Thomas J. Koske | 4/19/2005 10:28:40 PM
Greens to choose from include mustard, turnips, spinach, collards, kale, endive, escarole and Swiss chard. All are cool-season crops with similar cultural requirements.
"These green, leafy vegetables are a good source of several important vitamins, calcium, iron and roughage," the horticulturist adds, noting, "And for those wanting to control their weight, these greens are very low in calories."
Koske says collards and chard will tolerate more extremes than the others and can be grown most of the year. And, he notes, they are easy to grow.
Since most of the greens, except chard, are small-seeded plants, Koske says it is essential that a good seedbed be prepared to ensure good contact between the soil and the seed.
To save space, mustard and turnip green seed may be broadcast over the bed or planted in several drills on the row. If the plants seem too crowded, thin to about 2 to 3 inches apart. The thinned plants can be eaten as tender greens to make room for their neighbor to spread.
Collard greens should be planted so that at the final thinning there will be 12 to 18 inches between the plants. Kale, which is smaller but similar to collards, should be spaced approximately 6 inches apart at final thinning just like turnips and spinach. Chard should be thinned to at least 6-inch spacings in the row. Endive is spaced about 9-10 inches apart.
"Rapid, continuous growth is essential for both high quality and high yields, so you'll need to provide a fairly rich soil containing adequate amounts of organic matter," Koske says. A good supply of plant nutrients from fertilizer and a continuous supply of soil moisture will increase success.
These crops will grow on a fairly wide range of soil pH. On extremely acid soil, however, add enough lime to raise the pH to 6.0. Soil pH can be determined by a soil analysis, available through an extension agent in the parish LSU AgCenter office.
Fertilize the crops at the rate of 1 pound (2 cups) of a complete fertilizer, such as 8-8-8, per each 20 feet of row. Mix this fertilizer into the row to avoid burning the seedlings.
River bottom soils that are highly fertile may require only 1/2 pound (1 cup) of ammonium nitrate per 80 to 100 feet of row. If the leaves begin to yellow, sidedress as needed with about 1 cup ammonium nitrate per 100 ft. of row.
Koske says to check the LSU AgCenter's publication "Louisiana Vegetable Planting Guide" to get recommended varieties and the amount of seed you'll need. This publication and other garden hints are available through an extension agent in the parish LSU AgCenter office or at the LSU AgCenter Web site.