Leaf Crop ABC's
by National Gardening Association Editors
Most greens crops thrive in cool spring and fall weather (50° F to 60° F). Just compare the crisp, flavorful lettuce leaves harvested in spring with the often bitter leaves of a summer cutting and you'll agree. A few greens can handle summer heat, but most of them prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and fall.
A steady flow of moisture and nutrients is important for good greens growth. And for some greens, these supplies have to be near the surface. The roots of lettuce, for example, are close to the surface. They don't grow deep in the soil to search out food and water. If you've gardened in dry times, you know lettuce isn't very drought-resistant. Big-leaved plants give off a lot of moisture. When it's dry, they get very thirsty!
Nitrogen for Greens
Leafy crops need plenty of nitrogen, too. That's the key element in the good growth of leaves and it influences the crispness and quality of leafy crops, as well.
The one thing most greens don't need is a lot of heat. Spinach, for example, will quickly develop a seedstalk and start to stretch upward when it gets too warm. This is known as going to seed or "bolting." When it happens, spinach leaves begin to lose some of their flavor. A long hot spell can spoil heads of iceberg-type lettuce, too. The heat loosens the leaves of the head, and they get soft and sometimes bitter. If you can shade some of these crops as hot weather approaches, you can often keep the harvest going a few weeks longer.
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