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Vegetable Gardening for Beginners: Growing Leafy Greens

Grow an abundance of leafy greens—from lettuce to kale and chard—with these growing tips.

| March/April 2014

  • Easy-to-grow chard keeps its flavor even during hot summers.
    Photo by Veer
  • Kale is packed with vitamins A, C and K and is easy to grow from seed.
    Photo by iStock
  • Lettuce is the queen of salad greens and almost all varieties make for excellent garden crops.
    Photo by Veer

Most gardens will produce a parade of lovely greens for eating fresh or cooked. Of course you will want crisp and colorful lettuces for salads, but dark leafy greens such as kale and chard deserve space in the garden, too. Dark leafy greens provide more nutrition per square foot than any other garden crop, and different greens can come and go as the season unfolds. You can start out with lettuce and kale in early spring, plant heat-tolerant chard as a summer crop, and then grow more lettuce and kale for fall.

Leafy greens tend to be shallow-rooted plants that do not demand extremely rich soil, but they do need plenty of sun and a constant supply of water. Most leafy greens are easy to grow from seed, but if you’re new to gardening and can’t tell seedlings from weeds, work with purchased seedlings your first year.

To learn more about getting started with your own garden, see Vegetable Gardening Tips for Beginners.

Lettuce

The queen of salad greens, lettuce comes in an endless array of colors and leaf types, and all except slow-growing iceberg varieties make excellent garden crops. Because lettuce can only be eaten fresh, make several small sowings rather than one large one. If you have a very sunny window or fluorescent lights, you can even grow lettuce in shallow containers in late winter. After the first set of leaves is snipped to eat as baby greens, the trimmed-back plants can be set out in the garden in early spring, where they will quickly regrow.



Best Lettuce Varieties

As long as you plant lettuce in early spring and again in late summer, so the plants grow in cool weather, these dependable lettuce varieties will give great results grown almost anywhere.



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