Spring is just around the corner – time to prepare your balcony or window box for crops of leafy greens
City folk with just a little sunny space can start growing herbs for salads, and even a few quick-growing vegetables, now. I cultivate a “vanishing garden – ” herbs and vegetables in balcony window boxes that will make way for the sukkah in the fall. But all summer long I’ll have coriander, rocket, chives, young Swiss chard and tomatoes to eat within minutes of picking.
It’s time to clear away the last of the chickweed that made so many refreshing winter salads (you can learn how to make two of those salads here), plant the basil I rooted from sprigs I bought in the supermarket, and poke a few seeds into the soil. Here are some quick crops ideas for your own small, sunny space.
Start planting leafy greens as soon as the weather turns springlike, and sow a new crop every three weeks to keep a continuous supply going. Make sure the soil in your pots is loose and moist before you sow. If it’s tired soil from previous plantings, feed it with some compost. Then, sprinkle plenty of seeds over the surface, cover them with a thin layer of fresh soil, and water lightly. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. You’ll see seedlings in about 3 weeks.
Thin the seedlings out when they get crowded, leaving the biggest and healthiest ones. Take the thinnings inside for salads or sandwich fillings (or just eat them right then and there). Some crops, like Swiss chard, can be cut twice and new leaves will come up from the same plant.
Lettuce – try some colorful varieties
Parsley takes longer to come up, about 6 weeks.
Radishes are another easy, quick crop. Try a variety you’re not familiar with for fun.
You can plant sprouted garlic or onions in a container and clip the long, aromatic greens off several times before exhausting the bulbs.
Try also one or two bean varieties: broad beans, runner beans, French beans. These will take about 6 weeks till harvest.
As summer sets in, your leafy greens will start to bolt (flower) very quickly and their leaves will become small, tough and bitter. Yank out plants that have given their all, but leave the stumps of peas and beans in the soil to nourish new crops with their nitrogen.
More about urban gardening on Green Prophet:
Photo of lettuce by thebittenword via Flickr.