CH Header Logo
Spring Means Greens

When I think of Spring, I think of plates heaped with fresh greens, the first tastes of the growing season. I continue to find ways to sneak greens into anything and everything this time of year, including quiche, soups, and smoothies. It’s a kind of celebration after the dormant months, where greens are the mascot heralding the beginning of the growing season. We made it. Now, let’s get our hands in the dirt and make the most of it.

Cultivating leafy greens such as chard, kale, and delicate lettuces involves specific practices to ensure robust growth and high yields. These vegetables thrive in well-drained, fertile soil rich in organic matter. Prior to planting, it is beneficial to amend the soil with compost to enhance its nutrient content and moisture retention. Leafy greens generally prefer cooler temperatures, making early spring and fall the ideal planting times; if you miss your window to plant greens this Spring, you will be prepared when Fall happens upon your garden. Consistent watering is crucial, especially for lettuces, which are more susceptible to wilting in dry conditions. Mulching can help retain soil moisture and regulate temperature. Spacing is also important; kale and chard require more room to spread, while lettuces can be planted more densely.

Chard growing in garden

Proper pest and disease management is essential for maintaining healthy crops. Leafy greens can attract aphids, flea beetles, caterpillars, and leaf miners, among other pests such as fungal and bacterial problems. Please read more on Integrated Pest Management to choose a strategy in fitting with your gardening needs.

Harvesting times vary: lettuces can be harvested as soon as they form usable leaves, often within 30-40 days, while kale and chard can take longer, typically 50-70 days. Continuous harvesting of the outer leaves of these plants can encourage further growth and extend the harvesting period. Some folks prefer the use of row covers to keep the sun from beating on delicate greens, particularly for new transplants.

Dark, leafy greens are a powerful addition to a healthy, delicious diet plan. These leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, boasting a nutrient profile that includes folate, vitamins A, E, C, and K- all of which play critical roles in preventing diseases such as certain types of cancer, while protecting overall health and wellbeing. Low in carbohydrates, leafy greens add a nutrient-dense addition to any meal. The USDA recommends consuming 2-3 cups of vegetables each day; leafy green vegetables are an excellent way to meet this recommendation.

2-3 cups of vegetables per day can feel daunting while we look to meet the USDA’s recommendations for vegetable intake- but consider the following recipe of Beets, Beans, & Greens to set your meal plan up for success this week.

Beets, Beans, and Green recipe
salad with beet on fork

Cameron Burke is part of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County team. She’s an advocate for nutrition security and sustainable food systems, believing in the power of human connections, education, and grit to build resilient food systems. Cameron has committed herself to fostering bonds between communities and their food, promoting local farmers, artisans, and producers for their invaluable contributions. Her passion for food and community drives positive change and meaningful connections in the local food movement.