Whoop Whoop Hooray - Spring Starts Today

by: EJ on 03/20/2015

David Kennedy, author of Eat Your Greens: The Surprising Power of Homegrown Leaf Crops, is excited about spring.  With the number of delicious leafy greens he grows, and the recipes he cooks with them, it is no wonder he celebrates the return of the growing season in today's gardening blog.


photo credit: Engyles

Whoop! Whoop! Hooray! It is March and soon the coming of spring will be greeted with joy by the millions of people who have had enough of this long, cold winter. Gardeners who have been sipping hot cocoa and gazing at obscenely photogenic vegetables in seed catalogs are now starting to wield rakes and hoes and nursing sore muscles. In the northern hemisphere this spring will officially begin at 6:45 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time on March 20, when the path of the Sun will cross directly over the Earth's equator. Unless you are an astronomer, spring for you probably begins when the weather gets warmer and a dozen lovely shades of soft green appear on new leaves.

Many thousands of years ago our ancestors began wandering north from their tropical home and encountered the reality of “'winter.” Through all those millennia, until the recent development of supermarkets, the end of winter marked a mad scramble to eat the tender new green leaves. This ancient practice of eating the first greens to appear after winter became entrenched in many cultures as a ritual of “spring tonics.”


Dandelions, nettles, lambsquarters and other early emerging greens were cherished for their ability to recharge the body's depleted stores of vitamins and minerals.

It is now easy enough for most people to buy a few common leafy vegetables shipped in from afar at any time of year. However, only gardeners have the luxury of being able to produce the widest variety of the freshest, most delicious and most nutritious of these spring tonic greens. This fact is not lost on a whole new wave of people who are moving on from head lettuce and starting to grow and eat more interesting greens. It is estimated that over 40% of all North American households now grow some of their own food and that percentage is increasing rapidly.

For the new gardener there is no better way to get started than growing some fresh leafy greens. Of all the garden crops, leafy vegetables are generally the quickest route from seed to supper. This provides “newbies” with some early positive reinforcement that their garden endeavor will be worthwhile. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplants, winter squash and many other garden favorites take 3 months or more before they are ready for the table. In contrast, amaranth greens are ready to eat 30 days after planting. Baby kale, arugula, mustard, bok choy, turnip greens and beet greens all grow nearly as fast.

Not only are greens fast-growing, but they are ideally suited for the gardener short on space. No other crops can produce as much food in as little space. If you are limited to a single garden bed or a somewhat cramped plot in a community garden, leafy greens will provide the most bang per square foot. Even renters and apartment dwellers can supplement their diets by growing greens in containers.


photo credit: Hefin Owen

Most annual greens can produce good crops in as little as 8 inches of good soil. This means that buckets, old washtubs, coolers, kiddie pools, and dozens of other  free or cheap objects can be used to grow small greens such as spinach,  parsley, cilantro, and kale. A favorite of mine is the trays sold at building supply stores for mixing mortar. They are usually 8 inches deep and about 3 feet long by 2 feet wide. Put a few drainage holes in the bottom, fill with potting soil and you have an instant leafy vegetable garden.

It is easy and fun to grow greens, and the payoff in flavor and nutrition is real. Leafy vegetables provide by far the most nutrients per calorie of any foods. This is great news if you are watching your weight. Beyond that, greens tend to be very rich in many of the essential nutrients commonly lacking in the modern diet, including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium. In addition to a full range of nutrients, leafy vegetables offer a wide range of protective antioxidants plus dietary fiber.

So celebrate the coming of spring in your garden, whatever size it may be, and eat your greens!



Only two days left in our spring gardening sale!  Buy Eat Your Greens and other gardening books for 35% Off using coupon code GARDEN.





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