We are entering my favorite gardening season. Temperatures are more bearable, rain arrives occasionally, the searing winds have settled, and it is a delight to be able to stay in the garden for hours rather than minutes. Now is a great time to plant our winter gardens — with an emphasis on winter greens.
I have always reserved an area in a raised bed for a garden of winter greens. Lately, I’ve had success with an old leaky horse trough filled with good soil to about six inches below the rim. Keeping the soil below the rim gives me space to cover the trough when it is really cold without crushing the greens. In addition, the plants receive the reflected heat of the metal trough.
However, plants take time to grow, and those of us stressed for time may desire quicker results for our efforts. Getting food to the plate efficiently is a goal of many home vegetable gardeners. To encourage success in the effort to at least garnish a plate from the garden, choose vegetables, herbs, and flowers that can grow from seed to plate in 30 days or fewer.
However, before we get to the magic of growing our own food within a month’s time, we must have a well-chosen garden space. Select a convenient site that receives at least half a day of sun throughout the fall and winter months. Select a garden bed or a low and wide container (pot, trough, tub). Place the container in a sunny sheltered spot, such as along an east, west, or south wall. Also, have a plan to cover the container or garden bed on the coldest days and nights of winter. Loosen the soil and add compost and slow-release fertilizer for a
Or, stir up a mix of quality potting soil and compost with slow-release fertilizer to fill a container. Now you are ready to plant seed.
When purchasing seeds for speedy results, take time to read the fine print on seed packets. Not all vegetables within a species produce at the same rate. For example, search for seeds that grow dwarf or “baby” plants and vegetables quickly. When reading the packets, look for the length of time until germination and until harvest (if both are provided). Choose vegetables based on your tastes or a seed mix.
Before planting, measure the temperature of the soil with a soil thermometer. These usually can be purchased at a local garden store such as Guzman’s Color Your World. Some plants, such as spinach, will not germinate if the soil is warmer than 75 degrees, while basil will not germinate if the soil is cooler than that. Many vegetables and herbs can germinate in soil as cold as 40 degrees. Follow the seed packet instructions for planting depth, sow the seeds, then water lightly every day until the seeds germinate.
Microgreens in 10 – 15 days
Microgreens are sprouted seeds that have been allowed to grow to the stage at which they have visible leaves. Plant seeds at the depth recommended and keep them moist until they germinate. Harvest when a couple of leaves have developed. Microgreens provide diverse flavors and add color and texture to any dish. Research shows microgreens are packed with nutrients.
Radishes, turnips, and beets can be harvested as microgreens or left to grow to harvest for leaves or vegetables. For example, you can harvest mustard greens at the microgreen stage, baby leaf stage, or at maturity.
Microgreens can include radishes, turnips, beets, collards, mustard, kale, arugula, basil, lettuce, watercress, tatsoi,
broccoli, cilantro, and cabbage
More microgreens, shoots, and leaves in 14 – 21 days
Some seeds require more days to germinate than microgreens or take more time to develop shoots and leaves. Plant a variety of herbs, such as basil, cilantro, chive, or dill for microgreens or leaves. Plants that provide flavorful greens include bok choy, mustard, and arugula. These plants and herbs make excellent microgreens and greens with flavors from sweet to peppery and textures from tender to crunchy.
Many vegetables, herbs, and even some flowers (such as sunflowers) can be grown for the young shoots.
Peas also can be grown for pea shoots, with sugar pod and snow peas being the easiest to grow. If planted thickly in a space with room to grow, a gardener can thin or cut the shoots for the table when they are about six to eight inches tall and allow some seedlings to grow to maturity to harvest the peas.
Plant radishes, beets (such as Chioggia, baby ball, and baby beet), turnips (such as purple top), and a rainbow of leaf lettuces. For those who treasure greens, radish, beet, and turnip greens can be harvested as baby greens or they can be allowed to grow into baby vegetables.
Leafy greens and vegetables in 30 days
Start these vegetables and greens knowing it will take a bit longer for results, or grow them for greens and baby vegetables. Growing mature greens, such as kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and many lettuces may require up to a full 30 days.
Carrots, beets, turnips, and some radishes can be harvested as baby vegetables within three to four weeks. Spring onions (or scallions) can be harvested as stems within weeks, but also can be allowed to grow throughout the cold months to produce bulbs. If snow peas and snap peas were not harvested at the shoot stage, they will be producing seed pods.
Black Seeded Simpson, buttercrunch, salad bowl, red sails, Parris Island, and lettuce or mesclun blends may be harvested throughout winter — especially if we have a mild winter and the gardener covers the greens at night.
Of course, many of our annual flowers look quite pitiful now. You might find it refreshing to find a sheltered garden bed space or large pot to plant marigold, cosmos, and zinnia, which can sprout and bloom before the first frost.
If the inviting fall days are tempting you outdoors, grab this opportunity to plant vegetables and herbs to snip fresh throughout the cold months. On a dreary winter day, many of us crave some vibrant color on our plates. Delight all your senses and grow your own this winter!
Story by Jackye Meinecke
Photos by Adobe Stock Images
Originally published in Neighbors magazine
Posted by LasCruces.com