What could be better than growing leafy green vegetables in pots on your patio or balcony? 

Once you begin growing leafy green vegetables in pots or containers, you’ll soon become enthused to get started every spring! Imagine stepping outside to harvest all you need for a fresh, organic salad, that you’ve grown yourself.

Not only are leafy greens healthy for you, you will soon find the act of planting and seeing them grow is exciting and a welcome change of pace from the doldrums of winter. 

How to Grow Leafy Greens in Pots

You have two choices to begin with growing your own salad greens – starting from seed or purchasing transplants from a garden centre. Both these choices have benefits and disadvantages. 

Benefits of growing your greens from seeds:

You have diverse choices – you’ll find a great selection of seed choices, while garden centres have a limited choice of seedling varieties available. For example, the seed company I like to get my seeds from offers 50 varieties of lettuce seeds and 11 varieties of spinach. Now that’s choice!

You will save money – A single packet of 50 or 100 seeds costs less than a small container  of 4 to 6 healthy seedlings. You can save extra seeds for the following year. True, you will need some initial investment in trays and containers (and perhaps grow-lights), but these are usable for many years.

Seeing those little sprouts pop through the soil is exciting and a real cure for spring fever.

Benefits of buying transplants:

Buying transplants is convenient and time-saving. Most garden centres supply high quality seedlings ready to transplant into your containers. Also, unless you have an area with ample light, starting your own seeds can be a waste of effort as the seedlings will be lanky and unhealthy.

Seed starting takes up a lot of space, especially as the plants begin to grow. And as they grow, they will need to be repotted into larger containers. Transplants you have bought will need a couple of days of hardening off before they can be planted into their permanent container, so you need little space for them indoors.

Most vegetables need about 6 to 8 weeks of growth before they can be moved outside. Unless you have time and the space to take care of seedlings, you are better off buying transplants.

Best Conditions for Leafy Green Vegetables
in Pots

You may think that dirt is dirt, but if you want success with leafy green vegetables in containers, your soil choice is critical for success. Container grown plants need a soil that is well aerated and drains well, yet still retains moisture in a small container. 

Choose a potting mix (also called potting soil), one that is lightweight and fluffy. Most potting soils have been sterilized, so weed seeds, fungi and molds are eliminated. Mix it with compost in a ratio of 2/3 soil and 1/3 compost so that your new plants will have a rich soil. The soil should be kept consistently moist and fertile for greens to grow well.

Select containers when you’re growing leafy greens in that are deep enough to keep moist, and will allow room for the kind of vegetable you are planting. Fill them with the planting mix, and you’re ready to start planting, whether it is from purchased seedlings or from seeds you sow.

Leafy green vegetables need a sunny location. However, some do not thrive in hot sun, so may need to be moved to a semi-shaded area as the season progresses.

For leafy vegetables to grow at home, sow spinach, kale and mustard greens in containers outside about 6 weeks before the last spring frost. Sow lettuce and Swiss chard seeds about 3 weeks later.

7 Best Leafy Green Vegetables to Grow in Pots

Spinach – leafy green vegetables in pots:

Spinach grows well in any container that’s wide and fairly deep. Place the container in a semi-sun area, and start the seeds early as they thrive in cooler temperatures. The trick to success with spinach is to grow and harvest it fast, as it tends to bolt as the days get longer and the soil heats. For a continuous supply, plant every 3 weeks

Swiss chard – leafy green vegetables in pots:

Swiss chard has glossy green leaves on red, yellow, green or white stocks. It does not need a deep pot, but the plants need some space.. Start it early outdoors, in deep organic and fertile soil. Thin the seedlings 2 to 3 inches apart. Chard is ready to pick within 4 to 6 weeks. As it grows, pick the large outer leaves and enjoy it for many months as new leaves form continually.

Mustard Greens – leafy green vegetables in pots:

These greens are tolerant of cold, so can be grown in early spring. Direct sow them as early as late winter. The young leaves are more tender and less strongly flavored, so don’t hesitate to cut individual leaves for use. Once the weather is warmer, harvest before the plants bolt to seed. Renew planting in fall, and provide protection by using a cloche over the container. They are so cold hardy, leaves should be available for the entire winter.

Arugula – leafy green vegetables in pots:

Arugula is a fast growing cool season crop with a peppery flavor. It grows best in spring and fall, maturing in 30 to 40 days.  It will bolt to seeds in hot weather. Direct sow the seeds every 3 weeks if you have space. They will germinate within 8 days, and as the plants grow you can either harvest whole plants or use as a cut and come again plant, harvesting leaves with scissors.throughout spring and fall. Like all green plants, it needs a soil rich in nitrogen, so add compost or well-rotted manure to the soil before planting.

Lettuce – leafy green vegetables in pots:

Lettuce needs a well draining pot, but also a consistent supply of water. It grows well in either full sun or partial shade, but most lettuces do best in cooler weather. Many lettuce varieties are available and can be grown under cover for winter harvests in moderate climates. Since lettuce seeds don’t sprout easily when the soil is hot, sprout them indoors before replanting the sprouts into a container. Leaf lettuces can be grown close together, but head or romaines should be spaced at least 2 inches apart.

Kale – leafy green vegetables in pots:

Kale is easy to grow, vigorous, nutritious and resistant to cold temperatures. It is the perfect choice for a winter-harvest garden, as it gets sweeter with cold. Young leaves are tender enough for salads. Pick leaves from the bottom up as you need them and they will continue growing and forming new leaves all season.

Pak Choi – leafy green vegetables in pots:

Another cool season leafy green vegetable, pak choi is part of the cabbage family. It is easy to grow. Smaller compact varieties such as Toi Choi work well in containers. Plant the seeds 4 weeks before the last frost date, and sow every 3 weeks for a continuous harvest. As the weather warms, it may begin to flower and will go to seed. 

Growing leafy green vegetables such as Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, and lettuce in pots can provide a source of fresh, flavorful salad vegetables that are nutrient rich, You’ll also have the opportunity to try some of the interesting varieties that are not available in grocery stores.

Are you ready to get started?

About the Author

Nicki is a dedicated gardener, a creative artist and a published author. Passionate about what she does, her gardening articles, books and paintings reveal her love of nature and the western Canadian scene. She loves sharing her container garden success with others to inspire their creativity.

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