With spring’s arrival, it’s prime time to plant lettuce and other leafy greens. These vegetables thrive amid April and early May’s cool temperatures whether they’re planted in a home vegetable garden, container garden or even a flower border.
Start planting now and you’ll be enjoying garden-fresh flavors and jewel-toned greens in no time.
Here are some tips to get your spring garden off to a sunny start.
Mesclun and European Salad Greens
Mesclun (mixed leaf lettuces) and European salad greens are both great choices for container gardens. Follow the directions on the seed packets, and in about 25 days you will be eating a tasty salad! Here’s how:
Sow the lettuce seeds in a container 4-6 inches deep and at least 1½ feet wide by 3 feet long.
Line the container with fine, plastic mesh to allow drainage. Use an organic potting mix, which has an Organic Research Material Institute label on the bag. This certifies that the mix is organic and safe to eat.
Be sure to keep the soil moist with light daily watering.
Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that only requires 4-5 hours a day of sunlight.
When the lettuce reaches 4-5 inches high, snip plants down to 1 inch. Allow the lettuce to “to-cut-and-come-again.” With any luck, you may get two to three harvests.
Kale, Chard and Endive
Kale, chard and endive seeds can be sown in a container, garden or transplanted into prepared soil that has been amended with organic matter. These greens require a minimum of eight hours of sun and must be kept moist with daily watering. The University of Maryland Home & Gardening Information Center recommends planting the following species: Dutch Verdura, Dwarf Scotch, Dwarf Siberian and Red Russian kale; Ruby Red, Fordhook and Rhubarb chard; Batavian and Green Curled endive. These species grow well in Maryland.
For best results, follow these instructions:
- Perform a soil test to determine the amount of the fertilizer to add.
- Read the seed packet to determine germination and harvesting times.
- Protect the garden bed from deer, rabbits and ground hogs with fencing and row covers (fine mesh span cloths supported by hoops).
- Plant seeds in containers 15 inches in diameter and at least one foot deep.
- It’s time to harvest when leaves are about the size of your hand. Kale will mature in about 55-70 days, if directly sown. If transplanted, it will mature in 30-40 days.
P.S. The Potato Project
Of course, they’re not green, but potatoes are planted in early spring. In fact, it’s an Irish tradition to plant potatoes on Mar. 17, St. Patrick’s Day. It’s highly recommended (and fun) to grow potatoes in a potato bag made of cloth. Potato bags have the capacity to hold 3-5 gallons of potatoes and can be purchased online or at a garden center. Try this at home:
- Use “seed potatoes” specifically grown for planting, not potatoes purchased at a supermarket for consumption. Some of the best varieties to use are Kennebec, Red Norland, Yukon Gold and Blue.
- To plant, pour 3-4 inches of compost in the bottom of the bag. Place seed potatoes loosely into the compost with the eyes of the potatoes pointing upward. Add 4-6 inches of compost
to cover the potatoes.
- When green leaves appear, cover them with 4-6 inches of compost. Place the potato bag in a bright, frost-free location that gets at least six hours a day of sun.
- Water plants regularly, whenever compost appears dry
- Feed potato plants with potato fertilizer every other week. Be sure to read the directions for fertilizing.
- Repeat this process until the soil level reaches two inches from the top of the container. Let the top leaves grow until they brown in the late summer.
- At harvest time, empty potatoes into a plastic bag, brush off the soil but do not wash them.
- Cure them for at least two weeks at around 55 degrees, then store at 40 degrees.
Enjoy your delicious potatoes!
Rebecca Brown began her career as a horticulturalist more than 25 years ago and studied at the New York Botanical Gardens. She has been a University of Maryland, Baltimore County master gardener for five years and is a backyard beekeeper. Norman Cohen is a retired chemist. He has been gardening for 38 years and has been a University of Maryland, Baltimore County master gardener for 10 years. Cohen also provides gardening education to the public at local farmers markets.
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