So what can you do to get some quick greens in spring, and again after the summer heat into fall? Here are 3 ideas for fall, spring and summer.
1. Spring Greens – make plans in the fall
In early spring, dandelions and stinging nettle cut from an area that is not sprayed will add some great nutrition to a salad, and if you have enough space, asparagus can do very well in Alberta. A very early perennial green is Sorrel, a clumping plant that produces slightly sour leaves resembling spinach. I have seen Sorrel poke out around April 15. While it’s too sour in a salad by itself, you can add it to your store-bought salad mix. Asparagus and Sorrel are available for purchase and planting in early spring.
The best way to have some early spinach and lettuce is to seed these crops in the fall before snow falls. Once the weather warms up in May, spinach grows very quickly, followed by the lettuce. If you plant lettuce and other greens in a cold frame in the fall or very early spring, you may be able to harvest a little bit earlier yet.
Spring is a tricky time for transplanting vegetable seedlings or flowers outside because we can get some very chilly nights almost until the end of May. I also find that pesky flea beetles love young arugula, mustards, radish and bok choi or any of the Asian salad mixes. So here is a way to produce bok choi, napa cabbage, kale or other greens quickly and fairly safe from flea beetles.
In late April or early May, some garden centres or hardware stores (i.e. Rona, Home Depot) bring in 6-packs of these vegetables. I prefer to support locally owned garden centres, but sometimes the hardware stores have veggies shipped a bit early – if you spot them before they look awful due to neglect, they will do very well. Choose a container or planter that is easy to move into the garage or house, should the weather turn ugly. Fill it with potting mix, and add compost and an organic fertilizer for nutrition.
Transplant the seedlings (i.e., bok choi) into your container and cover them with floating row cover. This will protect the seedlings from pests and create some extra warmth. In early to mid-June, you will have some fresh greens from your container garden.
This past summer, my garlic was ready for harvest at the end of August. After I had pulled the garlic, I placed a cold frame on that open ground, added a little bit of organic fertilizer and seeded a mix of arugula, lettuce and kale inside the cold frame on Aug 28. The cooler weather allowed the arugula to grow very quickly. I did not see much of the lettuce, and the kale was also sparse for a while. While temperatures started dipping toward the freezing mark in early October, the greens continued to grow and we enjoyed some fresh salads in mid-October. In the cold frame, the arugula did not seem to be affected by –5 degrees C overnight in early November, but on November 14, we picked the last bowl of lovely arugula. It was great to have the greens so late into the season!