GROWING GREENS FOR ALL SEASONS ©
by Christine Morgan, ND, Somervell County Master Gardener
Kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, Chinese cabbage (bok choy, and pac choi) from the brassica family are the best known greens available to the home gardener. Also important are Swiss chard and spinach. They can all be grown as cool season greens.
Collards, kale, mustard, turnips and pac choi are related to cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. They are tolerant of cooler temperatures, and where winter is not too severe, kale will re-sprout from stems in the spring. They can be grown in spring and fall, but fall may be the preferable season because they benefit from frost which increases the sugar content and flavor of the leaves. These vegetables are quick to mature, being ready to pick in 30 to 60 days, depending on variety. I have grown collards all year long here…they will slow down growth in the summer…and then pick back up as the nights get cooler!
Turnips are a two way vegetable in that certain varieties can be grown to produce both greens and roots (ie. ‘Purple Top,’ ‘White Globe,’ ‘Just Right’ and ‘Tokyo Market’). Other two-way vegetables are beets and rutabaga. It is usually for sale in the store as a root only, but the greens are quite good. I think rutabaga is a sweet tasting love child between cabbage and turnip! The leaves taste more like cabbage, and the root tastes sweeter than a turnip.
Besides the greens mentioned above, lettuces, many Japanese greens, and other salad greens can be grown that have some kind of protection from the cold.
Herbs also included in cool season cultivation would be rosemary (which lives and produces year round), cilantro, parsley, and chives. Herbs are great additions in small amounts that help clean and strengthen your body.
Warm Weather Greens
Other greens are commonly called “spinach”, but are not in the spinach family. New Zealand, Ceylon, Red Malabar, and Purslane are four separate species of greens, but are grown in late spring and /or summer, as they require heat. Also sweet potato, and winter squash and pumpkin leaves are quite edible.
There are many Japanese greens to choose from…too many to list…and easy to grow. Dandelion, basil and other warm season herbs are delicious also.
Wild greens are another place to get greens as long as you know for 100% they have not been sprayed with herbicides! Purslane, chickweed, lambs quarters and miner’s lettuce are common here in Texas.
Another very heat tolerant green is Molokhia; it is from the okra family and is common in the Middle East, such as Lebanon. It can be grown in containers easily and does have some of the thickening ability like okra, but is quite good in stews or smoothies.
In spring, plant seeds as soon as soil can be worked (3 to 4 weeks prior to frost date). You can also germinate seeds indoors and plant 3 to 4 week old transplants into garden soil.
For fall planting, determine time to maturity (i.e. 55 days), then add 10 to 14 days (“the short day factor”) and plant seeds that many days prior to the first fall frost date (i.e. 65 to 69 days).
As in the spring, transplants can also be used in the fall. Also, many greens can be successfully grown in large pots or in “container gardens” that have a wide surface and a water reservoir in the bottom fed via a tube. I use container gardens from www.gardenerssupply.com with great results.
Sow seeds of these vegetables about 4 inches apart in rows 8 to 12 inches apart. In fertile raised beds, seeds can be broadcast and thinned later.
Soil Remineralization and Amendments:
It is important to use beds or containers that have been remineralized with rock dust (Azomite) and contain amendments like course vermiculite, and/or perlite, and peat moss. In general, leafy greens should be spaced about 4 inches on center and the thinned plants can be eaten in their entirety! As with most vegetables, closer spacing will result in smaller, “baby leaved” plants, and farther spacing will result in larger heads or plants.
Leafy greens are medium feeders. Incorporate well-rotted manure (fall) or compost (fall and spring) at planting. Addition of manure or compost can add micronutrients and organic matter to soil. I prefer to keep all fertilizers organic because of the strong uptake ability of greens in regard to minerals, nutrients, synthetics, and poisons. I would not even consider eating non-organic commercial greens!
With the exception of the Chinese cabbages…where the entire plant is usually harvested, the outer leaves of these greens are usually harvested. Make sure the outer leaves show no sign of yellowing, since at this stage they are past prime and should be composted. Alternatively, a raised bed can be thickly sown with your favorite leafy green and thinned to an 8 inch spacing after they are 6 to 10 inches tall. These thinned plants are your first harvest (the entire plant is edible), with future harvests coming from the outer leaves of the remaining plants.
Arrow Feed in Granbury has:
Azomite 44lbs. $34.99
Course Vermiculite 4 cu. Ft. $35.99
Perlite 4 cu. Ft. $26.99
R-95 dust masks home Depot or Lowes
Mushroom compost- Lowes
Organic garden soil-any of the above places