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With spiraling vegetable prices and news about pollutants in our soil and water systems every day, taking the initiative to start a kitchen garden and grow your own vegetables isn't surprising. With certain tips on how to grow edible greens at home, this task can be accomplished. While a lot of folks may eventually aspire for that elusive kitchen garden, it doesn't hurt to make a promising start by growing your own edible greens.
Most edible greens have small root systems, and can easily be grown in pots. However, they do require constant care, and factors, such as the quality of soil and water, and the nature of fertilizers and pesticides (if you're using any). Don't forget that you'll be consuming what you grow, so if you feed your plant toxins, you'll be ingesting those toxins yourself, later on.
You can grow several kinds of edible greens at home, including spinach, coriander, mint, dill, amaranth, fenugreek and several others. You can also grow scallions (sambar onions) and lemon grass - basically anything you wish. Most edible greens prefer well-drained soil, moderate sunlight and regular care. So, here are the tips on how to grow edible greens at home.
A Pot For Your Edible Greens:
The enthusiastic gardener is besieged with options while shopping for pots. From plastic, to ceramic, to metal and terracotta - you have them all. However, it's crucial that you select the one that allows for maximum aeration. Plastic pots have a myth going for them that they're durable, but they're not, and plastic is, in fact, second best to terracotta, which you should take if you can find it.
Pick a pot which has a hole to the side - not at the bottom - and if you plan to place the pot inside your house, pick a tray to go with the pot. Most potters sell pots with trays. Ceramic, likewise, is not breathable and metal is prone to rusting; but you can use containers made of ceramic and metal as pot holders if the basic pot is of terracotta.
Choose a pot according to the size of the plant. You may never expect spinach to grow very big, but it can grow into a rather big plant if you give it the space to grow. If you're keen on harvesting huge spinach leaves, simply give your spinach plant a bigger pot. Ideally, the right pot should be about 30 inches in diameter, but a bigger pot is always welcome.
Selecting The Right Potting Soil:
Shun the red soil that the chap at the nursery insists is best for your plants, and make your own potting mix. For a 30-inch pot that's about 50 inches high, first pour a little (very little) gravel into the bottom of the pot for the roots to latch on to. Then, add about one tea cup of sand (again, don't overdo it, and don't add too much). Follow this up with a mix of cocopeat and dried cow-dung. Finally top it all up with compost.
You will have to buy seeds only the first time, and ensure you buy only non-GMO seeds. This is one of the best tips to grow edible greens at home. Check the expiry date on the packets, and don't keep the seeds for too long before planting them. You can use a seed tray to plant the seeds and transfer them to your pot once they sprout to ensure a greater chance of success.
Do not over-water your seeds, and ensure they get an adequate sunlight. If you have pets, keep them away from the seed trays. The seeds should sprout in about a week. While transplanting the seeds, gently pick up the seeds with their ‘mother soil' (the soil surrounding the roots) and transplant them into the new pot, so as to reduce trauma.
Care For Your Seedlings:
Once the sprouts begin to take root, it's really only a matter of time before you harvest your leaves. Whenever you need leaves, all you need to do is snip off a few from your plant. Leave the ones that are young and growing for the next day. You will find that as you snip off the leaves, the plant puts out even more leaves for you to snip off.
Never snip off too many leaves - always leave a few on the plant, or it may wilt. Eventually, the plant will grow to such an extent that it will bear flowers, and you can harvest seeds from them. This is a crucial time, and once you've harvested your seeds, remember to clean them (do not wash them), dry them in the sunlight and pack them neatly for later. This is how you could grow edible greens at home.
Your flower-bearing edible green plant can be transplanted somewhere outside, while you sow seeds anew for a second harvest.
Keep fertilizers and pesticides away from your edible greens because they're particularly susceptible to toxins. All leafy vegetables should be especially regulated for the soil and water they're grown in and for the fertilizers and pesticides that are used on them. Occasionally, spray your edible greens with neem oil to keep pests away, and remember to wash them thoroughly before using them. An exceptionally good organic fertilizer is panchagavya, which can be bought online or at any Gaushala if you have access to one.
Growing your own edible greens at home requires a little effort, but the rewards are tremendous!