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Spring Greens

Spring greens

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Get them in early, and grow them fast. JUSTIN RUSSELL shares these and other tips for growing a range of yummy spring greens.

A number of vegies are synonymous with spring, but to my mind, nothing quite heralds the end of winter in the vegie garden like the humble spring green. By this I mean any plant that is grown specifically for the consumption of its leaves, and might include kale, lettuce, Asian cabbages, spinach, rocket, plus a host of others. It’s a broad and diverse group of plants. However the great thing about greens is that they all have similar growing requirements and absolutely thrive at this time of the year.

In my part of the world, the key to successful spring greens is speed. We experience a short season that abruptly gives way to hot dry weather in October. Greens fail to thrive in really hot conditions (unless they’re given some shade and plenty of water), so my goal is to start the plants in late winter and grow them steadily for about six weeks. Fortunately, most greens are quite easy to start from seed, and in many cases, can be sown directly into the garden. They’re not overly fazed by coolish soil or late frosts.

Once seedlings emerge, it’s all systems go. I like to get the plants cranking along with a weekly application of liquid fish fertiliser diluted to about half the recommended strength. Another trick to ensure fast growth is to keep the soil mulch free. This defies conventional wisdom, but the problem with mulch at this time of year is that it keeps the soil cool for longer. I actually want the soil to warm up a bit, as warming soil facilitates strong root growth, and in turn, strong root growth facilitates lush leaf growth. And leaves, of course, are the name of the game.

If everything goes to plan, it’s possible to be enjoying stunningly fresh greens within a month of sowing the seed. Rocket, bok/pak choy, mizuna and mustard are all particularly fast growers. Things like lettuce, kale, silverbeet and spinach take a bit longer, but still have a relatively fast turnaround time. Remember that leafy plants don’t need to be harvested roots and all. I prefer to cut my greens with a sharp, clean knife, leaving the base of the plant in ground. Within days this will produce fresh new foliage. Treated this way, it’s possible to get multiple harvests over a period of six to eight weeks, ensuring maximum bang for your buck.

Why not sow a row or two of greens this weekend?