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Planting Greens

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
April 29, 2015

Source:  Beth Berlin, Extension Educator-Horticulture
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties


Planting Greens
By Beth Berlin, University of Minnesota Extension

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (4/29/15) — Ever consider growing leafy greens in your garden?  If you don’t already have them, consider it. Collards, kale, lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard are some popular leafy greens any gardener can grow. Not only are these crops fairly easy to grow, are full of valuable vitamins, but can also provide an early crop in your garden.

In general, these vegetables are considered to be cool crops and tolerate cooler temperatures in late spring, early summer as well as fall. This makes it ideal for all gardeners, who can use succession gardening to have greens at the beginning of the season and then a second crop in fall. For example lettuce, whether looseleaf, head or romain grows best in 60 to 65° F, and actually goes dormant or should be removed in the mid-summer, hot weather.

Seed these leafy greens directly into your garden according to the package directions. Some gardeners will transplant such species as Swiss chard and kale to get a jump start. Sow leafy green seeds into your garden as soon as the soil can be worked, and about three months before the average fall frost, which would be in mid-June, for a fall crop. Leafy lettuce fall crops could be planted as late as end of July or August 1st depending on its days to harvest as indicated on the package.

Leafy greens prefer well drained, moist soils.  Incorporate well-rotted manure or compost at planting. If using a garden fertilizer, side-dress it once during the growing season at a rate of one pound per 25 foot row. The ideal pH for most of these crops is 5.5 to 6.5. Having a soil test done will allow you to get a basis of your soil pH, texture, and nutrient content, which would be helpful for all gardeners, especially when starting a new garden or after having done years of amending. The University of Minnesota does complete soil tests for a cost, contact your local Extension office for more information or visit

Water as needed, soak soil thoroughly to a depth of one-inch each week; light sandy soils will likely need more frequent watering. Keep weeds at bay with frequent cultivation; keep in mind leafy greens have shallow roots close to the surface so use caution to not disturb their roots.

Harvest as soon as the leaves reach usable size; continue to harvest until the plant has no more resources to give and does not produce harvestable leaves.  Taste is best before the summer weather becomes too hot and dry. This is also the time when the plants will “bolt” which means they form flowering seed heads and the leaves often become bitter to taste.

Give growing leafy greens a try; they can be an easy way to get fresh produce from your garden early in the season or again into the fall.  For more information on growing greens and other vegetables visit

Photo: Swiss chard


Beth Berlin
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 255-6169
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