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Four plants to kickstart your kitchen garden

By Sara Backmo | October 3, 2018
Image by Sara Bäckmo

Four plants to kickstart your kitchen garden

by Sara Backmo October 3, 2018

Four plants to kickstart your kitchen garden

By Sara Backmo | October 3, 2018

Sara Bäckmo is a Swedish garden writer and blogger who wants to inspire people to start growing their own food. She grows enough food for her large family all year round, even in cold and dark Sweden. Read her blog at www.sarabackmo.com.


Chard, black kale, red orache, starflower and carrot. I harvested the vegetables for a delicious lunch in spring.

 

Many dream of having their own kitchen garden. And it doesn’t have to be that hard! All you need is a little bit of knowledge to turn your garden into a flourishing oasis, full of food. There’s really no reason to keep dreaming – do it instead!

But where to start then? I think that growing leafy greens is a really great way to kickstart your own vegetable patch at home. They are generally easy to grow and you can use them in so many dishes. These are my favorite easy-to-grow leafy vegetables.

These pea shoots are ready for harvest. The picture was taken in a polytunnel in October, in Sweden.

Pea shoots

Pea shoots are probably some of the easiest plants you can grow. Use yellow peas (you can buy them in the grocery store). Just make sure that the peas are whole, as some brands sell split peas. Grow them in pots or in a bed outside. This is how you do it:

 

  • Dampen the soil
  • Scatter the seeds on top (quite close to one another)
  • Flatten the surface so that the peas are pushed into the soil
  • Water the peas carefully; use a water can with a sprinkler head

 

The pea shoots grow quite quickly and you will see results within two weeks. The pea shoots taste best when they are around 4 inches (10 centimeters) long. Cut them off close to the ground and use the pea shoots in salads, in your cooking or on your sandwiches. You can make a really nice pea shoot dressing simply by mixing the shoots with some vegetable oil and salt. It’s delicious!

My red-stemmed chard looks lovely accompanied by my summer flowers, like this baby’s breath variety, Covent Garden.

Chard

I always get nice and big harvests over a long season with this leafy vegetable. Some varieties are very large, up to 3.4 feet (1 meter) long. Others are much smaller, of course. Chard thrives in both cold and warm climates and is all together really easy to grow.

Direct sow the seeds when the soil is nice and warm, in summer or spring. Put the seeds around 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) apart. You could also sow them in pots or troughs inside or in your greenhouse, and plant them outside later (or keep them in your greenhouse).

Harvest by cutting or breaking the outer stalks off. The chard will keep growing and produce more leaves though. You can freeze the chard if you happen to get a big harvest. Simply put the leaves in boiling water for a moment, then rinse in cold water before freezing.

 

You can harvest cabbage leaves while they are still small. The leaves grow nicely under some row cover, which will protect them against cabbage moths that lay eggs on the leaves.

Kale

Growing cabbage can be a bit tricky since many cabbage varieties get infested by worms. But one type of cabbage is actually really easy to grow: kale. Black kale is a great choice to start with as a beginner. You can sow black kale almost all year round. All you need to do is to buy a seed packet and then scatter the seeds in a wide row, or even in a pot. Add a little bit of soil on top and water. I like harvesting my kale when the leaves are quite small. It takes about four to six weeks before you get a nice green mat of little leaves. Just cut them off and use them fresh in salads or on your sandwich. Cover your row or pot with a net to get the best results.

 

These little winter lettuce rosettes can freeze and thaw several times throughout winter without getting damaged.

Lamb’s lettuce

Lamb’s lettuce is by far one of the best plants you can grow in colder temperatures. This little plant goes by many names and you can grow it in the most unforgiving parts of the year. You might even be able to grow lamb’s lettuce underneath the snow in some countries. It’s said to be able to withstand temperatures down to -22 degrees (-30 degrees Celsius.)

You get the best results if you sow lamb’s lettuce in summer (you can start harvesting the leaves in fall and winter). Grow in large troughs in a greenhouse where the lettuce is protected against the worst snow, rain and cold.

  • Remove weeds and water the soil before sowing
  • Scatter the seeds on top of the soil, just not as close together as the peas
  • Cover the seeds with a little bit of soil and flatten the surface
  • Water regularly until the plants have grown

Harvest the rosettes by cutting them off close to the ground, or pull out the entire plant (root and all). Rinse and put in a salad.

Leafy greens are a tasty staple in my garden and kitchen. They are just so easy to grow, really good and very useful! As if that wasn’t enough, they look beautiful too. I hope you have found a new favorite leafy green to grow in your own garden now. Good luck!

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