Growing greens in your home backyard is not only just a fun thing to do, but also a fantastic way to produce fresh, nutrient-rich vegetables right outside your door. Spring, with its typically mild temperatures and ample rainfall, is the perfect time to start your garden.
Choosing the Right Location
Your garden needs to be in a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day. Good drainage is also crucial, so avoid areas where water tends to pool. If space is limited, consider raised beds or container gardening. Many greens are nicely ornamental, so don’t be afraid to get creative and look for gardening spots that are often overlooked, such as the landscaping! All of these greens can blend right in with your shrubbery or other landscaping plants.
Preparing the Soil
As with all gardening, healthy soil is the foundation of a successful garden. Feed the soil, and then the soil feeds your plants. Start by clearing the area of weeds and debris. Consider testing the soil for nutrients and pH; most greens prefer a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0 to 7.0). If needed, amend the soil with compost to improve fertility and texture.
Overview of how to grow greens
Most greens can handle cool weather and even light frosts. We like to sow them indoors first and transplant them into the garden once they are a few inches tall, but you can also sow them directly into the ground where you want them to grow. Spinach and kale seem to work best for us as transplants, whereas lettuce never has trouble germinating in the soil. We generally start growing greens outdoors about a month before our last frost date of the spring.
Spinach is a powerhouse of nutrients, offering high levels of iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. It's a versatile green, perfect for salads, smoothies, and cooked dishes. Ready to harvest in 4-6 weeks, spinach is a speedy grower, making it an ideal choice for gardeners eager to see quick results. Cut leaves from the outside, allowing the plant to continue producing. Enjoy spinach raw in salads, steamed, or sautéed with a dash of garlic. Bloomsdale LS is the gold standard of spinach for us, but we also really love Early #7 for harvest in just over a month.
The freshness of home-grown lettuce is unbeatable. With a huge variety of types to choose from, you can have a continuous supply of crisp and colorful leaves for your salads. Lettuce can be harvested as early as 30 days for leaf varieties and up to 60 days for head types. Harvest outer leaves for a cut-and-come-again approach, or for heading types, wait for the head to mature. Use fresh in salads or as a wrap for a healthy alternative to bread. We have 35 varieties of lettuce and they are all excellent.
Kale is a superfood that's as easy to grow as it is nutritious. It's resilient to cold, providing greens even in cooler temperatures. Kale is ready to harvest in about 50-70 days, but you can pick young leaves as early as 30 days. Snip the outer leaves, and the plant will keep producing. Kale's robust flavor softens when cooked, making it great for chips, sautéed sides, or soups. There are many excellent kales to grow but Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale is by far our most popular. We also love Dinosaur for its interesting texture, heat resistance and excellent flavor.
Arugula adds a peppery kick to any dish. It grows quickly and can offer multiple harvests in one season. Ready in just 20-40 days, arugula is perfect for gardeners looking for a fast return. Harvest young leaves for a milder flavor. Arugula is excellent in salads, atop pizzas, or mixed into pasta. We added Astro this year, which gives baby leaves at only 20 days.
Some you may not have tried yet:
With a nutty, sweet flavor, corn salad is a winter gem that can tolerate cooler temperatures, extending the gardening season. It matures in about 40-60 days, thriving in the cool days of early spring or fall. Pick the whole rosette at ground level. Its mild flavor makes it perfect for salads or as a tender bed for seafood or poultry. It’s a “forage green” loaded with vitamins. Every garden should have this! We sell the species seed.
Endive offers a unique, slightly bitter taste and crunchy texture, adding interest to salads and dishes. Takes about 85-100 days to mature but is worth the wait for its flavor and nutritional value. Harvest the head whole or pick individual leaves. Blanching a few days before picking can reduce bitterness. Use in salads, or grill it for a smoky flavor. Try the All-America Selections winner Full Heart Batavian Endive.
Chervil, with its delicate anise flavor, is a classic French herb related to parsley that can elevate the taste of many dishes. Fast-growing, chervil is ready to harvest in about 6-8 weeks. Pick the leaves as needed. Its mild flavor is perfect for seasoning salads, soups, and sauces or as a garnish on seafood. It is also reportedly used in various medicinal purposes. We sell the species seed.
For those who enjoy a bit of spice, mustard greens offer a peppery zing. They're also incredibly healthy. Ready to harvest in 30-45 days, they're among the fastest growers of the greens. Young leaves have a milder flavor, while older leaves pack more heat. Sauté with garlic or mix into salads for a spicy kick. We love Mizuna as a very fast growing small mustard, perfect for spicing up salads.
Growing your greens isn't just about the harvest; it's about connecting directly with the ground, enjoying fresher flavors, and adding good nutrition to your diet. Whether you stick to the familiar and reliable, or explore the unusual and new-to-you, each green brings its own set of benefits to the table - both nutritionally and culinarily. This spring, make room in your garden for these versatile, delicious, and easy-to-grow plants. We dare you to try something new this year! 🙂