you too will be as attached to them as I!

Some people like to harvest their leeks by cutting the shank just below ground level and leaving the roots in the ground to grow another shank. I can understand harvesting this way with more specialty varieties/annuals, but to be honest, I pull the whole leek up, roots and all. This variety of leek produces so many offsets that there are always plenty around waiting to be transplanted. Just take a look...

Above, the mama leek (left) with her babies. The mama leek is still of a small size, so if I was to dig this clump up, I would pull out the mama and transplant her to continue growing, along with her offspring, spaced about 10-15cm apart...

And here, another mama leek (right), and her offspring...can you see what I mean about them being generous?

This is what the clump looks like after digging up...all the little ones are ready to be planted out singularly. This clump produced about twenty little leeks! I usually wait until the mama is of reasonable harvesting size before digging the clump, although she can always be re-planted to fatten up a little more if a little on the small size. The baby leeks need to be dropped into a 10-15cm hole made with a twig or 'dibbler', then just simply watered in. Neglect will still yield a crop, although a little TLC in the form of watering, manure and mulch will reward you with thicker, whiter shanks. Approximately three months later, the leeks will be of a harvestable size and will hold well in the garden, sitting there happily for months until required. Never let a leek form flower, as although a beautiful feature, it will render the leek inedible. This is good news, as this type of leek seems reluctant to form my experience anyway.

If you can manage to track down some perennial leeks, I would highly recommend growing them. They haven't dissapointed me yet and don't seem to attract any pests or diseases. In fact, Alliums (the onion family), are reputed to be good companions for growing alongside carrots as they repel carrot fly. It's always great to have a little bonus, isn't it?

And on a totally different topic, here is a little elephant that the 8 year old and I made together today. The pattern came from a library book: "Toys to Sew" by Claire Garland and was a fun little project for the holidays. She's really happy with it and managed to do quite a bit of handsewing on her own, along with the ironing and a little machine sewing. It has been named "Marli" after the baby elephant at the Melbourne Zoo!

"Marli the elephant", made by the eight year old.


  1. I am loving your vegie posts! Any suggestions on where to track down some perennial leeks in Vic? I may have missed it but were these ones grown from seed?
    Also, cute elephant!

  2. That leek think looks like a GREAT idea. And your 8-year-old has already surpassed me re: sewing skills. SO IMPRESSIVE and such an ADORable little elephant! And it can stand up! =0

  3. Interesting about the mama leek and her offspring, posts like your last two, just make me sigh and yearn for a garden... Your 8 year olds elephant looks lovely, fun things to do in the holidays.

  4. Thanks for posting this, I will try and find some perennial leeks for my own garden. I love the little elephant your daughter did a great job.

  5. I've just been cutting off my leeks at ground level and I've been eating them now for 3 years.

    Things are going to be changing though... I'm moving chickens into where I grow my veggies, and I'm pretty sure they'll decimate the leeks. I'm going to have to transplant them to the front yard. I love my perennial leeks and spring onions!

  6. Uh, not sure, Jasmine..try local market plant stalls or good nurseries. These ones were from a punnet grown in someone's garden at a local plant fete, not from seeds.

    Lol, it can stand up *only just*, bio!!

    Oh, but city hippy, you have access to all of those wonderful food markets and shops!! *envy*

    Thanks, Debbie. Good luck with your search and hope all goes well in the new place.

    3 years, wow! Hmmm, I wouldn't give up home, frogdancer. Our chooks just exited a bed and the spring onions were the only things that survived! Hardy little things..

  7. I've just order some from Cornucopia seeds - thanks Christine!

  8. wow, i wantwantwant some! i grow perennial onions in my alaska garden, and have always felt the same about them. perennials offer such great rewards for such little effort.
    i just wanted to say, reading this post for some reason made me realize i should say it. thank you. thank you for taking the time to write and photograph your many exploits. i have all my blogs subscrips in a "reader," and i just open it up every day and scan the articles. yours are always just what i want to read. how wonderful to be able to get up in the morning and read about perennial leeks and homemade stuffed toys all at on go!
    i KNOW how much work and time writing takes, thank you for putting in the effort!

  9. Hi, Celia suggested I come and read this post. How interesting! I've never heard of perennial leeks, I grew leeks for the first time last year and they overwintered and we ate them and now they're gone. I'll have to look at English seed catalogues and see if I can find them here. I love leeks!

  10. Thanks Christine,

    I really had no idea these guys existed.. will have to add it to my seed order right now.

    Kind Regards

  11. Fantastic, Celia! Good luck with them.

    CJ, your feedback came at exactly the right moment. Run down, exhausted from school holidays, cranky, your words lifted my spirits and made my day! Thankyou.

    Hi Joanna, homegrown leeks are so tasty, and all the better if they can reproduce on their own! Hope you manange to hunt some down :o)

    Your welcome, Belinda. Once they get going in the garden, they do become almost weed-like!

  12. I've had a little look and so far not found any here, though I have found perennial onions, and white beetroot amongst other things. Would you happen to have any other info on what they're called? A latin name or something like that... they must exist here somewhere. In Wales maybe, country of the leek! Look forward to reading more of your blog too!

  13. Joanna - white beetroot, haven't seen that before! Would love to grow the pink and white spiral (chioggia?) one day...

    Cornucopia seeds (where Celia ordered her seeds from) only lists them as: "Allium ampeloprasum var porrum" which is the general latin name for leeks. They could also be known as multiplying, perpetual or pearl leeks. There doesn't seem to be much information out there about them..I did come across somewhere referring to "Babington's leeks" but not sure if these are the same thing (sounded v.similar). Quite frustrating, perhaps enquire at a good garden centre..they might put you onto where you can find them. Best of luck. :o)

  14. What beautiful leeks - I think I'm going to try perennials next year! Thanks for the tip :)

  15. Thank you! I'll have to order some seeds!

  16. They are such a staple of the veggie patch, ladies, they certainly earn their spot! Happy growing :)

  17. I have Saint Victoire, an old French heirloom leek. Rock hardy and a cast of purple when freezing during the winter.

    I have been interested in perennializing the strain so I planted all seeds two years ago, over winter ande let everything flower--really beautiful flower heads. Kept the seeds of the couple of plants that sent up new shoots after the typical "onion summer die down" in the fall. Planting those seeds for new seedlings and working with the beautiful over wintered plants.

    Truthfully, I'm really interested in getting the leeks to "bulb up"--yes, heresy for the leaf shaft oriented. But I love elephant garlic, which is completely sterile and only vegetatively propagatable, which is also a "leek", and I want to harvest the leek bulbs like giant garlic. Consider it a new form of the vegetable...

    The flowering will in no way make the leek inedible: just takes energy from the new plantlet offsets that grow around a mature plant. The mature plant will go hard and woody like the center of a hard neck garlic--just keep it mind. preventing flowering will sink energy into offsets.

    good luck all

    1. Hi Ryck, everyone says that elephant garlic is sterile, but (at least in Australia) it is not. It is certainly not proficient at producing seeds, but the strain that I grow does reproduce by seed occasionally. Each year I cut the spent flower heads off the elephant garlic and leave them on soil, out of each dozen flower heads (which probably contain a few thousand flowers) I usually get 2 or 3 new plants.

      My perennial leeks flower each year if I let them, but they rarely produce seed. I have had elephant garlic cross with perennial leeks once and both plants produced viable seed that year which I planted. The resulting plants are an odd mix of both parents.

  18. Perennial leeks and Babbington's leeks are both perennial vegetables but are different things. I got some of each through the mail from

    The perennial leeks seem to grow reasonably fast and send up heaps of baby leeks from the base throughout the year. The more I separate them the faster they send up the babies. I don't think they produce seeds, at least mine didn't.

    Babbington's leeks seem to grow slow and mine have not done much yet. They look much like an ordinary leek. I am told that after they flower they will have heaps of tiny bulbils on top of the flower stalk, similar to tree onions or hard neck garlic. I think it takes a few years and I can't wait to see that happen!

    1. Hi Larry just wondering how your babington leeks are going? I have boon looking for some everywhere and it looks like mudflower is the only place you can buy them but they are not selling at the moment is there any possibility i might be able to somehow purchase some from you or even swap for something else?


Hi there, it's so nice of you to stop by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love hearing what you are up to. Chris x