According to expert gardeners and other professionals in the industry, leaves are the most edible parts of leafy green vegetables. In fact, leaves of some dark leafy green vegetables are even eaten fresh as salads. Some of the most common leafy green vegetables include spinach, Swiss chard, Kale, Collards, Lettuce and Turnip Greens.
However, there are also some other leafy green vegetables which have become extremely popular. These include Arugula, Mustard Greens, Dandelion, Cres, Asian vegetables and Mache. In recent years, dark leafy green have been getting quite popular in home gardens. In this post, we’ve discussed basic steps you should take to grow dark leafy green in the garden.
Growing Dark Leafy Greens in Your Garden
Most expert gardeners recommend planting dark leafy greens in a location which gets full Sun. These vegetables should be grown near a water source in fertile soil. Before you plan the next few steps of growing dark leafy greens, you should test the soil. It is also important to apply compost or well rotted manure into the soil.
In case the soil test shows a higher concentration of phosphorus, you should consider using no or low phosphorus fertilizers. Dark leafy greens require soil pH ranging between 6-6.5. Spinach is the only exception which needs soil pH ranging between 6.4-6.8. You should apply about 3 pounds of fertilizer like 10-10-10 per 100 square feet area.
It is also important to dress the area once with 1 pound of fertilizer like 10-10-10 per 25 square feet area. This should be done 2-3 weeks after planting or transplanting in soils which were tested in the last couple of years. You should never use fertilizer which contains weed killer. In order to reduce soil-borne diseases, you should practice crop rotation.
Except Collards, Kale, Swiss Chard and Lettuce, dark leafy greens are direct seeded. You can start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before transplanting. This would be around late March or early April. You also need to harden seedlings. This can be done by exposing them to external elements of the outdoor environment about 2-3 days before transplanting.
You should always transplant Collards and Kale about 8 inches apart from each other. Similarly, Bibb and Leaf lettuce need to be about 12 inches apart. Head lettuce should be 10-12 inches apart. Last but not the least, Swiss Chard should be about 4-6 inches apart. Swiss Chard should be grown in rows which are about 18 inches apart.
You should direct seed Lettuce, Kale, Spinach and Collards as soon as you can work the ground in early spring. This should also be done about 2-3 months before the date of fall frost. You need to plant the seeds about 1/4th to 1/2nd inch deep in various rows which are about 18-30 inches apart. Once plants emerge, you should thin Leaf Lettuce, Collards, Bibb Lettuce and Kale about 8-12 inches apart.
It is very important to thin Swiss Chard to about 4-6 inches apart. Similarly, Spinach should be thinned about 2-4 inches apart. Spinach needs to be planted about 1-2 weeks until the temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows continuous harvesting during the entire growing season.
It is extremely important to control the weeds by cultivation or hand pulling. However, you should not dig deep very close to the base of your plants. This will help you avoid root injury. Dark leafy greens can even be mulched with a 3-4 inches layer of herbicide-free grass clippings. You can also use weed-free straw. This will help you suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.
Most dark leafy greens are shallow rooted. Thus, they need about 1 inch water every week. This will depend on the amount of rainfall your area receives in a week. You can also water these plants with soaker hoses, watering cans and sprinkler irrigation.
It is always better to water your plants in the morning. This will make sure leaves dry up properly throughout the day. It will minimize certain incidences of basic foliar diseases. You may need a high watering frequency in sandy loam soils as compared to clay loam soils.
Aphids can be a major problem in leafy greens. Such problems can be easily controlled by using hoses for watering leaves. They can also be resolved by natural attackers like ladybird beetles. Flea beetles and cabbage worms can also cause some damage to these plants. In order to protect your plants from such damage, you should cover the plants with row covers when flea beetles and moths fly around your garden. You should gather more information about other diseases which may affect dark leafy greens.
It is much better to harvest single leaves once they’ve reached usable size. You should discard any yellow, bruised or diseased leaves. Collards need to be harvested by removing its outer leaves. While harvesting Spinach, you need to cut the dark green outer leaves. These may be 3-6 inches long. Swiss Chard is also harvested by removing the outer leaves. The same is true for Mustard greens, Turnip Greens and Kale. Before storing or cooking dark leafy greens, you should wash them properly.
Tools Required to Grow Leafy Greens in the Garden
With proper tools, you’re able to enjoy more efficiency and comfort. This will mean way less work for you. Some of the most important tools include:
- Gardening Gloves
- Sun hat
- Watering hose
- Roundhead shovel
- Rake Shears
Renting tools can be an excellent choice. It will not only help you save some money, but also make sure that you get high quality products to grow dark leafy greens in your garden.
While trying to grow dark leafy greens or handling other gardening projects, you can not overlook the importance of choosing the right tools. It is extremely important to use appropriate tools to make your task easier and less time consuming. Proper tools also make sure there’s no unintentional damage to your vegetables or other areas of the garden.