Did you know that very often greens that we buy in shops (spinach, Coriander, Mint etc) are not grown in full fledged fields but in unhygienic places like near gutters/ sewers, along the river side etc.? Chances of falling sick after eating these greens is very high. One would have to follow the strictest cleaning procedures for them to be ok for consumption and even then you can’t be sure.
One of the ways we can avoid this is by growing our own greens. Growing green leafy vegetables and herbs is the most rewarding of all vegetable gardening experiences as they grow fast – from seed to harvest taking as less as 30 days at times. We will look at 4 greens that can be grown easily without much effort.
Different Greens that you can grow at home and the care required
There is a wide variety of greens that you can grow at home. Greens grow equally well in containers as their root system is not very deep and I prefer containers as they can be transported anywhere. Also this way they are away from my pets trampling over them.Some of the ones you can start with are Spinach, Lettuce, Leaf Amaranth and some daily herbs like Mint, Fenugreek, Basil, Coriander, Parsley.
Spinach grows so easily and effortlessly at home. You can grow it in any container that’s at least 6 inches deep and a feet wide. Spinach likes a lot of sun but not too much that it burns the leaves. So plant it in semi-sun or an area which receives sun for about 4-5 hrs a day. Spinach is hence very well suited for balcony gardening too. Spinach seeds are small, black and really tiny. You can sow these seeds in a container with just coco peat or a mixture of coco peat, compost and red mud, cover it with a tiny layer of and water just to keep the soil moist. You will be able to see tiny seedlings in 2-3 days and within a month, you would have bright green Spinach leaves ready for harvest. Harvest the outer big leaves and leave the small ones inside to grow. If you keep planting fresh seeds every month, you never would have to buy Spinach again.
Iceberg Lettuces or Crisp Head lettuces need cool weather so don’t think of growing them in harsh summer conditions. They also need ample sunlight and good watering. It is a good idea to first grow the seedlings indoors under partial sunlight and then once the first 3-4 leaves appear, thin the seedlings or spread them out into the container each one about 10 inches away from the other. The distance between the seedlings is absolutely important for the Iceberg Lettuce as it needs space for the head to grow. As the plants grow, give them a dose of compost tea or some organic manure introduced at the sides of the tray. Water them well and when the head is formed and is between the size of an apple and a coconut, you can harvest them – this takes approximately 45 days but can vary. If you’ve planted many lettuces, you can space the harvesting to just make sure you don’t end up with all fully grown lettuces harvested on one day.
Leaf Amaranth is very similar to Spinach in the way it is grown only that it is hardier than spinach and resists medium to harsh sunlight. The leaves are used just like spinach and can be used in chinese cuisine for stir fry dishes and soups. Indian cooking uses them for oh so many dishes and the tangy leaves just lend enough flavor to your dish. Scatter the seeds similar to spinach in the container with the potting mixture. Cover with a thin amount of soil or potting medium – the usual logic is that one should cover the seed with soil for about three times the size of the seed. Since the Amaranth seed is just a tiny dot, you would need a very thin layer of soil. Sowing to harvest time is again just 30 days.
Fenugreek or Methi (Azadirachta indica) is very easy to grow again and the average Indian doesn’t even have to go buy seeds for it. Methi seeds that we use for cooking at home can be used for growing Methi/Fenugreek plants. Fenugreek is used for a number of indian dishes. The leaves are slightly bitter and the cut and grow back method doesn’t usually work here. One can harvest as soon as 2-3 weeks post sowing and the whole plant is plucked out in most cases. Small thinnings of the plant are used for certain dishes and salads while the grown plant is used widely. The leaves are also often dried out in the sun and the resultant crushed powder is called ‘Kasoori Methi” which is used for seasoning.