An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm
We enjoy growing a wide variety of vegetables in the fall and winter, but our absolute favorites to grow are greens. There are a wide variety of greens that are easy to grow, delicious, and nutritious. Below we’ll discuss some of the different types of greens you can grow in your backyard garden along with tips for growing each type.
Collards tend to be more popular in the southern states, but they’re slowly gaining popularity in the northern states. They can be an acquired taste for some that have never tried them, but they are our absolute favorite. A single collard plant can provide many meals throughout the fall, winter, and into spring.
Some gardeners prefer to grow collards as a “single cut” vegetable. They’ll cultivate a spot in their backyard garden, scatter collard seeds by hand, and lightly rake them into the soil. Once the collard leaves reach 10-12” in height, they’ll cut the entire plant at the base. While this technique certainly works, we prefer to grow ours for repeat harvests.
We usually start collard transplants in our greenhouse in early to mid-September and those transplants are ready for the ground in early October. We space the transplants 1’ apart in our in-ground and raised bed garden and feed them every other week with AgroThrive General Purpose Fertilizer as they grow. When the leaves reach 6-8” tall, we’ll “crop” the lower leaves on the plant and leave a few leaves at the top. This allows the plant to continuously produce delicious greens throughout the cool growing season.
Our favorite collard variety is Flash, but there are many heirloom and hybrid collard varieties on the market. When watered and fertilized well, collard plants will often keep growing into the summer months. This long growing season allows us to get 10 or more harvests from each plant. In my opinion, it’s the most productive plant you can grow in your backyard garden!
Mustard greens are a close second to collards on our favorite greens list. These greens tend to have a little more “bite” than collard greens, with some varieties having spicier flavor than others. As opposed to the collards that we transplant, we usually direct-seed mustard in our raised bed or in-ground garden. We’ll sow the seeds in mid-September once the night temperatures get in the 60s.
Mustard is a versatile green because it can cut at any size, and it will grow back several times. You can cut baby mustard greens when they are only a few inches tall, or you can let the leaves get 6-8” large before cutting them. The smaller baby mustard greens are a delicious substitute for lettuce in your favorite salad, and the larger greens can be cooked in a pot with your favorite pork much like collards greens are traditionally cooked.
There are many varieties of mustard that are easy to grow in the cooler months. The most popular is a variety called “Southern Curled Mustard,” which produces large, curled leaves. Our favorite variety is called Savanna, which produces smooth leaves and has more of an upright growth habit. Tatsoi, Mizuna, and Red Mustard are a few other great varieties I’d recommend trying.
Chard is not as popular as collards or mustard in the southern states, but it’s still a delicious addition to the fall and winter garden. Chard is closely related to beets, and the greens taste very similar to beet greens. Because they’re related to beets, the chard seeds are “multigerm,” meaning each seed produces 2-3 plants.
We usually direct-seed chard in the garden once the temperatures cool a little in September. Much like mustard greens, it can be cut small as baby greens or allowed to get large. There are many different colors of chard that include yellow, red, pink, orange, and white. I’d recommend getting a pack of “rainbow chard” seeds so you can have all those beautiful colors in your garden.
Chard leaves tend to be a little more bitter than collard or mustard greens. We like to add a little vinegar to the chard when it’s cooking to cut the bitterness. Be sure to save the stems and throw those in the pot as well! Chard stems add a nice texture to the dish and they’re just as tasty as the leaves.
Turnips and Rutabagas
Turnips and rutabagas are often grown for their roots, but the greens on these vegetables are delicious too! You can harvest the greens while you’re waiting on the roots to enlarge before harvesting. We usually harvest rutabaga greens 2-3 times on each plant before harvesting the actual rutabaga.
Turnips perform best when direct-seeded in the garden, and most gardeners direct-seed rutabagas as well. We have had some success transplanting rutabagas, but they’re not the easiest transplants to grow. Just be careful when extracting the transplants from your seed trays or pots. They can be a little fragile when they’re small.
Much like collards, you’ll want to leave a few small leaves on the top of the plant so it can continue to grow. Just grab those larger bottom leaves and use those as you need them. Once the root is ready to harvest, chop it and add it to your pot of greens for a complete meal!
Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.