Growing your own vegetables this spring and summer will provide you and your family with delicious vegetables and healthy exercise. By combining a little planning and some labor, you’ll reap a bountiful harvest all summer long.
From lush, green vegetables for salads, fragrant herbs for cooking, to juicy and ripe tomatoes and crisp peppers. By choosing varieties with a long history of success in the home garden, there will be less crop failure and disappointment.
Great Garden Greens: These provide more nutrition per square foot than any other garden crop. They only require full sun and moist soil. You can start out with easy to grow lettuce, spinach, chard and kale. These are considered early spring vegetables and can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. Usually, this is the 2nd or 3rd week in March. Most leafy green vegetables are easy to grow from seed. If you’re new to gardening, you may want to plant purchased seedlings the first year. In addition to seed packets, garden centers and nurseries will have a variety of leafy greens sold in 12 packs. These are garden ready, and can be planted right away.
Best varieties of lettuce- red sails, butter crunch, black seeded simpson and romaine
Best varieties of kale- red Russian, lacinato, redbor, and Blue Ridge dwarf kale
Best varieties of chard- ruby red, bright lights, and the Heirloom variety- Lucullus
Best varieties of spinach- giant noble, bloomsdale, Teton, Indian Summer
These vegetables can be grown in planters, containers or pots at least 16″ deep as well as in the garden.
In addition to growing individual varieties of lettuce, look for lettuce seed mixtures that include a blend of red and green varieties or the 12 pack of plants that offer 3-4 of each.
Grow kale, chard, spinach together in the same garden section or large planters. These plants will “grow up together” and produce delicious and healthy greens for salads, stir fry, soups and casseroles. Prepare the garden beds or the planters and sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil. Tamp the soil down with the back of rake so that the seeds make contact with the soil. They should sprout in about a week depending on soil temperature and climate. You can always fill planters with good quality potting soil, moisten it, and sprinkle the seeds on top. Place the planters in a sunny area, deck, porch, etc. They’ll grow and produce just as well as the garden planted seeds.
Harvesting leafy greens: Kale’s large, upright leaves are easy to harvest. Snip out the bottom or outer leaves, and the plants will keep growing and sending up new leaves from the center. The same for spinach, chard and lettuce. Cut larger leaves for cooking and smaller leaves for salads. Always leaves a few leaves so the plants will continue to grow. Keep the garden beds tidy, and remove any yellow leaves and stems left after harvest. The plants will be healthier, nicer to look at and produce much longer.
I’m often asked do I give my plants any fertilizer? If you’ve been at this site for three years, then you know I try to grow vegetables and herbs organically. I have nothing against synthetic fertilizers, except to say, that vegetables and herbs taste better if you don’t use high nitrogen fertilizers. I like organic plant foods, fish emulsion, liquid seaweed, those types of plant foods. Leafy green vegetables love compost and grow amazingly when it’s applied. I also apply plain black coffee, diluted of course. Lettuce responds to it with rapid growth. You can add 3 tablespoons of sugar to a gallon of warm water, stir and pour this starter fertilizer on spinach and kale. They love sugar. Later on, I’ll post some plant food formulas for use in the vegetable and herb garden.
Speaking of herbs – parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary and lavender can handle chilly temperatures. These five herbs can be planted on or around the 15th of March.
Next, I’ll write about summer vegetables, how to choose the best varieties, preparing the soil for summer, companion planting and getting the most from the home garden.
Blessed be, sweet ones