by Susan Berry.
Winter can be hard on ones soul and the taste buds. I have been craving greens for a two months now and finally gave in to temptation. The green house is full of trays and the tiny heads of seedlings. Cabbage, broccoli, romaine, butterhead, kale, spinach and spring mix. In a short two to four weeks I should be able to clip off some tender leaves of these beauties and make myself a delicious fresh salad.
No matter how cold it is or how much snow is on the ground you can grow leafy greens all Winter in either a greenhouse, cold frame of hoop house over a raised bed.
Greens are one of the easiest veggies to grow and will produce abundantly even in controlled growing conditions such as the ones mentioned. I use organic potting or garden soil that I buy in bags at the garden centers or home improvement stores. I simply fill a planting tray with the soil, broadcast the seeds and gently mist. Set them in the greenhouse or raised bed and use a heating bulb or small space heater to keep temp above 45 at night till the seeds germinate. When the seedlings have their second or third set of leaves you can let the night temps go as low as 40 degrees at night since most greens are cool weather crops. For more details on how to do this, see my previous post.
When the days get warmer and there is no more danger of frost, the plants can be transplanted into your gardens to keep producing and get even bigger through spring. Last year I was able to get many harvests directly from the seed trays for baby greens salads and then transplanted the romaine babies to the raised beds in April and got huge romaine heads in June. Talk about dual purpose veggies, it was a great year for lettuce.
Spinach seems to love confined growing, as I call it. It takes a bit longer to germinate but once it does it thrives and produces until July. Fortunately for me I love spinach salad and using spinach in many recipes. I have even direct sown spinach in October in a raised bed and mulched with leaves and snow. It keeps growing and bursts into great plants once temps start going up.
Try some greens now and chase away those winter blahs with a garden fresh salad.
Susan Berry is a New Englander who recently transplanted to North Carolina. She raises and sells organic asparagus crowns, raspberry and strawberry plants and offers them through her online store at www.itzybitzyfarm.com