If you have ever once thought about giving edible gardening a try, greens — lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli, etc — are what you should plant. And you should plant them now. Here is why:
1. Greens are some of, if not THE, healthiest thing you could ever eat. They are chock full of anti-cancer phytonutrients and fiber. And they’re versatile and easy to work into recipes. Tossed in a salad, sauteed with a tasty sauce, cooked into soups and stews, scrambled with eggs, chopped up and mixed into a casserole — I’m hard pressed thinking of a recipe in which greens would NOT work!
2. They don’t need a whole lot of sun. Fruiting vegetables need a full day of sun, but when you’re just eating the foliage, you can get by with less. If your only spot for a container garden is in complete shade, such as behind a wall or building, you might be SOL. But if you get even dappled shade (like, through trees), or 3-4 hours of sun, you can probably grow greens. They won’t be so prolific and bushy as they would with full sun. However, they will probably not bolt as quickly, lasting longer into the season.
3. Greens are very frost-resistant. I kid you not, I had kale and broccoli growing over the winter that was snowmageddon. It was covered in snow for like two months straight. And it did not die. I think the snow might actually insulate plants and protect them. You can plant most greens in the late summer, keep them going over the winter, and harvest them in the spring. I know that chard will also keep through the winter, and friends have had the same experience with spinach. As long as you don’t pick the leaves when temps are below freezing, you should be good to go.
Disclaimer: I have apparently moved from zone 7b to 7a. I don’t know if that half a zone will make a difference. And I can’t speak for north of zone 7. But south of zone 7 — y’all definitely have no excuse not to garden year-round 🙂
4. Greens are a gift that keeps on giving. The chard and arugula I planted this year kept coming back even after I cut it. Arugula does not last through hot weather, but the chard is still going! After I chop off the broccoli heads, I can usually get at least one more small cluster of broccoli to come back. Kale will keep going, but it’s hard to get a second harvest in before it bolts from the heat. Anyone have any experience with spinach or other greens?
5. You can even plant greens in the middle of winter. I’ve never tried this myself. But this winter I am excited to attempt starting seeds outdoors with a mini greenhouse as seen here. If it works in Canada, it should work in Maryland, right?
6. In the middle of winter, you don’t have to worry about pests. You can neglect them pretty well during the winter. But just before frost sets in, and after the last frost date, do keep a watchful eye on your greens because as some of the few plants remaining, the bugs will be all over that shit. I’ve had luck with a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth, as well as some of these organic pest remedies from Fine Gardening. Sometimes all it takes is a blast of water from the hose.
There are many reasons to grow your own food. First of all, it is fun. Secondly, while its unlikely you will grow and preserve enough to feed your entire family year-round without several acres at your disposal and full-time work, food no doubt tastes better when it is imbued with the satisfaction derived from producing it yourself. Some vegetables, tomatoes and corn, for instance, actually DO taste 100% better when freshly picked from your back yard. And finally, we can go a long way to protecting our earth, promoting sustainability, independence and self-sufficiency by using all available space for something PRODUCTIVE. Grass serves no purpose. Why not grow something nourishing? Even if you just have space for one pot of herbs — give it a try. Grow something.