Easy greens to grow in a community garden

Credit: Elizabeth Rowlands

Q: I’m a vegan and am trying to grow a steady supply of organic greens for myself in a Vancouver community garden. What is the easiest, fastest-growing and most reliable green to start with for someone who wants a lot of results from little work?

I would suggest you start with kale and chard, and also tuck in some spinach, Oriental greens, mustard greens, parsley and cilantro, because these greens grow year-round and are prolific self-seeders.

ONE: Dig in some compost, then tuck in seeds or seedlings. For an early start, grow seedlings inside your home or greenhouse and plant out once the ground thaws.

TWO: Harvest and enjoy throughout the year. Don’t pull your plants – simply snip off leaves as you need them for salads and smoothies, stir-fries and soups.

Kale leaves are the most freely available greens volunteering around the garden. I choose ‘Russian Red’ or ‘Green Curled’ kale, which are tender enough for salads year round. The delicious flowerheads can be eaten in lieu of broccoli spears, raw or lightly steamed, best done while still in bud, before flowers open.

If you find you have an over-abundance of greens in your garden, harvest to your heart’s content and freeze for winter soups.

Tips on planting vegetables

THREE: Choose open-pollinated varieties (not F1 hybrids) and let some go to seed. You’ll be rewarded with fresh, nutritious greens freely-available year round – with no effort required! Keep named varieties pure by only growing one variety of each vegetable species. If you have an excess of seed, collect some to trade at your local Seedy Saturday. A few seeds are all it takes!