How to Grow Greens
‘Greens’ are leaves generally used in salads, but can be any young plant grow primarily for its leaves. Our mild climate allows us to have garden fresh greens, considered cool-weather vegetables, almost any day of the year. It is extremely sensitive to high temperatures and may be damaged or killed by our east winds or unusually hot summer weather.
Growing in the shade of taller plants will help extend the growing period, and I plant lettuces under the shade of my banana plants. Another great idea I saw was to grow vining or sprawling plants over wire-covered frames, set at an angle to shade the ground below. This effectively doubles your growing area and provides the best conditions for two different types of veggies.
Some varieties are more heat tolerant than others. Renee’s, my favorite California seed supplier, offers several different mixes for different growing seasons; here is a link to Renee’s greens page and to Renee’s lettuce page. The favorites from my garden have been: “Monet’s Garden Mesclun”, “Cut and Come Again”, “Summer Bouquet” and “Ruby & Emerald Duet”.
These are generally picked in cut-n-come-again fashion and provide a constant supply of fresh greens. Only pick a few outer leaves from each plant at a time and the new leaves replace the harvested one. The lettuce patch in the picture above is harvested this way. Watch the last movie at the bottom of this page called “Salad Leaves for All Seasons with Charles Dowding” for a great demonstration of the technique.
Besides heat as a killer, our hot and cold temperature fluctuations cause many cool weather crops to ‘bolt’, or go to seed. This turns the leaves bitter and suitable for composting.
Luckily, greens germinate quickly and are ready to set out in the garden after 3 or 4 weeks, and a succession of seedings will keep you in greens. A single seed packet of greens will provide you with enough seed for year. See the page on starting seeds for instructions on seed seeding technique.
Refer to ‘Recommended Vegetable Varieties‘ for notes on locally tested salad greens.
Read the next article: Selecting heirloom vegetable seeds