The best control for aphids is ladybugs. Find out what plants to grow in your area to attract them, and plant those as companions to your greens. And aphids aren't that big a problem if you catch them when there are just a few. Spray them hard with a hose to knock them off; they cant reattach once they're washed off.
For some reason, I'd completely forgotten about chard. I'm definitely going to add some to the garden.
I'm in an inland area, about 40 minutes to the coast. The weather here is moderated by the ocean. It doesn't get that hot in the summer, usually, and it always cools off at night (a cool breeze comes in from the ocean starting pretty much at 4pm every day in the summer). I had to run my air conditioner maybe about 3-4 days last summer and I'm someone who will run it sooner rather than later--I hate being too hot. It's not too cold here to grow some nice tomatoes, but I definitely noticed last summer (my first summer here) that they weren't nearly as big as they were at my last house, which was significantly further inland (where it got much hotter in the summer and didn't cool off much at night). My planting calendar for the area says I'm okay to go so far as planting things like kale, lettuce, chard and spinach right now. But, I don't have too much longer to get them in the ground.
They pretty much grow things year-round at the farms in the area. Sadly, I think they must ship all that produce off to the East Coast and they must ship the produce here from across the country! The produce in the grocery stores is typically just sad looking. Last year, at the height of squash season, they wanted almost $2/lb for summer squash and they were not at all nice looking. They basically looked like they'd been shipped across the country. So, I'm eager to get a larger garden in the ground this summer and I'd love to grow some new things (e.g. greens) and to try some things that I haven't tried growing (or even eating) before.
I'm a bit worried about bugs on my greens...aphids and such. In the past, I've avoided growing them because everyone who I've known who has tried has ended up with a bunch of insects and I'm not a fan of trying to wash tiny insects off of my produce because, well, they are hard to wash off and I don't really want to eat them! Yes, yes, I know...extra protein. So, if anyone has any ideas about aphid control I'd love to hear them. I'm thinking about growing the chard, spinach, lettuce and kale in large containers, to keep them off of the ground.
I love love loooove beet greens. more than the beets below them. it's great, you can pick off some of the leaves as the plants grow, and at the end of the season you have root vegetables, too!
it's nice to throw in a "spring mix" or "mesclun mix" - then you have an interesting selection of baby greens all season. I also put in extra arugula because i rather like it (but i think it may be an acquired taste).
A lot of greens don't do that well in heat and all day sun, so, I don't ever plant row upon row of spinach or chard - it will just bolt on me. I have better luck with kale... and my more delicate greens are grown in a protected spot out of the all-day baking sun.
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What's your climate like? If you're in a warm inland area, it's getting late for lettuce or root veggies. If you're coastal, you can probably grow just about anything, anytime.
Swiss chard gets my vote for a first project. There's a variety called "Bright Lights" that's so pretty you can just enjoy looking at it in the garden if you don't like eating it. I've known a lot of people who grew it in defiance of a landlord or HOA's "no vegetable gardens" rule, and no one knew it was a veggie. It also tastes good-- very mild and with a nice texture. I like it lightly stir-fried and added to scrambled eggs, or with chickpeas and a tiny bit of bacon or ham. (Vegetarians can get a similar dish by adding smoked paprika.) And although all the books say it's a cool-weather crop, I've had it keep producing all year round in zone 8b.
Swiss chard is actually a small-rooted beet, which means if you like chard, you'll like beet greens. And if you've never had fresh beets, they're the best way I know of to turn a veggie-hater into a veggie-eater. Well, second-best; butternut squash is probably number 1.
Turnips and turnip greens are an acquired taste IMO. The greens are kind of fuzzy; I've never been able to get past the texture.
Another surprise is radish pods. If you let radishes go to flower, they produce seed pods that taste like a cross between snap peas and radish-- sweet and spicy at the same time.
If you're interested in making your garden decorative as well as edible, check out the "Edible ___ Garden" series by Rosalind Creasy, especially "The Edible Salad Garden," or check your library for her book "Edible Landscaping." She's in Southern California, so her ideas should work for you climate-wise.
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Being vegetarian I actually need to eat tons of greens to get my iron and calcium, so there are some health perks there. There is a ton of research to suggest that the phytochemicals in greens reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
Collards taste decent if you saute them with garlic and olive oil until just wilted rather than boiling them. Kale tastes fantastic in a risotto or in a salad...I just discovered red kale, and it's FANTASTIC! My favorite kale salad is 2 cups of kale, 1 cup grapes, 1/4 cup walnuts, and a lightly sweet vinaigrette, like lemon dill or olive oil with a high quality balsalmic vinegar and a hint of honey and basil. I also will occasionally cook kale with sweet potatoes and quinoa, because it tastes great in risottos.
Bok choy is an asian green that both the stems and leaves taste fantastic is soups and stir fries. You can toss it in when you add the carrots and it cooks well. Mustard greens are really good as well. Both of them have fairly speedy growing times and prolific yields. I also personally love buttercrunch bibb lettuce (grows like mad in the spring and early summer and tastes amazing in salads) as well as arugula, both of which I prefer eaten raw.
Carrot tops can be eaten in salads though I don't know too much about their nutritional content. Young dandelion leaves from plants that have yet to have produced flowers taste great in salads. The aforementioned chard tastes great as well.
In my experience, chard (aka swiss chard) is the hands down best green for the casual or small-space gardener, as it produces like mad and has a very, very long growing season (at least where I live, in the northeast). If you like the flavor of it, it's hard to go wrong. But none of them is especially hard to grow as long as you can protect the sprouts and young plants from the critters that would like to eat them off at ground level as soon as they come up. Most (lettuces, spinach, to some extent kale) are cool-season crops that will produce best around mid-spring into very early summer and then die back or go to seed once it gets hot.
You can also experiment with greens that are "attached" to root vegetables, that way you get double yield if you want it. Beet greens are nice (very close to taste of chard). Also turnip greens I believe? Not sure.
Our most common way to use greens that are not so easy to eat raw (that is, pretty much everything other than lettuces) is to chop them into strips and then add them to soups and stew-like concoctions. If you google up one recipe for the basic idea, you can apply it to just about anything.
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Spinach is pretty easy to grow, as is pretty much any leafy green (or red for that matter - red lettuce has a really good flavor) but iceberg lettuce. The real battle is keeping the deer/rabbits out of it.
So, I'm in the process of putting in my summer veggie garden. I admit that, while I do eat my fair share of veggies, I don't eat a lot of "greens" and it's my understanding that they are good for you and that most people should eat more of them. So, I got to thinking about all the greens that I do grow (and throw out because they are things people normally throw out, like carrot tops) and all the greens that I could potentially grow (but usually don't).
I'm thinking about trying to grow things like kale (which I enjoy, but have only bought, never grown), collard greens and turnip greens (both of which I have not tried since I was a kid--didn't like them them, but am optimistic that I could like them now as my tastes have changed over the years). Any advice on what else I might grow?
Any advice on what greens I might consider eating that people normally throw out? For example, does anyone eat carrot tops? Are they just waste or are they powerhouses of tasty nutritional goodness?
Any advice on how to eat greens? Simple recipes or ways to use them that I might not have thought about? Which taste good raw and which need cooking?
What are the benefits of eating more greens? Any risks that I might not know about?
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