From the Desk of Ed Hume: Early Greens

March 28, 2011 at 1:52 AM 2 comments

As soon as the last frost has passed, it is time to think about getting the vegetable garden started.  Greens like spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, and root crops like beets, carrots, and radishes are among the first crops to seed and plant.  Root crops should always be seeded directly into the garden.  If you try to pre-start them, the roots are apt to become disturbed and deformed as you replant the seedlings, often making them unusable.  As for the leaf crops, the seeds can be sown directly outdoors or they can be started indoors.   Personally, I prefer to directly seed them into the vegetable garden.  It’s less work and you can save some time and money.

Weather permitting, there are several factors to consider when seeding vegetable greens:

1) Select a spot that is sunny, but protected from the hot mid-day sun.

2) Barely cover the seeds with soil.  For actual seeding depth, read the backside of the seed packet of each variety for detailed seeding recommendations.

3) As the seedling plants grow and have developed their first set of true leaves, thin to the correct spacing.

4) Thinned seedling plants of leaf vegetables can be saved and replanted.

5) For best taste and nutrition, leaf vegetables benefit from being fertilized every 3 to 4 weeks with a liquid organic nitrogen fertilizer.

6) At harvest time to encourage new growth, simply cut the greens about two inches above soil level, then fertilize and water as needed.

Most varieties of lettuce, spinach, and other greens grow and produce best when grown during the cooler spring and fall months.   Here are a few exceptions: New Zealand spinach (not a true spinach) does quite well even during the warmer summer months.  Also, Olympia spinach is slow to go to seed.  Sammish spinach is one of the best varieties to grow during the winter.  Corn Salad is one of the best winter varieties of lettuce.

Keep in mind, all of these greens can also be grown in cold frames or a cool greenhouse during the winter months.  Although I have primarily mentioned lettuce, spinach, and Chard, this is also an excellent time to get your broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower started.  Of course, actual planting or seed sowing time depends upon where you live and current soil conditions.  For example, if the soil in your garden is still too wet, avoid planting until soil conditions improve.  Often, over-wet soil conditions can be more quickly improved by simply mounding or raising the soil.


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Clip of the Week: Selecting and Starting Seeds Ed’s Podcasts: Camellias

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. buck  |  March 31, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    You can grow most all vegetables in containers on your patio.

    • 2. edhume  |  April 5, 2011 at 10:51 AM

      Yes, you can grow most vegetables in containers. However, the extensive vines of crops like most varieties of pumpkins and squash simply take up too much space. Patio heat is often too hot to grow quality cool crops like lettuce and spinach, as well.


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