Growing Greens

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Happy 2019; I hope your year is off to a great start! I said I would do a couple of post on gardening in the New Year and thought it best to start off with one. Growing your own food doesn’t have to be scary and is certainly rewarding. I actually began growing by attending a fundraiser and participating in a ticket pull. While my goal was to win a bottle of wine, I instead won a few herb plants and my first tomato plant. After my first tomato came in, I was hooked and have been growing since then.

I’d like to start with lettuce since this is perfect weather to grow them in Louisiana and similar climates with temperatures at a low of 40 and high of 75 degrees. It’s important to note, soil PH is different in different areas and can even be different in your backyard. So finding the right spot to grow your crops is part of the discovery. You can always add compost and plant food with dirt when planting to create more PH balance.  I learned through trial and error that I do best growing in planters for crops like lettuce rather than in ground. Lettuce needs good drainage, sun with shade for part of the day and regular water. Once I found the right spot, the greens mostly took care of themselves.

I brought a rectangular planter and drilled holes in the bottom to support drainage. With a mix of potting mix, organic compost and organic chicken manure, I had a great growing environment. The fun came in adding rows of different seeds for a pretty interesting salad mix. I included red and green lettuce, arugula and mesclun seeds in the bed for my salad. With rain every few days, I have not had to water the planters. It’s important to make sure the box remains moist. Once they start to sprout, it takes three to four weeks to grow into tasty salad greens. *Note: Growing herbs like parsley and cilantro is not only easy, but make great salad additions.

Considering squirrels are frequent backyard visitors, I covered my greens with mesh netting to prevent nibbles. I have not had any problems with nibbles nor other pest impacting the greens; however if you do, there are organic sprays that can be used such as Garden Safe, which I did need for tomatoes this past summer.

I’d recommend only cutting what you need for a meal to get the most fresh and best tasting greens. Rinse them well! I clipped them down to the base stem and added them to a sink of water to get off any extra dirt. Check out images of the stages of growth below.

Just starting to sprout (they do not all come out at the same time):

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Gaining traction (about 2 weeks later):

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Be patient. It’s worth it! (2-3 weeks later)

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Back to Normalacy

 

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After thanksgiving and being in two weddings in the past 3 weeks, I’m getting back to my healthy. That means more soups/gumbos and salads to combat the wonderful indulgences that the holidays and weddings provide. 

Since I knew what was coming, I had already planted my winter crops and am excited to cook my first mustard green harvest. I’ve also already stocked my freezer with different soups and stews over the past several months, so the work is already done.

My salad crops of arugula, mixed greens and mustards are also nearing harvest. Growing is pretty easy and you can pretty much harvest any young greens for quick salads. 

I’ve been trying my hand at growing everything from tomatoes and peppers this spring and summer to now garlic and turmeric. If you are interested in growing some of your own food, I’d encourage you to start with herbs or indoor micro greens. Both were great starts for me and after conversations with my local farmers, I’ve since expanded to other things and built simple boxes for my crops. Growing can be work depending on how much you are doing, but it’s been so rewarding to eat things I’ve grown myself.

To prepare these greens, I just rinsed, chopped and sautéed them in olive oil with garlic for 5 minutes; simple and tasty.

I’m considering a short spring growing series. What do you think? 🙂