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Eat Your Spinach! And other Greens

by Debbie Roland

Greens include all leafy green vegetables. Most are cool-season crops and must be grown in the early spring or fall in Texas. Some greens, especially kale, will withstand temperatures below freezing and can be grown all winter in many areas.

They will grow best in well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. They prefer full sun in cooler weather but some will continue to grow throughout summer if they have shade from the afternoon sun.

Apply compost or other organic matter on top of your bed and dig the soil in the early spring when it is dry enough not to stick to garden tools.

Greens grow best when given plenty of fertilizer. Nitrogen is needed to develop the dark green leaf color. Before planting the seeds, apply a general garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Mix the fertilizer into the soil about 3 inches. Replant in September for a fall crop.

Spinach is a favorite, but don’t miss Swiss Chard. It is very tolerant of heat and light freezes and can be harvested all year, even in West Texas. Kale is a cool-season crop that should be planted in early spring or late fall. It makes a good edible border for flowerbeds or sidewalks.

Plant in rows or in blocks. You can harvest the leaves around the base of the plant and it will continue to produce at the top giving you an ongoing harvest.

When the plants are young, hand pull the weeds around the plant so that the weeds don’t take the nutrients your greens need. You don’t want to damage the young plants with a hoe. If you planted from seeds you will probably need to thin them out when they come up. They should be 4” apart. Don’t throw away the plants you pull, instead put the tender greens in salads.

Water thoroughly at least once a week and don’t allow the plants to wilt. This encourages roots to grow deeper into the soil which helps them withstand dry periods.

As always, mulch is recommenced to keep soil from losing moisture and as a weed control. Thirty days after the plants come up, scatter one-quarter cup of garden fertilizer beside the plants for every 10 feet of row and water thoroughly.

When your plants begin to bolt (or seed) the greens will likely be too bitter for you to eat and they should be pulled and put into your compost bin.

Please contact the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.



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