Growing for CHANGE's Growing Guide: Vegetables & Greens

Lettuce

Fresh Lettuce

 

Plant when: ~two weeks before the first frost 

Sun: Full (minimum 4-5 hours per day) 

Spacing: Loose Leaf (4 inches apart), Romaine/Butterhead (8 inches apart), Iceberg (16 inches apart) 

Harvest: remove outer leaves after they reach full size (depends on type of lettuce) 

General Tips: prefer plenty of compost; plant with rows of garlic and chive in between to fight off aphids and other critters 

Kale

Fresh Kale

Plant when: 3-4 weeks before last frost (last frost is around second week of April in VA) 

Sun: Full (minimum 4-5 hours per day) 

Spacing: 18-23 inches apart, rows around 3 feet apart. Plant at the depth they are currently at in the container 

Harvest: start harvesting lowest leaves when they reach roughly the size of your hand and are a deep green color 

General Tips: water frequently since kale grows quickly; cover the plants during extremely cold nights; harvest their yellow flowers once the weather gets warmer for some more produce; cover with a layer of mulch to retain moisture and keep plants cool 

Spinach

Spinach

Plant when: 4-6 weeks before last frost, as soon as ground is soft enough to work (last frost is around second week of April in VA) 

Sun: Full/partial sun 

Spacing: 12 inches apart, difficult to transplant; grow well in pots if you loosen the soil deep 

Harvest: when it begins to grow tall/bloom during the longer days of spring. Pick the outer leaves to allow the plant to continue growing. Will know if it's mature -- will become bitter after maturity. 

General Tips: water often to keep soil cool; grow with radishes to protect against pests

Arugula

arugula.jpg

Plant when: early-mid March (can tolerate frost, but not May heat) 

Sun: Full sun/partial shade 

Spacing: if they're seeds, plant 1/4 inch deep and several inches apart. If seedlings (some roots/leaves/etc.), 12-14 inches apart 

Harvest: this plant reaches maturity in 2-3 weeks, snip outside leaves only to ensure the rest of the plant can continue to grow 

General Tips: water frequently; compost beforehand; can grow tall and cause other plants to be shaded 

Collards

ECCD03F7-8079-4BAB-B5F6-13E05E3A16B1.jpe

Plant when: 3-4 weeks before last frost (last frost is around second week of April in VA) 

Sun: Full (minimum 4-5 hours per day) 

Spacing: 18-24 inches apart, rows around 3 feet apart. 

Harvest: after 60-75 days (but can harvest leaves whenever grown during that period. Harvest when dark green and about ten inches in length) 

General Tips: water frequently since collards grows quickly; cover the plants during extremely cold nights; cover layer of mulch to retain moisture and keep the plants cool 

Mustard Greens

mustard greens.jpg

 

Plant when: ~two weeks before the first frost 

Sun: Full/partial sun 

Spacing: 6-12 inches apart, rows 18 inches apart 

Harvest: after about 4 weeks, make sure to pick outside leaves first 

General Tips: keep soil moist; these greens are sweeter and lighter than collards/kale 

Swiss chard

swiss chard.jpg

 

Plant when: ~two weeks before the last frost 

Sun: Full/partial sun 

Spacing: 6-12 inches apart, rows 18 inches apart 

Harvest: once the plant is 6-8 inches tall. Remove outer leaves and allow smaller ones to continue growing. 

General Tips: cut back plants if they reach a foot tall or if leaves become bitter; tolerates heat better than most other greens 

Onion

Onions

 

Plant when: ground is workable (4-6 weeks before last frost) 

Sun: Full (ensure they aren't shaded by other plants) 

Spacing: 4-5 inches apart, rows 12-18 inches apart (do not transplant more than 1 inch deep, add compost below the onion bulb if possible) 

Harvest: once tops of onions become yellow and fall over (when they turn brown and rest on the ground they are fully mature). Handle onions carefully and allows to dry outside for a few days after harvesting

General Tips: water slowly but frequently (the more water = the sweeter they are); ensure raised bed is at least 4 inches deep so roots can develop; weed frequently 

Beets

Fresh Beetroots

 

Plant when: 3-4 weeks before the last frost 

Sun: partial shade, but roots need full sun at beginning 

Spacing: 3-4 inches apart, top of root should be level with the soil 

Harvest: ~2 months after planting. Can harvest the greens, but ensure plant retains some because the root needs some to grow 

General Tips: be careful when weeding (weak roots), requires consistent moisture; prefers cooler weather, so use mulch to regulate against warmer days 

Celery

Image by Kelly Sikkema

 

Plant when: nighttime temps are above 40 degrees

Sun: 5-7 hours/day  

Spacing: 12 inches apart (loosen soil about a foot deep to allow room for weaker roots to grow) 

Harvest: once stalks are at least 6 inches tall from the bottom to the first leaf (roughly eight inches), can harvest all at once or only outer stalks first 

General Tips: requires compost enriched soil; once seedling doubles in height pile soul up around the base to prevent sunlight from reaching the base and turning it white; requires lots of water; tie the stalks together to prevent sprawling; great in soups! 

Carrot

Organic Carrots

 

Plant when: ~2-4 weeks before the last frost 

Sun: partial shade

Spacing: 3-4 inches apart (doesn't transplant well, be very careful with the roots), needs loose soil to allow for root development (till down about a foot) 

Harvest: when the crown/top of the carrot is 1/2 inch in diameter. Harvest before the days get too hot. 

General Tips: weed very carefully so you don't disturb the roots; keep the soil moist with frequent small waterings; can interplant with radishes for a better harvest as radish breaks up the ground for the carrots 

Radish

Radishes

 

Plant when: 4-6 weeks before last frost 

Sun: Full 

Spacing: 1-2 inches apart (grow very quickly and don't need much space) needs loose soil 

Harvest: 3-4 weeks after planting when roots are 1 inch in diameter 

General Tips: not much care required besides watering (mature quickly) 

Broccoli

Image by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis

 

Plant when: 3-4 weeks before the last frost 

Sun: Full/partial sun 

Spacing: 12-20 inches apart, dig slightly deeper than the depth they were at in the container 

Harvest: when heads are roughly 4-7 inches across. To harvest, use a knife and cut at least 6 inches below the head. If you begin to see yellow petals forming, harvest immediately. 

General Tips: water well, but don't water the heads of the broccoli; you can harvest the sideshows that will continue to develop after the main head is harvested. You can harvest from one plant for many weeks (from spring to fall, if your summer isn't too hot). 

Tomato

Cherry Tomatos

 

Plant when: ~2-3 weeks after the last frost 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 2-3 feet apart or in their own individual pot. Plant stakes or cages before the plants so you don't damage them later on. When planting, plant part of the stem below the ground to help stabilize the plant 

Harvest: once they reach the desired size and color 

General Tips: use lots of fertilizer before, during, and after planting; water generously the first few days; try to water in the mornings 

Bell Pepper 

Image by Irene Kredenets

 

Plant when: 1-2 weeks after the last frost 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 18-24 inches apart (mix fertilizer and compost in while planting) 

Harvest: once they reach the desired size and color 

General Tips: very heat sensitive so water frequently especially on hot days; support plant with a small stake or cage after vegetables begin to appear so plant doesn't droop too much; green and red peppers are the same (red ones just stayed on the vine longer)  

Hot Pepper

Image by Elle Hughes

 

Plant when: ~3-4 weeks after the last frost 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 12-18 inches apart (place at level they were previously growing) 

Harvest: 8-10 weeks after transplanting, they generally get hotter as they ripen 

General Tips: water enough to keep from wilting; try mixing up the different types 

Squash

Image by Melanie Hughes

 

Plant when:   mid summer 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 3-6 feet apart 

Harvest: once they reach full size (between 6-8 inches long) 

General Tips: 1-1.5 inches of water a week; avoid wetting the leaves; mix in a layer of compost prior to planting; don't worry if some of the flowers fall and die 

Cucumber

Image by Markus Winkler

 

Plant when: no less than 2 weeks after last frost date 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 36-60 inches apart 

Harvest: once they reach desired color and size 

General Tips: inch of water every week; grow well with little care 

Zucchini 

Zucchini

 

Plant when: no less than 2 weeks after last frost 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 3-4 inches apart 

Harvest: when they are 3-8 inches in size 

General Tips: need consistently moist soil with a lot of nutrients; consistent water

Eggplant

Image by Charles Deluvio

 

Plant when: 1-2 weeks after last frost 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 24-36 inches apart, stake them once established to prevent toppling 

Harvest: when fruit stops growing and they begin to look glossy 

General Tips: keep soil moist but not soggy; add a layer of compost; eggplants love the sun and do best in sunny, well-drained locations 

Okra 

Okra.jpg

 

Plant when: no less than 2 weeks after last frost date, early to mid-summer ideal 

Sun: Full sun 

Spacing: 10 inches apart 

Harvest: when 2-4 inches long 

General Tips: 1 inch of water a week (can withstand a dry spell); seedlings have fragile roots; water seedlings thoroughly an hour before planting (gently remove them from the pot)