Don’t forget about the baby greens
Imagine being completely self-sufficient in leafy greens and salad greens from April onwards, just because you took the chance and started sowing when you’re not “supposed” to.
Many of us feel inspired by the pretty pictures on the seed bags. Big, beautiful vegetables, just as we’re used to seeing them. When I’m sharing my own pictures of my early harvested leafy greens and other spring vegetables, many of you wonder what on earth I’ve done. What are we eating and how was I able to start growing the vegetables so soon, or so late?
I always set aside some space in my kitchen garden for fast-growing vegetables. I often assign my best and most well-protected spaces to these projects. I use this space for large amounts of vegetables that I harvest long before they start looking as large and flashy as they do in the books and magazines. But on the plus side, these vegetables are ready to harvest very early in the season compared to the full-grown ones.
Kale, black kale, pak choi, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and spinach are some of my favorite vegetables for an early harvest of green leaves. You could of course also sow these vegetables in the end of summer and harvest them later in the fall.
If you want to, you can sow all of these vegetables during winter. The seeds grow when the temperature in the ground is right and it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it outside, in a pallet collar with a cover or in a greenhouse. I don’t worry much about the process when I start early. I don’t feel the need to keep an eye on the temperature of the soil or think much about whether or not it will rain and then freeze. I just trust that my seeds will know when it’s time to grow. They’re usually never wrong.
Tight row sowing
These vegetables are not meant to grow large in the garden beds. I’m only interested in the small baby greens with this batch. The little leaves don’t require that much space, so I can grow them quite close together. I usually just create a row and then scatter my seeds. I cover the seeds with soil and water them (if it’s not too cold, then I need to wait a bit).
My seeds will grow into a tight row of little plants and I harvest them as soon as they produce their first leaves. The sooner I sow, the sooner I can start harvesting. That’s why I don’t hold back on my winter sowings and fill the entire polytunnel (and more) if there’s available space. I always crave fresh salad greens after a long winter, that’s why I grow so much of it.
Harvesting these early leaves is really simple. I just cut them off and leave the plants in the soil. That way, the plant grows back up and produces a new harvest just a few weeks later.
But does it work?
I know all of this might sound really strange to all of you who like doing things the traditional way. You might wonder what the point is. And does it really work in gardens further north?
There are of course no guarantees that it will work. But what if it does? What if you give it a try and realize that you can be self-sufficient in salad greens from April onwards. What if the “right way” isn’t the only way?
You can start growing little baby greens wherever you are, in winter, spring or summer. So go find those olds seed bags somewhere in the garage and use them in the open field, a pallet collar or the greenhouse. It only takes a few weeks and then you can start putting black kale on your sandwich, spinach in your dressing and cauliflower greens in your omelet.
I just want to clarify that this article is about growing cauliflower and broccoli for their leaves only. Good luck!