Greens like lettuce, kale and chard are the bread and butter of the garden and growing your own is a cinch. Save time running to the store, try hard-to-find varieties and harvest what you need when you need it.

Here are a few tips to successfully start your garden from seed:

  • Make a plan and prepare space for where your plants will eventually live. Greens tend to have shallow root systems so you can use almost any container that has drainage. Consider upcycling a container and, if needed, drill your own drainage holes.
  • Use rich, organic soil for your final planting but start with a gentle seed starting mix. Greens tend to suffer from damping-off so I suggest you use a mix designed for starting seeds that contains worm castings, is soilless or sterilized. I prefer mixes with worm castings but baking your planting mix at 180 degrees for 30 minutes works in a pinch. Avoid uses mixes with peat moss. Harvesting peat moss is damaging to the environment and is not sustainable.
  • Choose organic seeds whenever possible. Try heirlooms. Harvest and save seeds from one season to the next for extra benefits.
  • Grow your seeds in flats, recycled containers (such as egg cartons, yogurt containers or paper pots) or clean 6 packs from the nursery.
  • Follow the directions on your seed packet when first starting out. You’ll quickly learn your seeds and be sowing without it but it’s a one-stop-shop reference, especially when growing new varieties.
  • Water your seeds and seedlings keeping the soil evenly moist but not water logged. Test soil moisture by sinking your finger in about an inch deep. If it feels dry it’s probably time to water but if it’s still damp wait and test it another day. However, be sure the soil doesn’t completely dry out or germination could be interrupted. Bottom watering is another great technique for keeping your seeds moist, especially if you need to go away for a few days.
  • Transplant or pot up seedlings once their true leaves have grown in and set them out in the garden once they seem big enough to face the challenges of living outside.
  • Be sure to harden-off seedlings before chucking them out to the garden. To harden-off leave them outside during the day for a few days to a week before transplanting. Start with small increments in the shade and gradually increase their time and exposure outside.
  • Learn more about transplanting here and here.

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