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Guide to Growing Baby Greens for Good Health

Updated on February 18, 2017
Ilonagarden profile image

Ilona has gardened actively for most of her life, and been a writer and webmaster online since 1998. Homeschooled all 10 of her children.

Homegrown Salad Mix

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Tasty Salad Greens from Your Own Garden

One of the first crops most of us try (and most of us have success with) are salad greens. Because they are so simple to grow they give us an instant sense of garden success.

Greens are sometimes so easy that we forget how vital they can be to our menus, both in nutrient value and tastiness.

If you have never tried to grow your own salad greens this may be just the motivation you need to launch into one of the most rewarding crops of the vegetable garden.

Cool Season

Usually "cool season" crops which are planted and grown either early in spring or later at the end of summer, salad greens taste best harvested while the temperatures are still somewhat 'cool'. There are a few things we eat as "greens" which are suitable for the summer, too.

We all need more green leafy vegetables in our diet and we might be more tempted by them if we had them fresh and homegrown.

Pluck them young for gourmet "baby greens".

Usually, vegetable seedlings need "thinning out ", which is removing the extras to make the ideal spacing. Don't waste these, as thinnings are actually baby greens for your salads and sandwiches.

Why Grow in 'Cool Season' ?

Hot Temperatures cause most salad plants to "bolt" and turn bitter in taste.

In many climate zones, these are are planted in early spring and late summer for fall harvests.

If you garden in mild climates, even winter can be considered for growing your greens.

Seeds are Available Online

Get good quality seed., they are easy to buy online. I prefer dealing with a company I know.
Get good quality seed., they are easy to buy online. I prefer dealing with a company I know. | Source

Why Grow Your Own Salad Greens?

Because it is so fresh and easy!

Salad greens taste best fresh, and the nutrients are most potent in really freshly harvested greens, since many vitamins are lost to temperature and storage conditions.

There is nothing easier than growing some radishes and lettuce, and all the rest of the greens are just as easy. Because you harvest them quickly they are less of a problem to maintain... not likely for much in the way of wilt, disease, or bug problems (although there are no guarantees- as any gardener knows).

Containers

If you have a box- even old wine boxes have been used, if you have a large container... even if all you have is a sturdy plastic soil bag... all have been used as quick and easy places to sow some salad greens seeds for a table of plenty. Plenty, because another great thing about growing greens is the way you harvest them: cut and come again. Cut off the tops and let them keep growing, you will have a second cutting or more before hot temperatures kick in.

Wash Before Eating

Drawback? Well, you might want to wash your greens a little more carefully than if you buy pre-washed salads from the grocery. Not because of pesticides or such, but because there might be a few unwanted critters and maybe some rain-splashed grit, that you wish to rinse away.

3 Ingredients for Success

(1) Sun, (2) fertile soil, and (3) regular moisture

If you have these three conditions (or can provide them) raising this crop is a cinch.

Mesclun Mix

Radishes, and other seeds can be sprouted indoors, too.
Radishes, and other seeds can be sprouted indoors, too. | Source

How to Grow Instructions For Salad Greens

Look on the seed packet for the names of the varieties included in your mix.

In the garden:

Emerges in 5-10 days | Plant Seed 1/8" deep for lots of baby greens

  1. Choose a sunny spot.
  2. Although they may grow with less, try to locate your planting area where the salad plants get full sun.
  3. Choose a nitrogen rich fertilizer.
  4. Choose a fertilizer with proportionally more nitrogen, the first number listed in (N-P-K) most fertilizer formulations.
  5. Green leaves need lots of the nutrient nitrogen.
  6. Plant for cool season growth.
  7. Early March through April are good times to plant greens. Late August can be another time to seed the plantings for a fall garden harvest.
  8. Leafy greens need moisture to sprout and grow.
  • The spring usually has spring rains for good growth, but be sure to water when going through a dry spell.
  • The late garden needs extra watering while seeds sprout and small plants are growing, until the rains begin to be more regular to keep the ground moist enough for a good salad crop.


Start with Organic Seed

Seeds of Change Certified Organic Salad Mix, Mesclun - 900 milligrams, 500 Seeds Pack
Seeds of Change Certified Organic Salad Mix, Mesclun - 900 milligrams, 500 Seeds Pack

Organic! A Mesclun mix that will grow easily and give you a well balanced mix of delicious greens.

Try this for a complete range of tasty baby greens. the amount of seed is generous, and can be stored until next season in a cool place if you don't use it all.

 

Lettuce How-To Tutorial

Narrow Beds Near the Kitchen Door

No one needs large amounts of space to raise this crop. Find an area one to two feet wide and about four feet long for a generous supply.
No one needs large amounts of space to raise this crop. Find an area one to two feet wide and about four feet long for a generous supply.

Very Easy to Grow from Seed

Any greens, including lettuces are extremely easy to grow from seed. No special instructions just sow the seed and keep moist.

Greens are cool weather crops which means they grow best in the cooler temperatures of early spring and fall.

Some climates are good for winter growing, but during hot summers the lettuces and such plants "bolt" or turn quickly to seed producing which turns the leaves somewhat bitter.

Even a Child Can Do This

I often recommend this crop for a child's garden because the rate of success is so high- it is almost guaranteed. The satisfaction of the fast germination time and growth, plus the excitement that comes from eating your very own homegrown harvest is an unbeatable combination of reasons to have a small patch of salad greens.



Any Level of Gardening Skill

Is vegetable gardening new to you or are you an old pro?

Leafy greens are some of the easiest and most productive crops to grow. The only real drawback is the heat of summer curtails harvest at that time.

Herbs and Greens that You Grow Yourself

Would you like to eat more green leafy vegetables? Try growing a wide selection. Include herbs if your seed mix doesn't already have them. They add a little extra something to the taste.
Would you like to eat more green leafy vegetables? Try growing a wide selection. Include herbs if your seed mix doesn't already have them. They add a little extra something to the taste.
How to Grow Greens: A gardeners guide to growing cabbages, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, lettuce, cauliflower and spinach, with step-by-step techniques and over 150 photographs
How to Grow Greens: A gardeners guide to growing cabbages, brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, lettuce, cauliflower and spinach, with step-by-step techniques and over 150 photographs

You'd be surprised how much difference some simple skills make in growing a good garden harvest. You can take a short cut to success by learning from those who have been there already!

 

What Plants Are "Greens"?

Lettuce, spinach, arugula, endive and escarole, chicory, and bok choy all are plants to include in your greens list. They are often sold in pre-selected combinations called 'Mesclun'.

If you grow 'Mesclun' mixes you might have any number of quick growing plants for their leafy green harvest:, including named varieties.

Mesclun Greens May Contain Any of These Salad Plants

  • 'Ruby' lettuce
  • 'Red Salad Bowl' lettuce
  • 'Red Treviso' radicchio
  • Curled chervil
  • 'Green Ice' lettuce
  • Paris White Cos' lettuce
  • 'Royal Oak Leaf' lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Mizuna
  • 'Rocket' arugula
  • 'Green Curled' endive
  • Radicchio
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Endive
  • Corn Salad
  • Orach


AS AN EXAMPLE:

Usually a seed packet will state the percentage of types of plants included.

"Lettuce Mesclun Farmer's Market Blend Seed"
From Botanical Interest contains:
Tango 15%, Royal Oak Leaf 15%, Red Salad Bowl 32%, Black Seeded Simpson 15%, Grand Rapids TBR 15%, Red Sails 8%.

That is a varied assortment of shapes, tastes, and color to add interest to a salad bowl.


Grow Herbs for Salad Mixes

Parsley, chives, cilantro are all included in  Spring mixes
Parsley, chives, cilantro are all included in Spring mixes | Source

Ever Grown Your Greens?

Have you grown your own salad greens before?

See results

Swiss Chard

Tip: Swiss Chard handles warmer temperatures through the summer than most greens. It makes a good substitution for Spinach.

It is also quite hardy and tolerates frosts. Plant it at the same time as the lettuces, but harvest longer.

It is also very cold hardy and can extend the season into late fall/early winter.

Green Ways to Recycle

Use recycled boxes as containers, compost kitchen scraps for enriching the soil.
Use recycled boxes as containers, compost kitchen scraps for enriching the soil. | Source

Organic Garden Hints and Tips

  1. Compost and bagged manure provide nitrogen.
  2. Plant seeds about one half inch deep.
  3. Harvest lettuce leaves an inch above the soil line; simply use scissors.
  4. Organic Amendments for Your Salad Garden
  5. A little lime will sweeten your soil- use a pH test kit to see if you need it or not.

  6. Most salad greens prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 6.8.

  7. Plant Salad Greens In the Spring.

Some amendments you can use:

  • fish emulsion
  • seaweed emulsions
  • composted manures
  • greensand
  • micro-nutrients
  • crabwaste
  • bloodmeal
  • mushroom compost
  • leafmold
  • lime

Monterey Fish & Poop - Qt
Monterey Fish & Poop - Qt

Sounds disgusting, but this is what will inject plenty of nitrogen into the soil for the greenest green, organically. Boost your soil and get the maximum nutrients into your greens.

 

Try Growing Indoors, Too

Source

Find Out About Salad Greens to Grow All Year

Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic Growing from Pot to Plot
Salad Leaves For All Seasons: Organic Growing from Pot to Plot

Did you know there are all sorts of greens that you can grow in your garden for the entire year? Learn how to have fresh salad greens.

 

Do You Eat Enough Greens?

How often do you eat salads?

See results

You May Want to Know

Salad greens are about eighty percent water.

Colorful Gourmet Eating

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After Growing, Harvest and Eat!


Dress up the greens you grow with dressing and sesame seeds for crunch. Garnish with sprouts, which are easy to grow in your kitchen.


Green and Loving It - ..write your comments here

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    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Your green salad recipe with strawberries looks absolutely scrumptious. Thank you fro sharing it, and for sharing the growing tips.