The Baby Greens workshop at the WHRL. Don't miss Starting Plants from Seeds Saturday, April 5!

The Baby Greens workshop at the WHRL. Don’t miss the next workshop: Starting Seeds on Saturday, April 5, 2014!

Baby greens are really nutritious, full of important enzymes, vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll. They’re easy and inexpensive to grow. Growing your own greens lets you have the freshest, tastiest salads year round, for just pennies. You can buy packets of seed mixes, but it’s cheaper to buy packets of a few of the vegetables below, which are available locally. Some veggies that are good for baby greens:

  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • broccoli
  • green or red cabbage
  • kale
  • tatsoi
  • arugula
  • Chinese cabbage
  • beets
  • mustard greens

Starting Baby Greens

Materials needed:

  • potting soil
  • plastic containers (like cottage cheese or tofu containers)
  • old newspaper
  • seeds!
  • pencil, chopstick or twig
  • spray bottle or narrow mouthed bottle
  • plastic wrap
  • seedling flat
  • sunny south facing window

Lets get started:

  1. Seeds planted in a re-purposed milk jug.

    Seeds planted in a re-purposed milk jug.

    Fill plastic containers with potting soil to about ½ inch from the top, firmly packed and well-moistened. (like a wrung out sponge)

  2. Poke holes, about ¼ inch apart in soil, and 1/8 – ¼ inch deep, depending on the size of the seed. (Plant seeds twice as deep as the width of the seed you are working with)
  3. Place seeds in holes, cover and gently but firmly pack soil over them
  4. Water seeds with spray bottle.
  5. Place piece of plastic wrap lightly over container and place in sunny south-facing window. Some seeds (like chard) will germinate better in the coldest months if you set the seed container on a heating pad on low heat.
  6. Check plants each day and water as needed. Don’t over water!! It weakens the plants. If the soil feels dry to touch, water to the “wrung sponge” state. You can also check if your seeds need watering based on the weight of the container—pick it up every day and you’ll get to know what dry (and light weight) feels like, and what nicely saturated (and heavier) feels like.When seedlings have their true leaves (true leaves are the leaves that open after the 1st two leaves) which you should notice about 2 weeks after planting your seeds, they are ready to transplant to a larger flat. I like to start a smaller number of seeds in small containers, and transplant them to a larger flat, because I waste less seed that way and can evenly set my seedlings to avoid crowding.

Transplanting seedlings to a flat:

  1. A broccoli plant with its first "true leaf"

    A broccoli plant with its first “true leaf”

    Spread newspaper on table to protect your surface.

  2. Fill a large flat (10 in. x 20 in.) with potting soil to about a ½ inch from the top, firmly packed and well-moistened.
  3. Using a fork, gently lift soil with seedlings in it from the small containers onto newspaper. Carefully break soil apart, teasing individual seedlings from their neighbors, making sure you don’t tear or break the roots. The more unbroken root that comes with the plant the more ready your seedling will be to grow.
  4. With pencil or stick, poke a hole 1 – 1 ½ inches deep, tipping the stick back and forth to widen the hole.
  5. Pick up a seedling by the top and carefully place the roots into the hole you’ve made. Be sure all the roots are nestled below the surface of the soil. Avoid touching the roots themselves.
  6. Push soil up around the base of the seedling. If your seedling got “leggy”, place it deeper in the hole, burying some of the ‘leggi-ness”, but be sure the “crotch” of the seedling where the leaves emerge is just above the soil level, not covered by soil.
  7. flat

    Baby greens growing in a large flat.

    Pack soil firmly, but gently, around the roots and base of the plants.

  8. Place seedlings about an inch apart.
  9. Set in south-facing window, checking every day, and watering as needed. Baby greens are typically harvested by cutting plants an inch up from the soil, once they have reached a height of 3 – 5 inches, but there’s no “right” time to harvest. They’re good for you whenever you harvest them!
  10. You can let them continue to grow and cut a second harvest, before composting leftover soil and roots.

If you start seeds every two weeks or so, you will have greens for salads throughout the year!

Top your baby greens with one of these tasty, healthy homemade salad dressings.