Grow Delicious Greens
Vegetable gardening can seem intimidating and overwhelming to beginning growers, but with the right tools, a little time, patience, and experience, gardening can become second nature. How miraculous is it to think that a few seeds can produce such bounty throughout the season?
Now is the perfect time to plant easy-to-grow greens such as salad mix, spinach, collards, head lettuce, kale, chard, and mustard greens. These greens enjoy cool temperatures, well-drained soil, and full to partial sun and can be grown in many different ways: in pots or other containers, planted directly into a prepared patch of soil, or planted in raised beds. Most varieties can be planted together in heavily seeded rows where they can then be harvested as a young tender salad mix. With more spacing between seeds, greens can also be planted to reach their full potentials such as a head of lettuce, a rainbow chard plant, or a kale plant.
For a greens mix, try blending a variety of colors of lettuce, spinach, kale, and mustard greens. For beginning gardeners, this mix of seeds can simply be scattered into a container of semi-wet soil (2.5 – 5-gallon containers work fine but for greens, the wider the surface area the better) A layer of soil can then be scattered on the top of the seeds. The same technique can be applied to raised beds, though most gardeners prefer uniform rows in their garden beds.
If you are planning on planting directly into the ground this growing season, try sheet mulching! Sheet mulching builds healthy soils, reduces weed pressure, and retains moisture. Typically, sheet mulching is done in the fall so the garden bed is ready to go in the spring, but if you are crunched for time, it can be done in late winter or early spring.
1) Choose an area of your yard that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight.
2) Mark out the edges your future garden bed with stakes or sticks.
3) Add a layer of cardboard or burlap sacs on top of the grass of your defined garden area.
4) Add layers of fallen leaves, grass clippings, straw, black and white newspapers, and compost.
5) Top your garden bed with a layer of topsoil mixed with finished compost. There are places around the city to get soil for free, but it can also be bought in bags at your local garden center. Organic is best.
6) Place cardboard or burlap sacks around the perimeter of your garden bed to suppress weeds and keep grass from growing into your new garden bed.
7) Water the garden bed.
8) Allow your garden bed to sit for a week.
9) Plant your garden bed with seasonally appropriate seeds. I like to plant seeds or transplants continuously so that the garden bed is always full of plants.
10) Weed and water your garden regularly.
11) Harvest and enjoy the bounty.
Crystal Stevens is the author of Grow Create Inspire and Worms at Work. She is the Garden Manager and her husband Eric is the Farm Manager at EarthDance Organic Farm School, a 14 acre certified organic farm in Ferguson, MO whose mission is to grow food, farmers, and community one small farm at a time through hands-on education and delicious experiences. EarthDance offers an apprenticeship program and volunteer opportunities. Visit www.earthdancefarms.org for more information. Follow EarthDance on social media at EarthDance Organic Farm School on Facebook and @earthdancefarms on Instagram
Follow Crystal at @growcreateinspire.