Extend the Season With Quick, Easy Salad Greens

Summer is coming to a close. Cooler temperatures and a bit more rain are ahead. Those tasty, leafy crops can be planted once again.

You may be ready to call it quits after a long, hot summer in the vegetable garden, but consider extending your growing season with easy-to-grow salad greens.

Greens should be planted from seed (Some garden centers do have some of these in cell packs ready to plant.) While you should follow the directions on the seed package for depth, seeds can be sown either in rows or broadcast (sprinkled) into a plot. If broadcasting, be sure you are able to reach across the bed; at harvest you don’t want to have to step on plants to reach the middle or back of the crop.

Here are some leafy crops that grow well in the fall:

This fast growing green has a strong, peppery flavor so use sparingly in salads or on sandwiches and mix with milder leaves. 

  • Days to germination: 4-8 
  • Days to maturity: 30-40 

Loose leaf lettuce
These tender leaves grow from a center point but rarely form a head. Seed will not germinate when soil temperatures are higher than 80 degrees. 

  • Days to germination: 3-8
  • Days to maturity: 30-50 

Good varieties of green leaf lettuce include Black Seeded Simpson, Salad Bowl and Grand Rapids. Red leaf varieties include Red Fire, Red Sale, Lollo Rosso and Ruby.

Also called corn salad, this mild, nutty flavored green has spoon-shaped leaves and is hardy in colder temperatures.

  • Days to germination: 7-14 
  • Days to maturity: 45-50 

Also known as mustard greens or leaf mustard, the smaller leaves have a mild flavor and make a nice addition to salads. Large, older leaves can be overly spicy.

  • Days to germination: 7-10 
  • Days to maturity: 35- 45, do not allow to go to seed (you will be pulling these for eternity)

Good varieties include Spicy Micro Mix, Green Wave, and Giant Red.

There are a few types to choose from with this easy-to-grow green, including Savoy and Semi-savoy-both of which have dark green, puckered leaves. Smooth leaf varieties are lighter in color and easier to wash.

  • Days to germination: 7-14 
  • Days to maturity: 38-45

Good varieties of Savoy and Semi-Savoy spinach include Giant Winter and Regiment.  Smooth leaf varieties include Corvair and Viroflay.

Also called spinach mustard or rosette bok choy, this plant forms a rosette with dark green leaves. It has a tangy, mild mustard flavor, and can be mixed into salads or stir-fried.

  • Days to germination: 4-10
  • Days to maturity: 30-45 

Greens are easy to grow. Keep the soil moist since many of them have shallow roots. With cooler nighttime temperatures, insects are less in number and weeds tend to be less aggressive. When first planted, be sure to protect seedlings from August’s blazing sun. Create a shade structure with sticks and cheese cloth, or plant between tomato plants using the garden space twice

For easy harvesting, simply use a pair of small garden scissors and snip the chosen leaves at ground level. This way you are not disturbing other leaves and root that are still growing. Leaving the plant intact will help to keep the plant producing leaves as well.

Extend your harvest by not planting the entire seed package at the same time. Planting seeds every two weeks will ensure a steady, manageable supply of greens.

Don’t give up on your garden after the eggplant and zucchini are gone. Plant some quick, easy greens to keep your meals fresh and homegrown well into fall.

Barbara Arnold is green corps coordinator with Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus.