If you’re looking for a way to save on grocery bills while reducing your carbon footprint, growing your own vegetable garden can be a fabulous and rewarding endeavor. Follow these tips to learn how to successfully grow your own greens.
Choose the right greens
First, you’ll need to choose which greens you’d like to grow. Vegetable salads have come a long way in the last decade, and you can choose from a wide variety of greens to grow, aside from the ubiquitous iceberg and romaine lettuces. These and other leafy greens, like kale, spinach, mustard and arugula, are fairly easy to grow and extra-tasty when fresh from the garden.
Aside from choosing your favorite greens, be sure to take your hometown’s climate into account when selecting which plants to grow. Do some research to identify what kind of temperature and care each of your chosen plants will need (start with the USDA’s Hardizone Zone map for general climate info). Pay attention to how much shade, sunlight and watering each vegetable requires so you will be able to care for them properly.
Once you’ve chosen your greens, you can pick up seedlings in a local nursery, farmer’s market or home improvement store. If you prefer to grow your greens from seeds, select packets that include instructions for good germination.
Plant your garden
If you’re working with seeds, follow the instructions on the packet to bring the seeds to germination. Depending on the veggie type, you’ll likely need to plant the seeds inside, in a small pot or shallow container, and then transfer them to the outdoors after they sprout. Tools like rockwool cubes, grow lights and a small fan, can help you provide the ideal conditions for your seeds.
If you’re working with seedlings, prepare a garden bed or pot with fertilized, moist soil for planting. Dig just a bit to plant the seedling, allowing space to cover the seedling with approximately ¼ inch of soil. Working gently, tamp down the soil around the seedling so there’s strong contact between the seedling’s roots and the soil.
Your greens are ready to grow!
Let your garden grow
Now that you have planted your greens, it’s important to take good care of them to ensure that they grow healthy and strong.
The most important factors to consider when caring for your greens are water, sunlight and soil. Most greens prefer consistently moist soil, so be sure to water your plants regularly. However, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Additionally, make sure your greens are getting enough sunlight. Most greens prefer at least six hours of sunlight per day, but some varieties, like lettuce, prefer partial shade. Finally, make sure your greens are growing in good soil that is nutrient-rich. If you’re planting in pots, use a high-quality potting mix. If you’ve planted in the ground, upgrade your soil with compost or other organic matter to improve its quality.
Harvesting your greens
The best part of growing your own greens is getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Most greens can be harvested once they’ve reached their desired size, usually around 4-6 weeks after planting. Don’t wait for the plants to bolt (send up flower stalks), or you’ll be left with bitter greens.
To harvest your greens, use a pair of scissors to snip off the leaves at the base of the plant. Be sure to leave some leaves on the plant so it can continue to produce new growth. When harvesting your greens, it’s important to do so in the morning when they are at their freshest. Store your greens in the refrigerator in an air-tight plastic bag or container to keep them fresh for up to a week. Alternatively, you can use your greens immediately for a perfectly fresh garden salad.
Growing your own greens is a uniquely rewarding experience, and it’s great for the environment, too. Follow these tips to successfully grow your own greens.
Your Turn: Do you have a green thumb? Tell us your secrets to growing a beautiful garden in the comments.