Big or Small: Grow a Greens Garden This Fall

Quick and easy to grow, greens make an ideal crop for fall. Enjoy fresh salads, sautéed greens and an abundance of nutrition throughout the season with this roundup of plant tips.

  • Greens are versatile, nutrient-rich crops that are perfect for the fall garden.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Grow greens from seed or transplant depending on the desired end product.
    Photo by iStock

Though the bounty of summer is great, by the time fall arrives I’m missing my cool-weather greens—whether it’s a fresh, crisp salad or a hearty sauté of kale, chard and collards. Greens are one of the most versatile, nutrient-rich and easy-to-grow crops our gardens produce. Their meal options are many. Regardless of whether you grow anything else in the fall garden, greens are a must.

Lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, mustard, collard and turnip greens are some of the most common and easiest-to-grow greens. Some lesser-known, albeit delicious, options include arugula, mizuna, bok choy and tatsoi. Though their culinary uses vary, they all share common elements when it comes to the garden.

General Care

Greens are mostly a cool-weather crop. With consistent moisture, they thrive during short, cool days and cold nights. When these conditions occur in your garden depends on your planting zone. (The USDA Plant Hardiness Zones will help you learn about how plants may react to conditions in your area. Learn more.) Though these cooler temperatures indicate greens-growing weather, the time to plant will depend on how you choose to get your seeds started and when you expect your first frost. The following list offers more information about when to plant various greens.

Though greens are easy to grow, they are susceptible to various pressures. Pests, weeds and insufficient water can halt or slow their growth. The most common pests to affect greens include cabbage worms and slugs. Pick them off by hand or use the organic insect repellent Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to keep them under control. Weeds are the plight of every gardener, but once greens are established they can often shade out pesky weeds. Applying a 6-inch layer of mulch will do wonders to keep weeds at bay. Finally, make sure to water well during the late summer days. That same thick layer of mulch will also go a long way toward maintaining the moisture content of your soil.

Read on for a few details on the most common and easiest-to-grow salad and cooking greens for your garden.

Cooking Greens

Kale, Collard Greens & Swiss Chard

Planting: Put seeds and transplants out at least six weeks before frost. In mild winter climates, transplants and seeds can go out eight to 10 weeks before the first frost. Space kale and collards 24 inches apart; chard 8 to 10 inches apart, either by seed or transplant.

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