Guide to Growing Baby Greens for Good Health
Homegrown Salad Mix
Tasty Salad Greens from Your Own Garden
One of the first crops most of us try (and have success with) are salad greens. Because they are so simple to grow they give us an instant sense of garden success.
Greens are sometimesÂ so easyÂ that we forget how vital they can be to our menus, both in nutrient value and tastiness.
If you have never tried to grow your own salad greens in the garden, this may be just the motivation you need. Plan to launch into one of the most rewarding crops of the vegetable garden.
The Cool Season
Spring, with its temperatures which are mild during the day ( within the 50 and 60 degree weather) and dropping lower, but not to freezing during the nights, proves ideal for many plants. These are called cool season plants for that reason. They usually do not tolerate high temperatures of summer.
Lettuces and other green leafy vegetables are usually “cool season” crops, planted and grown either early in spring or later at the end of summer. Salad greens taste best harvested while the temperatures are still somewhat cool.
There is nothing easier than growing some radishes and lettuce, and all the rest of the greens are just as easy. Because you harvest them quickly they are less of a problem to maintain… not likely for much in the way of wilt, disease, or bug problems (although there are no guarantees- as any gardener knows).
- Tip: Swiss Chard handles warmer temperatures through the summer than most greens. It makes a good substitution for Spinach.
- It is also quite hardy and tolerates frosts. Plant it at the same time as the lettuces, but harvest longer.
- It is also very cold hardy and can extend the season into late fall/early winter.
There are also a few crops eaten as “greens” which are suitable for the summer.Â Swiss Chard is one example.
We all need more green leafy vegetables in our diet and we might be more tempted by them if we had them fresh and homegrown. Take note of which ones you enjoy, or are planning to consume more within your diet. Make plans to grow them this year.
Pluck Leaves Young for Gourmet “Baby Greens”
Usually, vegetable seedlings need “thinning out”. This is removing the extra plants to make the ideal spacing for mature harvests. Don’t waste these thinnings,Â they provide baby greens for salads and sandwiches.A real gourmet treat!
Why Grow Salad Vegetables in the ‘Cool Season’ ?
- Hot Temperatures cause most salad plants to “bolt” and turn bitter in taste.
- In many climate zones, these are are planted in early spring and late summer for fall harvests.
- If you garden in mild climates, even winter can be considered for growing your greens.
Growing Salad Greens Is Fresh and Easy
Salad greens taste best fresh, and the nutrients are most potent in really freshly harvested greens, since many vitamins are lost to temperature and storage conditions.
Plant in Containers
If you have a box (even old wine boxes have been used), or if you have a large container… even if all you have is a sturdy plastic soil bag… all have been used as quick and easy places to sow some salad greens seeds. The result is an abundant harvest of fast growing leafy plants.
An abundant provision, because another great thing about growing greens is the way you harvest them: cut and come again. Cut off the tops and let them keep growing, you will have a second cutting or more before hot temperatures kick in.
Wash Before Eating
Drawback? Well, you might want to wash your greens a little more carefully than if you buy pre-washed salads from the grocery. Not because of pesticides when grown organically, but because there might be a few unwanted “critters” and maybe some rain-splashed grit, that you wish to rinse away.
3 Ingredients for Success
If you have these three conditions (or can provide them) raising this crop is a cinch:
regular moisture are all you need. Follow the instructions here to harvest plenty of tasty green stuff for your table.
How-To-Grow Instructions For Salad Greens
Look on the seed packet for the names of the varieties included in your mix. Seed packets usually include growing instructions, including time to plant, expected germination, planting depths, temperatures, etc.
In the garden:
Find Out About Salad Greens to Grow All Year
Did you know there are all sorts of greens that you can grow in your garden for the entire year? Learn how to have fresh salad greens.
Emerges in 5-10 days | Plant Seed 1/8″ deep for lots of baby greens
- Choose a sunny spot.
- Although they may grow with less, try to locate your planting area where the salad plants get full sun.
- Choose a nitrogen rich fertilizer. to apply once leaves are in full growth
- Choose a fertilizer with proportionally more nitrogen. This is the first number listed in (N-P-K) most fertilizer formulations.
- Green leaves need lots of the nutrient nitrogen.
- Plant for cool season growth.
- Early March through April are good times to plant greens. Late August can be another time to seed the plantings for a fall garden harvest.
- Leafy greens need moisture to sprout and grow.
- The spring usually has spring rains for good growth, but be sure to water when going through a dry spell.
- The late garden needs extra watering while seeds sprout and small plants are growing, until the rains begin to be more regular to keep the ground moist enough for a good salad crop.
Start with Organic Seed
Organic! A Mesclun mix that will grow easily and give you a well balanced mix of delicious greens.
Try this for a complete range of tasty baby greens. the amount of seed is generous, and can be stored until next season in a cool place if you don’t use it all.
Even a Child Can Grow These
I often recommend this crop for a child’s garden because the rate of success is so high- it is almost guaranteed. The satisfaction of the fast germination time and growth, plus the excitement that comes from eating your very own homegrown harvest is an unbeatable combination of reasons to have a small patch of salad greens.
Any Level of Gardening Skill
Is vegetable gardening new to you or are you an old pro?
Leafy greens are some of the easiest and most productive crops to grow. The only real drawback is the heat of summer curtails harvest at that time.
Very Easy to Grow from Seed
Any greens, including lettuces are extremely easy to grow from seed. No special instructions just sow the seed and keep moist.
Get good quality seed, they are easy to buy online. I prefer dealing with a company I know.
Little Space Needed
Greens are cool weather crops which means they grow best in the cooler temperatures of early spring and fall.
Some climates are good for winter growing, but during hot summers the lettuces and such plants “bolt” or turn quickly to seed producing which turns the leaves somewhat bitter.
Lettuce How-To Tutorial
Which Plants Qualify as “Greens”?
Lettuce, spinach, arugula, endive and escarole, chicory, and bok choy all are plants to include in your greens list. They are often sold in pre-selected combinations called ‘Mesclun’.
If you grow ‘Mesclun’ mixes you might have any number of quick growing plants for their leafy green harvest:, including named varieties.
You’d be surprised how much difference some simple skills make in growing a good garden harvest. You can take a short cut to success by learning from those who have been there already!
Mesclun Greens May Contain Any of These Salad Plants
- ‘Ruby’ lettuce
- ‘Red Salad Bowl’ lettuce
- ‘Red Treviso’ radicchio
- Curled chervil
- ‘Green Ice’ lettuce
- Paris White Cos’ lettuce
- ‘Royal Oak Leaf’ lettuce
- ‘Rocket’ arugula
- ‘Green Curled’ endive
- Mustard greens
- Corn Salad
AN EXAMPLE OF MIXED GREENS
Usually a seed packet will state the percentage of types of plants included.
“Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend Seed”
From Botanical Interest contains:
Tango 15%, Royal Oak Leaf 15%, Red Salad Bowl 32%, Black Seeded Simpson 15%, Grand Rapids TBR 15%, Red Sails 8%.
That is a varied assortment of shapes, tastes, and color to add interest to a salad bowl.
Herbs Contained in Salad Mixes
Â | Herbs and Greens
Have you grown your own salad greens before?
You May Want to Know
Salad greens are about eighty percent water.
Organic Garden Hints and Tips
Leafy green vegetables need nitrogen as their main growth booster. It is important that the soils contain ppelnty of that plant nutrient, or it is added as fertilizer. Nitrogen is the first number in fertilizer formulations.
- Compost and bagged manure provide nitrogen.
- Plant seeds about one half inch deep.
- Harvest lettuce leaves an inch above the soil line; simply use scissors.
- Organic Amendments for Your Salad Garden
- A little lime will sweeten your soil- use a pH test kit to see if you need it or not.
- Most salad greens prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8.
- Plant salad greensÂ in the Spring.
Some nutrient amendments you can use to grow organically:
- fish emulsion
- seaweed emulsions
- composted manures
- mushroom compost
Sounds disgusting, but this is what will inject plenty of nitrogen into the soil for the greenest green, organically. Boost your soil and get the maximum nutrients into your greens.
After Growing, Harvest and Eat!
Dress up the greens you grow with dressing and sesame seeds for crunch. Add sprouts, which are easy to grow in your kitchen.
Add to sandwiches, use as replacements for flour roll-ups, add as garnishes, those are just a few more ways to eat the homegrown greens that will be bursting with nutrition.