Growing Greens!

Hardy, productive, and delicious, growing greens is one of the easiest decisions you can make when you're putting in a vegetable garden.

| January/February 1980

Greens must be just about the easiest possible crop for the home gardener to grow and prepare. Not only do the tasty potherbs—which range in flavor from pungent to mild— practically raise them selves, but they're also extremely economical (a small packet of seeds can keep you stocked with fresh victuals for months!).

What's more, the leaf vegetables are amazingly nutritious: A one-cup cooked serving of most greens contains lots of iron and calcium, several B vitamins, more vitamin C than an orange, nearly a full day's supply of vitamin A ... and less than 20 calories!

And if those advantages aren't enough to make you put down this magazine, run out into the snow, and start staking out next spring's greens patch ... consider this: Many of the "bile up and eat" garden wonders are also very frost-resistant. In fact, some potherbs (kale, for instance) are such sturdy weather beaters that—if you started growing greens in your garden last summer—you could be harvesting perfectly tasty fronds right now! (And I do too know what month this is!)

Of course, there're plenty of different greens crops, and each has its own peculiar growing needs and eating flavor. But before I whet your appetite by telling you about individual "leafers"—from India mustard to bok choy—let me share a bit of general greens-growin' how-to. Naturally, this information won't apply to every single species of fronded foodstuff (for example, New Zealand spinach thrives during hot weather, but dies quickly when hit by a frost ... while most greens favor cool days and become bitter when the air gets too hot). My potherb primer will, however, serve as a basic planting, harvesting, and cooking guide.

Greens: How to Grow 'Em

Most greens seeds can be sowed as soon as the soil can be worked (just as the seed packets say), which—in many parts of the country—will turn out to be six or eight weeks before the anticipated date for the last spring frost. The potherb kernels should be worked into rich, well composted soil ... to encourage fast growth (rapid maturing promotes both the flavor and tenderness of greens). Sow the seeds in rows that are a foot or more apart. And be generous when you spread those pellets. (That way, when your thickly sprouted rows need thinning ... you'll actually be gathering your first batch of young, juicy greens!)

Later, if the weather suddenly turns cold after you plant, simply protect your potherb beds by insulating them with burlap bags or old newspapers weighted down at the edges with rocks. (Remove these blankets when the sprouts appear.)

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