You don’t need a green thumb to grow vegetables, just some practice when it comes to observation and figuring out the right conditions for your plants. Urban farmer, Olivia Choong, introduces 5 easy to grow green leafy vegetables that won’t die on you, and start you on a journey to growing your very own edible plants.
When growing edible plants, it is important to pick ones that will adapt well to your current climate and growing space. In order to be a successful urban farmer, you need to do your research to determine which plants are low to high maintenance and its sun, water, nutritional requirements before planting seeds or purchasing seedlings. Also, you need to observe the space where you will place your plants, including the amount and direction of sun, light, heat and wind.
Factors like a glass balcony, hot concrete or highly reflective walls can influence the amount of heat and light that your plants receive. To create ideal conditions for plants, the home gardener can consider using shade cloth to block excess sunlight, mulch to protect soil from drying out, grouping plants together to minimise water loss, and arranging plants in different layers not unlike the rainforest, to create a microclimate that suit individual plant preferences of sun and wind.
If however, you are seeking plants which are so hardy that can only die from utter neglect, here are five green leafy vegetables that will thrive year-long in a sunny position in a tropical climate, or during the summer season in sub-tropical and temperate regions.
Kang Kong – Also known as water spinach, Kang Kong is a popular vegetable used in Asian stir-fries and soups. It grows like a weed, and has even termed in the US as a noxious weed. Able to grow in water and boggy conditions, Kang Kong is a hungry plant which requires lots of nutrients. Fertilise well with chicken manure or fish emulsion.
Malabar Spinach – Ceylon spinach as it is also called, grows prolifically in hot climates. A mucilaginous vegetable, it is best prepared in soups, or sautéed. Although some also eat in raw, it is recommended to cook the spinach leaves because its oxalic acid content. To grow a healthy, long-lasting crop, plant in well draining, moist, fertile soil.
Sweet potato leaves – While growing sweet potatoes, you can also harvest its leaves for use in stir fries and soups. This can be grown with other non-vining plants in the same pot or garden bed, and acts as a wonderful ground cover, weed controller and soil improver. The sweet potato plant is not fussy with soil, but when it is grown for its tubers, it needs to be regularly watered and planted in loamy, well draining soil.
Sweet Leaf Bush – The Chinese know this vegetable as Mani Cai, and it gets its name from it’s sweet flavour. Like the rest it is commonly consumed in soups and stir-fries. The Sweet leaf bush favours well draining, moist soil, although it is able to grow in a wide range of soil conditions.
Amaranth Greens – Otherwise known as Chinese Spinach or Bayam, this vegetable is perfect in soups and stir-fries. This fast growing vegetable grows well in free draining soil and will tolerate different soil conditions. Its leafy greens can be harvested within 30 days, so if you love eating this, be sure to plant a succession of crops.
These are some of the easiest plants to grow, and trial and error is necessary when it comes to bettering your growing technique. Once you have mastered growing these plants, you will see that growing vegetables is not so difficult after all. After this, make sure you give fruiting vegetables a go!