Does never having to buy greens from the grocery store again sound good to you? It does to us, too. That’s why we’ve been experimenting and perfecting our methods for growing greens year-round, whether in the garden, the greenhouse, or even indoors in a vertical tower garden throughout the winter. Grow your own greens and feed your family healthy food for very little money, here’s how.
Even in very cold climates, like ours here in the far north of Idaho, we can grow something year-round to help offset our dependency on the grocery store for fresh produce.
Between our large main crop garden, our old-fashioned cottage garden, and the other two large garden areas we added to the homestead this year, we’re able to grow and put up enough food for our family for a year.
It’s true you don’t need to eat fresh produce all year round, there are many people who eat more seasonally. In fact, in our home, we tend to slow down on salads for lunch and dinner and focus more on those winter stores of root vegetables, winter squash, and the canned food we managed to put up at harvest time.
But we do still love a fresh green salad even in the middle of winter and by utilizing different growing strategies, you can grow greens all year long.
Succession planting seeds regularly so that when one crop is finishing, there is another coming up right behind it ready for harvest. This can keep you in fresh vegetables for much, if not all, of the year. This is especially effective with fresh eating greens, like lettuces, spinach, mustard, etc.
By planting a little at a time, you can have a continual harvest throughout the entire growing season without struggling to keep up with the harvest, or risking your greens getting bitter, bolting and going to seed.
How much to plant and when will vary based on what you are planting, how much you need and the time of year. For our family (two adults and ten children) we plant a 48″x30″ inch row of salad greens about once a week for the growing season. This gives us enough salad for the whole family for dinner, plus a lunch salad for mom and dad. For an average-sized family of 4-6 people, a 2-4 square foot section is a good starting point.
You’ll have to experiment with different sizes to find exactly how much works for you. This will vary depending on family size, and how many times per day and week you want to eat salad (or cooked greens).
The trick with growing greens all season or all year long is to harvest them when they’re at their micro-baby green stage. We’re not allowing our lettuces to grow into heads, rather we plant very densely and harvest them when they’re tender and small.
We not only prefer the flavor, but you minimize your risk of the greens bolting in hot weather.
Because we plant so densely, and we choose upright varieties, the greens are easy to harvest with minimal washing. Most of the time we don’t even need to wash our greens!
Growing the Right Varieties
As mentioned above, you want to choose the right variety of greens for growing year-round. Certain varieties do better in colder weather, meaning they will come up faster and can withstand frost. Others will tolerate the heat better and some may be more suited to indoor growing in smaller containers.
You may be rotating the varieties of greens throughout the year to grow what works best for that particular season and growing medium (garden, greenhouse, indoors).
We plant a mixture of varieties including:
- Asian greens (we love the Dragon Stirfry Mix from Baker Creek Seeds)
- Mustard Greens
- Lettuce (we love the Rocky Top lettuce mix from Baker Creek Seeds)
Growing in a Greenhouse
In the shoulder seasons, and sometimes even in the winter, we utilize our greenhouse to get greens started earlier in the spring, and extend their growing season into the fall.
We do have a heater that we can use to keep the greenhouse above freezing during the winter months, but we’ve also found growing greens indoors makes it easier to harvest them at dinner time!
To grow greens indoors we love using our Greenstalk Vertical Planter. This planter comes in multiple tiers, a self-watering system, and is on casters to make rolling it from sunny window to sunny window throughout the day very doable.
The great thing about the vertical tower gardens is that they’re able to be moved outside during the day (if temperatures allow) and then rolled back inside at night to avoid frost damage.
Check out this post for more on growing an instant garden using the Greenstalk Vertical Planter.
Why We Love Growing Greens
We love fresh eating and leafy greens are the solution to keeping the fresh coming in between and around all of our main crops. Growing them in the way we have discussed above makes great use of small spaces, makes harvesting easy, and even lightens the load on the kitchen crew as the greens rarely have to be washed or cut before use. If you are new to gardening, it is also a very easy way to get a BIG WIN, in a small space in a relatively short amount of time!
We hope this post has encouraged you to try growing greens yourself. You’ll be surprised at how delicious home-grown greens are over the store-bought varieties, and harvesting the greens when they’re small makes them taste even better!
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