Disease is a particularly important consideration when growing leafy greens because – as their name indicates – the delicate leaves are the part of the vegetable you’ll most likely want to eat.
Keep an eye out for any of these common diseases affecting your leafy green crop. Continue reading
If there can be a “hipster” vegetable of the moment, kale is certainly it these days. It’s hard to look over a menu in any upscale restaurant these days without seeing kale appearing as a side dish or “bed” for a couple of entrees. Continue reading
Planting leafy greens is exceptionally easy and for many variety results in both an ongoing harvest, as well as the opportunity for a second planting. Continue reading
“Leafy greens” is a generic term for a wide variety of vegetables. Depending on how you’re planning to grow, store and cook them, there are things to consider as you look to put the best leafy greens in your garden.
For one thing, you need to know the most popular and easy-to-grow leafy greens in North America. From this list you’ll be able to pick what’s right for you.
Planting leafy greens is exceptionally easy and for many variety results in both an ongoing harvest, as well as the opportunity for a second harvest in the same season. Some of the hardier varieties can be effectively overwintered, as well. Continue reading
Though leafy greens might seem too fragile for cooler temperatures, fall is in fact the best time to plant them in most United States hardiness zones. Many varieties prefer cooler weather. Continue reading
Overwintering is defined as the process by which you keep plants alive through a cold season. Normally they would die off, but overwintering keeps them going despite what Mother Nature says.
Why overwinter? Flower gardeners like to overwinter annuals to keep them growing and blooming season after season. The same can be done for fruits and vegetables, and that means organic food movements are encouraging the effort.
There are many benefits to using overwintering techniques.
Vegetables: Overwintering vegetable plants causes them to develop earlier in the spring and offer a harvest well before the plants typically would. Plants such as spinach, onions, and beans overwinter well and offer a delightful first taste of gardening season come March.
Indoors: Fruit plants, such as blueberries, lemons, and fig trees, overwinter well indoors and provide year-round fresh fruit at a low cost. Citrus trees such as meyer lemons, can be grown in a pot indoors in the winter and placed outdoors in full sun in the summer. Gardeners always benefit from having a touch of summer indoors during cooler months.
Helping you: Bringing flowering and green plants indoors to overwinter increases the oxygen and humidity in your home. Pops of color, growing life during months of dormancy, and fresh smells are all added benefits to your home when you choose to overwinter.
If you’re a new gardener, the easiest way to get started is with potted plants. Explore steps to begin by checking out the Avant Garden guide to overwintering.
Get the details on overwintering of these vegetables:
Spinach is a pretty cold-tolerant plant and is perfect for overwintering. When overwintering spinach choose varieties like Giant Winter, Tyee, and Viroflay that handle low temperatures and are more resistant to harsher conditions. Start these seeds about six weeks before the average first frost so that you can use plants about three to four inches wide in size. Use soil that is cooler when starting these seeds to avoid spotty germination caused by dry, warm, late summer soil.
When you choose where you will place your polytunnel or burlap shields, sow the young spinach plants about 1 inch apart. After two frosts you can cover the spinach beds with a combination of compost and straw and then lay the outer layer protective structure. If you live in a more mild winter climate you can forgo the protective structure but use additional straw to shield the spinach plants.
Check moisture levels throughout the winter and keep soil slightly moist. Be cognizant of overwatering to avoid root rot. Root rot causes oxygen deprivation from the plants’ roots, which will stunt growth or kill your crop. As days become longer and temperatures increase you can begin to remove little layers of straw every few weeks.
After all straw has been removed, your spinach crop is just weeks away. Encourage growth by spraying a fish emulsion mixture on your spinach bed. As leaves grow, pluck or cut them from plants and continue to do so as they replenish themselves. Be sure to thoroughly wash spinach leaves before using them in your cooking to avoid ingesting any germs or bacteria.
Cook your spinach with olive oil and garlic in a skillet for a delicious side dish. You can even use your own overwintered garlic (link to overwintering garlic post) for a delightful garden to table snack!
Radishes and turnips are quick to mature and will develop quickly after winter days grow longer and temperatures rise in through the spring. An added benefit of overwintering radishes and turnips is their resistance to pests and disease.
These plants appreciate well-drained soil that is loosened from a foot to 16 inches deep. Select a turnip-growing site that will get full sun when spring season arrives.
Plant seeds about a half inch deep when the first frost occurs and cover with a layer of compost and a thicker layer of straw. That should be enough to protect them from winter’s cold.
Throughout the winter keep the soil lightly moist. Don’t allow it to get overly moist or else root rot will set in. Root rot causes deprives plants of oxygen and can kill the plants or stunt their growth. Be sure to keep these beds weed-free. As temperatures begin to climb and winter winds die down, you can remove the straw layer over your garden bed.
These plants will see an initial harvest after six to eight weeks of growing. Mature harvests will be available about two and a half months after growth begins. Water plants at an average one inch of water weekly. Once harvested, turnips and radishes will store about two to three months in a cool, dark place.
Interested in overwintering other vegetables? Spinach, onions, and garlic are all great options!
Garlic, like onions and spinach, is a cold-tolerant and hardy plant that overwinters very well. Hardneck varieties are best for overwintering garlic, rather than the typical softneck supermarket varieties that you may be most familiar with. German Extra-Hardy garlic will store up to ten months, while Chesnok Red is best for baking and roasting.
Plant your garlic cloves in well-drained soil before the ground freezes. Place cloves flat side down and pointed side up in the soil. Cover with compost and a protective layer of straw. Consider adding leaves in so they break down and provide nutrients through the overwintering process. Garlic does not need the external protective structures, like polytunnels or greenhouses, like spinach and onions.
Once the last frost passes you are able to begin removing layers of straw from your garlic garden bed. Your garlic will begin to develop scapes, which indicate flowering is near. Cut them from the plants before they flower to energize bulb growth. Continue watering your garlic plants until their leaves begin to brown.
Once stems begin to collapse you can determine if your garlic is ready to harvest. Carefully dig in to check bulb size to see if it is on target with your variety. Don’t let bulbs sit underground too long or they will begin to rot. Once you remove bulbs you can use fresh cloves for cooking or store them for up to 9 or so months for use throughout the year. Save a few cloves to repeat the process all over again next year!