lettuce bowl

Let’s be real, buying greens from the supermarket is like tossing money into the trash. Unless you use your greens right away, they wilt, lose flavor, and spoil. When I started to grow greens in my garden, I was amazed at how easy it was and how interesting and tasty my salads had become.

Greens can be grown almost all year round, depending on which varieties you grow and where you live. Traditional salad greens tend to favor cooler weather, and many greens are hardy through the winter. Also, greens can be grown in shadier areas of the yard, under the canopy of a tree, and as an addition to your landscaping for edible aesthetics. Here are ten tips on how to keep the greens coming…and coming.

  1. Don’t grow lettuce. I live in zone 7a, and my lettuce either attracts aphids or bolts. I have tried to grow many varieties of lettuce and haven’t had much luck. If you live in a cooler climate or have great success with lettuce, then please, go on and grow that romaine. There are other greens you should also consider growing because they are hardy, yummy, and slow to bolt. Some of my favorites include
    -Mustard greens – I grow red giant, which is great in salads. Harvest the leaves when young, as they are more tender and sweet. This is a good rule of thumb when harvesting most greens.
    -Kale – Withstands frost and some varieties can reseed themselves, like scarlet kale.
    -Cabbage and – Cold hardy, prolific, great in salad, cooked, or fermented as sauerkraut.
    -Collards – Yummy and cold hardy.
    -Bok Choi – A prolific and hardy lettuce-like cabbage. Great in salad, soup, and stir-fry. Mine bolted after a hard frost, but the flowers and the stalks are also edible. The flowers were lovely, honey-like in flavor, and make a colorful addition to salad. Bok Choi can grow in complete shade, though it takes much longer.
    -Arugula – Prolific, cold hardy, and delicious in almost any dish, even as a pizza topping or mixed in with eggs. I grow rocket arugula, which is perennial.
    -Spinach – Cold hardy, versatile, tasty.
    -Microgreens – Packed with nutrition, a quick harvest, can be used in many recipes or as a garnish. I like to grow pea and radish greens.
  2. Use clear plastic clothing bins or a grow tunnel to cover your greens in winter. Basically, create a mini greenhouse for your greens. They should grow all winter if under a cover unless you’re in a really cold (or really hot) climate. If you use clothing bins, weight them down with a rock or a brick to keep them from blowing across the lawn on windy days.
  3. Use a shade cloth or grow greens in shadier areas of the yard in the summer. Hot summers cause many greens to bolt. You can prevent bolting, or at least stave it off for a while by using or creating shade for your greens. Shade can help to elongate your summer harvest. And bolting is actually a good thing if you are looking to save seeds.
  4. Grow self-seeding greens. Some greens, like claytonia, also known as miner’s lettuce will reseed themselves if you let them go to seed. Claytonia is also one of the most cold hardy greens you can grow. Spinach and mustard greens also seed themselves.
  5. Save seeds. Let a few of your crops go to seed and then collect those seeds for planting a new crop.
  6. Plant seeds in succession and grow them in various locations to stagger your harvest. Grow greens everywhere, as in all over the yard, and plant them at different times to stagger their readiness. Greens planted in shadier areas will grow more slowly. You can also plant seeds successively to prolong your harvest season.
  7. Plant high intensity. High intensity simply means planting a bunch of greens very close to each other. Here is a video from MIgardener on how to do that.
  8. Use the cut-and-come-again method for harvesting. Never uproot your greens. Simply cut off the leaves you want to eat. Most greens will regrow themselves if you do this. I ate out of the same garden bed for over four months using this method, and on some days, I even harvested two salads. My bed for greens was pretty small too, like 2X5. Here is another video from MIgardener on how to use cut-and-come-again.
  9. Plant veggies, trees, and bushes with edible greens. Many easy-to-grow veggies produce edible greens, such as beets, carrots, shallots, garlic, and radishes. You don’t have to grow a perfect beet to get good beet greens from your garden. Make sure not to eat toxic greens, which some common veggies produce. You can also plant trees or bushes with edible leaves, such as goji and yellowhorn. Please do not eat leaves from trees unless you’re sure they are edible, as many tree leaves are toxic. Also, for tender greens, harvest leaves when they are young.
  10. Eat weeds. Weeds grow all times of the year, and many of them are edible. PLEASE research well before you go foraging, and never eat anything unless you’re one-hundred percent sure it isn’t poisonous. I’m a fan of daylilies (not regular lilies, which are poisonous), chickweed, dead nettle, and dandelion greens.