Experimental Homestead


Growing huge leeks is just a big ego trip!  So here’s how to do it!

1)  Select a huge variety:  Scratch that.  Select a number of huge varieties.  Products, you may have noticed, are not always as advertised.  So, grow several to find one that preforms.  Also, do you want length or girth?  Usually you will be trading one for another to some extent.

2)  Select a variety that is hardy enough for your climate:  Leeks require a long season to grow big.  If you have extreme winters, leeks may not survive in open ground, but select a hardy one anyway and you can cover it a bit to keep it alive and growing.  (See Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Gardening for techniques to keep your garden growing through the winter in cold climates).  The short varieties seem to be the hardy winter types.  My favorite, Bulgarian Giant, barely survives winters here in the low 20’s, but plenty still make it through and I select seeds only from those.  Very cold climates will probably dictate growing the stubby flag types unless significant protection is used.

The last biggest, best seed leeks in late winter await transplanting into a bed for seed production. Bulgarian giant has good length and girth, but you generally have to trade one for the other to some extent.

3)  Start early and keep ’em movin’:  Leeks grow slowly, so start your leeks in January, February at the latest.  They are also tough and they will survive considerable neglect and crowding.  But, if you want big leeks, keep them growing by thinning and transplanting into a new flat  once they get big enough to really select out the largest ones.

4) Hand Select the Seedlings:  I’ve planted large, v.s. small starts in separate batches to confirm that indeed selecting large seedlings does make a difference.  Whether the effect is one of genetic potential or environmental circumstances is open to question at this point and would require a different and worthwhile experiment.  I start by sprinkling the seeds in a pot and sifting 1/2 inch of soil over them.  Use good flat mix.  Its hard to find good flat mix and better to make your own from some tasty homemade compost.

The leeks in this bed were planted with the largest seedlings at one end and tapering to smaller seedlings at the other. The larger seedlings produced significantly larger leeks.

5!  Thin early:  I’m ruled by practical concerns like food production, so I plant leeks as close as 6 inches and up to 8 inches apart in every direction (i.e. in a wide bed on a grid pattern in staggered rows as opposed to traditional rows).  However, I start thinning the small, stubby and crooked leeks to eat in early summer.  If you want the super largest plants ever, you should plant them farther apart in the first place.  I’m a fan of equidistant grid spacing in wide beds, so I would probably go with 14 inches apart in every direction.  If planting closer as I do, thin early so that the plants are well spaced by late summer.

6)  Keep feeding those suckers:  Leeks have a hearty appetite.  top dress them with blood, fresh manures, compost, seaweed, coffee grounds, or whatever ya got.  Liquid fertilizers will go a long way too.  If you do any of your own slaughtering, blood mixed with water will please your leeks greatly.  Urine mixed with water will rock them into orbit.  Any manure teas should also be good.  Feed them something at least every month or so.  I don’t dig my beds, but if you do you would probably want to dig a bunch of stuff into the soil like manure or compost etc… but don’t rely on that to get your leeks through their long growing season, keep feeding them…

Fertilizing potato onions with fresh blood mixed with water.  Clotted blood doesn’t work well, but if fresh blood is whipped immediately with the fingers, a whisk, or a bundle of twigs, the fibrin can be removed preventing clotting.

7)  Grow for as long as possible:  No matter what you do, leeks take time to get their biggest.  In the spring they will bolt, so they can’t keep growing forever.  The longer you can grow them though the bigger they will get until they decide its time to go to seed in the late winter/early spring.

8)  Save your biggest leeks for seed:  Don’t eat your biggest leeks!  You can transplant them if they are in the way, then let them go to seed which will take most of the rest of the season.  Try to save at least six plants just to prevent inbreeding.  When the seed heads are pretty dry, pick them and dry them further and put them in a jar in a cool place.  If you do this for a number of years you will have a strain that is adapted to your environment and tastes!  And hopefully huge!

SEE ALSO: Leeks:  Size does matter!

December 8, 2011 - Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff, Uncategorized | , ,


  1. Can’t believe this one made it past the spam filter… and that pic! Ow, my eyes!

    Nevertheless, a great post, Steve. And timely – Saturday is Full Moon, if you go by that sort of thing, perfect time to start Allium seeds.

    Big-ass leeks (also called LOSLS – Leeks of Suggestively Large Size)) are terrific for the homesteader. Long white stalks for cooking, huge green tops for stock. The flavor and aroma those tops can provide to vegetable stocks is unbelievable, and it holds up to pressure canning.

    Not much good for market gardening though. Takes too long to get a crop, and the big ones are hard to sell. I had a 5-pounder a couple years ago, and it frightened the customers.

    Comment by Tim | December 8, 2011 | Reply

    • It must be hard to sell vegetables to customers while scaring them with your huge leeks. What really scares people though is not knowing what to do with them. Too bad, its a versatile vegetable and fits in a lot of styles of food, much like Alliums in general.

      Comment by turkeysong | December 8, 2011 | Reply

  2. Hi, Steven! Your leeks are mighty and no doubt very powerful! I’m thrilled to find this blog of yours. We grow many of our own veggies, which I can and dry to use throughout the cold season. I haven’t had any luck with a winter veg garden, so I’m excited to try leeks. Are there other winter crops that survive through winter cold and snow? I’m in the Sierra Foothills where the lowest temp in winter is about the same as your 20’s.

    Comment by Liz | December 8, 2011 | Reply

    • If your staying above 20 far. most of the winter, I would think you should do just fine with a big winter garden. The trick to winter gardening is to have the plants established before winter. They won’t actually grow that much once it gets cold, so this is essential information. I start many winter garden plants in July/August and some much earlier when that last thing you are thinking is about a winter garden. If you start beets, rutabagas, asian cabbage, scallions, turnips around that time you’ll have them well established and growing by the time winter hits and slows down their growth. I start them in flats and then put them in as room becomes available. I do carrots in June or July by direct seeding for winter garden. Scorzonera, salsify and parsnips should go in by june or preferably earlier. The Leeks will grow more than any of them through the winter, but they take a long time to get to that point, so start in February at the latest. Mustards will usually do well too, but they have to go in pretty late not to bolt right away. Lettuce is more challenging and needs protection to actually be any good in the winter time. I’ve found ones that will survive here, but not thrive by any stretch.

      I’ve been puzzled as to why people don’t keep winter gardens, but it did take me a while to get the timing right and realize that it wasn’t about growing food in the winter so much as storing it in the ground. In colder climates the roots have to be insulated with straw, covered with a structure, or dug up and put in a root cellar, but here that is just not the case and I can pull roots out of the ground fresh all winter. The winter garden is actually much easier and more productive per unit of labor because there are is less weeding and no watering to do. Also the food value is higher in roots than in the stuff we often think of as summer vegetables. Sow a couple of flats of roots in late august and try it out. Its really easy. I should write a post about it sometime and the evolution (continuing) of my planting calendar. Also, I think its better to be cropping the soil than leaving it bare, although there are always cover crops too.

      Comment by turkeysong | December 9, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hey Steven, I’m taking a moment to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, and to acknowledge how much energy it must take to compose the posts you write. It’s an incredible inspiration. So I’m passing on one of my five Liebster Blog awards to you.
    And since no one else has commented on it yet, I think the photo of the Haws can spraying blood needs to go on the cover of a catalog somewhere. That’s some serious no-holds-barred gardening there.

    Comment by Dan R-M | December 13, 2011 | Reply

  4. How did you solve the rust problem you talked about in your first leek post?

    Comment by John Michael | January 5, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi John: I didn’t solve the rust problem. It is definitely affecting the growth of the leeks a little too. The solutions I’ve researched seemed rather labor intensive and while I love my bulgarian giants, I’m only willing to go so far in time and energy. I think I would have to have a pretty regular spray program with the vinegar/water or any other solutions that people use. At this point I’d rather find a more rust resistant variety, breed resistant genes into my line or just live with it.

      Comment by turkeysong | January 5, 2012 | Reply

  5. HI, found your great blog while trawling the net for new and interesting veg for our catalogue of open-pollinated heirlooms (www.realseeds.co.uk) . Its a small-family-run seed company, we try to educate people about seed-saving and breeding their own varieties at home.

    I was inspired by your page to get hold of some giant bulgarian leek seed to offer to our customers, which I have now tracked down, but I was wondering if I could use one of your pictures to illustrate it on our website? (the one of you kneeling down with the stupidly huge leek) We’d credit you for the pic and link to your blog of course.

    let me know!

    Comment by ben gabel | February 16, 2012 | Reply

    • Yes of course, Awesome enterprise you have going. We need more seed companies like you guys! Check out Ben’s constructively dissident UK seed company..! http://www.realseeds.co.uk

      Comment by turkeysong | February 16, 2012 | Reply

  6. Scarcely a day goes by when I don’t get at least one, and often multiple, hits on this page for people searching “huge ass”, “How to grow a giant ass” and the like. I’m not sure if I should change the title to spare people the inconvenience of reading about Leeks when all they want is to see or grow huge asses, or leave it the same to potentially broaden the horizons of said huge ass seekers. Yet another philosophical/ethical/moral quandry of the information age… I’m open to suggestions from leek seekers, ass seekers and neutral parties alike.

    Comment by turkeysong | February 16, 2012 | Reply

  7. Lovely leeks! Could you do a post on how you use blood and urine as plant feed? I think a lot of people today, even hard core permaculturists just throw these two resources away!

    Comment by tokyobling | January 22, 2013 | Reply

  8. I have some drafts about using urine that I should finish up. There is entirely too much anxiety about using urine as a fertilizer. Just dilute it and use it. Great stuff. Blood is easy, but you have to whip it immediately to keep it liquid if it is to be diluted and applied. I’m more inclined to eat blood now than put it on the garden. Some recipes call for liquid blood, but the easiest way is to let it coagulate, slice it and fry or put in soup. It’s very good, similar to liver in richness, but much milder and a better texture. Blood is very nutritious too and seems to be eaten or drunk by most traditional societies.

    Comment by Stevene | January 22, 2013 | Reply

  9. Hello

    Thanks for sharing your techniques. I am an organic plant collector and breeder from Canada. I ALWAYS stayed away from giant vegetables after a few years of trials 30 years ago or so because I did not think they were worthy of peoplés mouth. Yours do not look gigantic but simply bigger because healthier ( and of course genetic helps).

    I will be growing next season a larger version of this year’s garden, dedicated to a lot of the best chefs in Montreal, Canada’s culinary capital. I already exposed them this year to the strong values of organic and “different genetics” .

    Your approach fascinates me because it is all about big AND good, as opposed to giant flavourless veggies.

    I am french speaking…sorry if my english is poor.

    I would love to buy some of your seeds or trade them. If you google up my name you will have something to read. I have tons of seeds of rare veggies, and just having the pleasure to work with a man dealing with productivity and taste would be a privilege for me.


    Michel Lachaume

    Comment by michellachaume | October 23, 2015 | Reply

    • Hi Michel. The Bulgarian Giant may be more mild, but it is quite delicious. I think the tall leeks may be a little more mild in general, though I’m not sure. Bulgarian Giant is not very hardy though. I doubt it would overwinter well without some protection in North Eastern Canada. Look at the comment left by JHM on Gigante D’hiver left by on this leek article. It sounds similar, but more cold hardy. https://turkeysong.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/leeks-size-does-matter-and-so-does-shape/

      The one other very large vegetable I like Okay is the giant Kohlrabi. It is much less fibrous than any small one I grow. The problem is figuring out what to do with a 5 pound kohlrabi! A lot of small apples are more flavorful, but not across the board.

      Comment by Stevene | October 24, 2015 | Reply

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