The Leaf And Greens Crops consist mostly of salad greens, spinach, cabbage,and kale’s crops that all grow best in early spring and in the fall. Best temperature range is in the 50’s and 60’s. Moist of these crops will not handle the heat of summer and turn bitter and go to seed.
A good steady supply of nutrients and moisture are required to promote leaf crops health and growth. Some of the leaf crops need these supplies up near the surface because they are very shallow roots like lettuce. They roots will not go down very deep into the soil to get food and moisture. Leaf crops usually have very large leaves which require a lot of water and they are not tolerant at all.
Nitrogen For Leaf Crops
Nitrogen is very important to leaf crops because it not only promotes leaf growth but influences crispness and flavor as well.
The one thing that will prevent greens and leaf crops from growing well is heat. When hot weather arrives spinach will bolt and send up it’s flower stalks and head lettuce will loosed up and turn bitter. Once the hot weather arrives it is time to plant something new and wait for the fall to grow another crop of greens.
Growing Leaf And Greens Crops
When you decide to grow leaf and greens crops you will have a large selection plant varieties to choose from, as well as a large selection of salad greens. Besides the lettuce, spinach and chard why not try some of the other greens as well like chicory, radicchio and escarole. They will not take up much room and a few extra plants could really spice up your salads.
Planning Your Greens Garden
You will want to start your leaf and greens crops indoors for early spring planting so that you will be able to harvest by the time the warm weather sets in. You should also plan on a way to shade these plants during a warm spell so that you can harvest as long as possible.
Some other ideas would be plant fast growing lettuce under pole bean teepees then plant your beans a bit early so that they can grow and shade the lettuce. Another idea is to plant on the north side of taller plants such as tomatoes or corn that will also help to shade them.
Preparing The Soil For Your Leaf And Greens Crop
Put in extra effort at the beginning of the season and help prevent so many weeds latter on.
Work Your Soil
Work the soil up a couple times during the two weeks before you are going to plant. This will leave the soil in good condition and help break up any clods and kill any germinating weeds. Because weed seed are so tiny they must be near the soil surface to germinate by working up the soil you are killing these weeds saving problems latter.
About an hour before you are ready to plant work the soil one last time to get any weeds that may have sprouted in the last couple of days.
Greens And Leaf crops Love Rich Soil
The best tasting healthiest greens crop are those that grow rapidly. To encourage this fast growth the soil must be rich in organic matter, and the plants will need a steady supply of nutrients and moisture. Working compost into the soil regularly not only provides nutrients for the plants it feeds the microorganisms that breakdown this matter into humus.
Organic matter in the soil helps to retain moisture working like a sponge to hold it so the shallow rooted green root system will not dry out. Once the roots dry out the growth slows and the quality of the crop declines.
When you spade organic matter into the soil you are helping to build the soil and feed the microorganisms that turn the decaying matter into nutrients and humus that will make the soil more porous and allow oxygen to get to the roots. Heavy soils like clay do not allow water to move freely through them and because the particles are so small the soil is hard and difficult for the roots to grow through. Compost gets between this small particles helping to separate them and allow for better growth.
This is also true for sandy soils that dry quickly and allow nutrients to quickly was out adding organic matter will help build the humus and provide a place for moisture and nutrients to be stored.
Leaf and greens crops do well with a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5 which is just on the acid side. If the pH of the soil is too high or too low your leaf and greens crops may disappoint you and not grow well.
In nature soil pH naturally occurs between 4.0 and 8.3 while plants will grow in a wide range of pH it is important for it to be as close as possible for the healthiest plants with the most nutrition and flavor.
You can have your soil tested by your local Cooperative Extension Service here is a link for a chart listing them by state Cooperative Extension Websites By State . The test will give you the pH and what you need to do to correct it.
You may also buy a pH test kit at your local garden center. When growing leaf and greens crops you want to give them all the advantages you can to have a successful crop.