Hear me out here. Yes, you should grow what you and your family like to eat, we mean absolutely Leafy Greens. Of course. But there are some other factors to take into consideration.
Let me put it to you this way: Let’s say you have a 4′ X 4′ raised bed, and you really dig cabbage. Well, you might be able to squeeze in four cabbage plants that will take pretty much the whole season (around 100 days) to grow. On the other hand, you could plant leafy greens and grow enough to eat fresh, organic, pesticide and herbicide-free, top-quality salads each and every day during the entire growing season.
Most leafy greens grow quickly, a big advantage over long-season crops that have that much more time for things to go wrong. Without the discipline and know-how to guide them through a long growing season, much of your gardening efforts may be for naught.
Especially for beginner gardeners, growing some kale or some lettuce will get you some quick wins in the garden, nurturing your enthusiasm for gardening and growing your gardening skills.
Being the garden enthusiast I am, whenever I pass a community garden I’ll have a good look to see what’s growin’ on. And I’m sorry, but I’m just not seeing the leafy greens. Tomatoes? Tons of them! In some places, they take up 80% of the garden space. And they don’t even really grow all that well here if you don’t have a greenhouse or a hoop house. Some cucumbers, sure, peppers, and a zucchini plant here and there along with a few onions and the odd lonely lettuce plant.
I just think that many gardeners are giving up a goldmine of production like Leafy Greens that they could have so easily. The seed for greens is cheap. They’re easy to germinate, grow fast, and have few pests or disease problems (at least in my neck of the woods). Leafy greens vegetables transplant well and have a reasonable cold tolerance, so your garden can be pumping out produce until late in the fall.
Here are a few greens you might want to try:
1. Red Russian Kale
Germinates fast, grows fast, it’s as hardy as hell, tastes good, and it’s packed with nutrients.
Kale grows really well in cooler temperatures and lives through the heat without getting bitter.
I always set aside a small patch to grow some densely seeded baby kale.
Baby kale allows me to have some greens from the garden a good 3 weeks earlier than I would if I were only growing plants out to maturity.
leafy greens as spinach take a little more skill to grow, but if you can get it to germinate early in the spring you are off to the races.
The trick with spinach is that it germinates well when temperatures are cool, but it can take a while, often 10 days or more.
It germinates much quicker when it is warmer outside, but your germination rate will decline, perhaps to as low as 30% or 40%. So you need to find the goldilocks zone in the spring to get decent germination.
You can try to grow seedlings inside, but from my own experience, I can tell you that spinach hates to be transplanted. If you try, transplant to the garden when the plant is still very small and don’t disturb the roots at all. A stressed spinach transplant will quickly go to flower (trust me I know). Once they get going, keep your spinach well-watered, unstressed, and give it an ample supply of nitrogen and you will very likely have a bountiful harvest of this nutritious and delicious green.
There are so many interesting varieties to grow, literally hundreds and hundreds of them.
Pick out some interesting ones, don’t forget to pick some heat-tolerant varieties for your summer supply, and get planting, and don’t stop.
Lettuce is the best leafy greens vegetable for me and so much easier to grow than many garden vegetable favorites. Plant it tight for baby lettuce, give it more room for big plants, direct seed it (in the spring and late summer, it doesn’t germinate well in the heat), transplant it, it’s all good. I have some space dedicated to lettuce and I also keep trays of lettuce going all summer to fill in wherever there’s a gap in my garden, it is great for making productive use of space around long-season plants.
These three plants make a good base for greens production. There are many more that I add in here and there that are well worth exploring: arugula, orach, various mustard greens, swiss chard, collard greens, beet tops, the list goes on and on. Let us grow more lettuce.