1. Check to see if your soil is ready.
Most greens seeds will germinate at temperatures as low as 40°F, so you may start planting as soon as the soil has thawed and is dry enough to rake smoothly. Overly moist soils can cause seed to decay, so if you live in a location with a high water table or a lot of rain, don't push the season.
Squeezing a fistful of dirt in your hand is a nice technique to see if it's ready. It's time to start planting when the soil forms a ball that splits easily or crumbles between your fingers. Wait a few days and try again if the dirt forms a ball that does not separate when jiggled.
To improve early-season growing conditions, consider building raised bids if your soil is too damp. To enhance soil conditions and guarantee appropriate drainage, just raise your beds 12-24" above the ground. If your space is large enough, you can also consider installing sub-drainage or ditches.
Finally, if your soil is overly damp due to a high clay content, consider adding sand and organic matter such as compost and rotting manure to improve soil quality. The sandy-loam soil type is suitable for growing vegetables.
2. Ensure that the nutrients required for healthy growth are available.
Lettuces and other salad greens, like all plants, require nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to thrive. Salad greens, on the other hand, spend the majority of their energy producing green leaves. As a result, these plants rely on nitrogen for the majority of their growth.
One technique to get nitrogen to your plants' roots is to fertilize your soil with finished compost or rotting animal manure before planting. After the seeds have sprouted, we top dress with compost or water with diluted fish fertilizer or compost tea (if planting in rows). Organic alfalfa or kelp meal, mixed into the soil before planting, are two more sources of nitrogen.
3. Maintain an even moisture level in the soil.
Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes gardeners make when cultivating early greens. Despite the fact that the earth is warming along with the air, the low spring temperatures result in less evaporation.
While some experts recommend misting your greens, especially before germination, we've found that a gentle watering once or twice a week is sufficient to satisfy our plants' hunger and ensure strong, healthy growth. The frequency of watering will be determined by the kind of soil (sand, clay, or loam), the temperature in your area, and whether your crop is grown outside or in a greenhouse.
4. Make sure you have both primary and supplementary coverage.
Greens can be planted in a greenhouse or hoop tunnel a month before their outdoor planting dates to gain a head start on the season. You can also take it a step further: while seeds grown under cover already benefit from warmer-than-average temperatures, adding another layer of protection can help them develop faster and germinate better.
Eliot Coleman shows how floating row covers (a thin layer of light-permeable cloth) can significantly raise the temperature and relative humidity of a growing area inside a greenhouse or cold frame in his book The Winter Harvest Handbook. This "double covering" adjusts the atmosphere just enough to encourage development while also protecting plants from sudden temperature drops.
Floating row covers, which are lightweight and easy to use, are now commonly available at most garden supply stores. We cover our seeds for the first few weeks after planting to speed germination and maintain an even soil moisture early in the season after beginning a range of early greens in our greenhouse.
5.Choose kinds that can withstand the cold.
Most greens are cold-tolerant, some are more prone than others to sprout and thrive in unpredictably fluctuating temperatures. For an early spring sowing, arugula, spinach, kale, cress, mustard greens, and corn salad are all acceptable options.
Lettuces germinate in a greenhouse in the early spring in most areas. Lettuces offer heft and sweetness to the mix, while growing more slowly than other greens at the start of the season and requiring shelter from strong frosts. Keep in mind that most lettuces prefer light to germinate, so only a thin layer of soil will enough. For additional information, see our list of best cold-hardy greens below.
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