Top 10 Tips for Growing Your Own Greens

tips for growing lettuce and salad greens

In Kenya, we can make 400 square feet of garden space feed one person, year-round – it’s what we do through Organics 4 Orphans (O4O). O4O puts a huge emphasis on growing and eating leafy greens, because they are so loaded with nutrients for immunity.

Here in Canada, it’s easy to pick up a box of mixed greens, but nothing beats fresh harvested leaves for nutrition and taste.

Here are 10 tips from Dale, O4O’s Chief Organics Officer (wink):
  1. To kick-start the season, set up a container garden in a sunny area, sheltered from winds.  Almost any container will do – lettuce roots are shallow. Use a weed-free, nutrient rich potting mix. Soil from your in-ground garden (which is probably frozen anyway) contains dormant weed seeds.
  2. When temperatures are just above zero, start your containers with kale. Kale loves cool weather!
  3. Swiss chard can also be started early in pots and produces well even in scorching mid-summer. It keeps coming back!
  4. Arugula prefers a cool, sunny spring. It can’t withstand the hottest days, even with some shade, but it’s well-worth growing – fresh baby arugula is incomparable!
  5. Spinach is another cool-weather winner – and famous as a good source of magnesium.
  6. Pick up a package of “spring mix” seeds and you’ll be free of boxed salads for as long as moderate temperatures prevail.
  7. When the soil is warm enough, grab some tomato seedlings to provide shade for your lettuces. Cherry tomatoes are suitable for containers – save the Beefeater and other large varieties for in-ground planting.
  8. Buttercrunch is the champ when it comes to Ontario’s hot, humid summers. Plant this lettuce first in spring, and continue to sow seeds every few weeks as your dantier lettuces succumb to the heat.
  9. Save some of your cool-weather seeds to plant again as summer tapers off. Fall cultivation works in-ground, but even better in containers. You can have fresh greens sprouting up under the first snow!
  10. Harvest lettuces as soon as the leaves are a size to your liking.  An inch is fine. Begin by plucking from around the exterior of the head.  Leave the centre, and the plant will continue to produce. Harvesting early and often keeps production going longer.
Nutrient-rich greens are one of the centrepieces of our agricultural work with O4O. Leaves are packed with the vitamins and minerals that orphans in developing countries are often missing in their diets. If they need this stuff to grow, you need it to thrive!
What if you’re drawn to the idea of backyard agriculture, but not ready to do it yourself? Depending on where you live, you can connect with a local Community Shared Agriculture organization to lend your yard for cultivation.
For example, Cultivate Toronto helps Torontonians open up their backyards to volunteer greenthumbs who do all the work of growing and harvesting.  Each week, land donors benefit by taking a cut of the crop. It doesn’t get more local!
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