Dig In

Grow your greens

By Patricia Bailey
Posted 3/28/20

I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “Eat your greens” or perhaps the phrase from the beloved cartoon character Popeye “I eats my spinach. I’m strong to the finish. …

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Dig In

Grow your greens

Posted

I’m sure you’ve heard the idiom “Eat your greens” or perhaps the phrase from the beloved cartoon character Popeye “I eats my spinach. I’m strong to the finish. I’m Popeye the sailor man!” Greens are good for us; they help us fight disease with a powerful dose of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. It’s never too late to challenge yourself to eat more greens.

I decided to take it a step further by growing baby greens, also known as mircogreens that I can enjoy all winter.  To grow your own, you’ll need seed starting mix, several packets of seeds, a professional seedling heat pad and grow lights. The various categories are Arugula, Asian, Kale, Mustard, Chicory, Chard, Beet & Cress.  You can grow separately or willy-nilly as a mix.   

These days there are quite a variety of grow lights available that make it easy enough to turn a kitchen counter or work desk into your indoor garden.

A sunny window is not sufficient enough since we mere humans cannot control a cloudy day. Verde Design on Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd. in Newport carries a great one.   

Almost any seed can be grown as a microgreen. You can begin with leftover Kale, Swiss Chard, Beets or Kohlrabi seed packets from last season if they were stored properly in a tightly sealed container and kept in a cool, dry location. For those of you who are more adventurous, you can delve into the world of microgreens in a seed catalog and find many varieties that have been chosen for peak flavor and ease of growing.

A few seed companies that specialize in microgreens are High Mowing from Vermont (highmowingseeds.com) and Johnny’s of Maine – (johnnyseeds.com). Most microgreens are fast growing and will be ready to harvest within 15-25 days. The instructions are simple.

I like to use one plastic flat that has holes in the bottom and is at least 2” deep.  Fill the flat to the top with the seed starting mix. You can also use potting soil. Water the soil first and then evenly scatter the seeds so the entire surface is covered with seeds.  Sprinkle with more soil to lightly cover the seeds, and then gently press down on the entire surface with a plate or lid. Mist the entire surface. Cover with the plastic lid that came with your seed starting kit or simply use plastic wrap. Place the flat on your heating pad, set between 65 and 75 degrees and leave on for 24 hours a day. Ensure your grow lights are on 6-8 hours per day. Sit back and let the magic begin!

Be sure to mist regularly and evenly over the next few days. If there is enough condensation within, then no need to keep misting, but make sure that the flat does not dry out. Once the seeds sprout you can remove the plastic cover. The first leaves to appear will be the cotyledon leaves or “seed leaves”. Do not snip these. The next set of leaves will be the “true leaves”. Continue to mist until the true leaves have formed. After that you can begin to add more water by showering to keep moist. The heating pad should be turned off once the true leaves begin to appear.

You may begin snipping after the first set of true leaves has fully developed. Simply cut off leaves with snips and new baby leaves will reform in a few days. Microgreens grown this way are treated as “cut and come again” when used regularly. You can continue replanting different varieties every 10-15 days to enjoy a constant supply of unique tastes, colors and textures.

Enjoy your greens in sandwiches, wraps, and salads, tossed into pasta, rice dishes and smoothies. Greens have been known to lower cholesterol, protect your heart, support your immune system, strengthen your bones, enhance brain function and reduce inflammation. You may even gain the super strength of Popeye. 

Patricia Bailey is a Community Outreach Horticulturist. Having a deep appreciation for the quality of life a good garden can bring to those in need, she spearheads school programs, mentors young people and provides local charities with fresh organic vegetables.

Patricia Bailey

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