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How to Grow Your Own Baby Greens

Updated on February 23, 2015
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Mixed baby greens

Little green leaves of kale, spinach and lettuce can be picked at 4 to 6 inches tall.
Little green leaves of kale, spinach and lettuce can be picked at 4 to 6 inches tall. | Source

Why grow baby greens?

Baby greens are a fast growing burst of colorful mixed greens. Leafy greens, like spinach, kale and lettuces make baby greens one of the healthiest vegetables. Red and dark green leafy vegetables (like spinach and chard) are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, antioxidants and vitamin B6.

Baby Greens are generally high in iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, carotenoids and A, B, C, E and K. Leafy greens are fast growing, meaning you will have more harvests, more frequently than fully mature vegetables.

In addition to being good for you, it's fun. Sprinkle a few seeds of mesclun (mixed salad greens) in the garden patch and wait for the surprise. You never know what will come up in you garden spot. Maybe spinach, a tangy arugula or, some wild looking frilly lettuces.

Americans eat about 33 pounds of lettuce per year on average.

A 2-cup portion of generic baby spring mix contains 15 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of protein and zero grams of fat, according to LIVESTRONG.COM

Baby Chinese Greens

Baby Pak Choi seedlings make good greens for salads or stir frys.
Baby Pak Choi seedlings make good greens for salads or stir frys. | Source

How to grow your own baby greens

Baby greens are the small, young and tender varieties of the same mature salad greens that you usually buy or grow. Harvesting salad greens while they are small means you can have them much more frequently – because it takes less time to grow baby leaves.

Growing your own baby greens has several advantages. Small plants harvested early don't travel well because they a fragile. Traveling from your back yard to the kitchen with the harvest means you get the freshest and most flavorful produce available.

If you grow baby greens as opposed to buying them means you can customize your varieties with every crop. Simply grow the one green you really love. For example, Spinach is my favorite. It is possible to have a small, steady crop of spinach leaves in an AeroGarden. Or, try a more affordable indoor version of any bright grow light system.

Nutrient Dense Baby Greens

Select a few packets of fancy greens. You are about to become a Baby Greens Gourmand

Cut outer lettuce leaves when 4" - 6" tall

Thin lettuce seedlings, then remove outer leaves of remaining plants.
Thin lettuce seedlings, then remove outer leaves of remaining plants. | Source

Choosing baby greens

A good way to begin, is to plant a mesclun salad mix. As the little leaves grow, you will be able to tell which varieties you like by tasting the baby plants individually. For instance, baby Pak Choi will taste like a milder version of that plant. Chinese cabbages and greens are a cinch to grow as baby produce.

Try these cool season garden favorites. Turnip greens, nappa cabbage and arugula can be grown as baby salad greens. Or try kales, arugula and, frisee. The point is, don't limit yourself to lettuce. Assertive greens like kale or mustard are very mild when young.

Baby spinach is a favorite of many gardeners. Don't plant just one variety if you love it. There are several varieties of spinach, which will help to stretch the spinach harvest. Sowing a few seed every few weeks will keep you in tender baby spinaches most of the year.

The heirloom, Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds $2.50.) is still one of the best selling spinaches around. Starting seed extra early under a row cover may produce a first crop of baby spinach leaves for your salad plate. A last minute harvest of baby spinach might also stretch the fall cool season crops longer than you imagined.

Start seed for baby greens where you intend the plants to grow. Attempting to move or transplant these little seedlings is difficult and not recommended. Inside make sure you have a bright grow light set up or a specific system such as AeroGarden.

More than lettuce

Try baby turnip greens, kale and cabbage,
Try baby turnip greens, kale and cabbage, | Source

Planting Baby Greens

Use what you have, try some saved seed or what you intend to grow as regular sized vegetable in spring. I like "Beet and Chard Braising Mix" greens from Renee's Garden. For the cost of one seed packet, $2.79, you will be able to grow several plantings of baby leaf salads.

I like this baby greens mix: Gourmet Greens Seed Collection from Botanical Interests for $1.39. This is generous mix that grows well under lights or under a row cover here in my zone 6A garden patch.

Nichols Organic Mesclun "The Eclectic Eleven" includes red and green lettuces, red mustard, mizuna, endive, kale and cress, eleven different varieties in all. $4.75 It's so fun to see what comes up next in the packet of vigorous seed.

The cost of a plastic container filled with baby leaf greens is shocking. You can afford to grow gourmet baby lettuces and mixed greens year round for the cost of a few weeks worth grocery store purchases.

Plant a small patch or just a few feet of a row every two weeks to stretch the growing season. Make sure the patch or row you intend to plant is free from garden trash, stones, or uncomposted plant matter.

The planting space should be in full mostly sun to sun with moist, well-drained soil.

The seeds of small leafed greens are tiny; it is easy to sow them too thickly. Sprinkle a few seed on top of the soil. Dust area with a thin 1/8” covering of potting soil or compost. Gently pat soil down.

Lightly water the area. Choose a small watering can with a rosette and apply water lightly. A burst from the hose will wash away your well-distributed seeds.

So, peruse those seed catalogs and select a few packets of fancy greens. You are about to become a Baby Greens Gourmand.

Seed Sources

There are many more good seed companies out there. These are some of the companies where I have purchased seeds or plants with prompt turn around, high seed germination, plenty of seeds and a good harvest.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    I think container gardening - gardening in 5 gallone buckets is the way to go. Thank you for the comment.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Global warming is stretching the limitations of our gtowing season. My next project is a cold frame for year round greens. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • Lilleyth profile image

    Suzanne Sheffield 

    5 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

    Thumbs up. This time of year it is nice to pluck a few little green leaves out of a pot on the windowsill.

  • patchofearth profile image

    Rebecca Long 

    5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

    Great tips. I am always looking for inexpensive ways to keep fresh healthy foods in my diet.

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