Leafy Greens & Root Crops


Photo credits: MG Gia Parsons

Leafy Greens and Root Crops

Leafy greens can be crisp or tender, bitter or sweet, tangy or pungent. They can be eaten raw or cooked and are full of fiber. Many prefer cooler weather. Lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, kale, arugula, mesclun mixes, and mache will grow and mature during the cool weather of spring and early summer, and many can even grow in partial shade. In this class, we will focus on lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mache (aka corn salad, Valerianella locusta).

Root Crops covered in this class include carrots, parsnips, beets, rutabaga, turnips, and radishes. In Western Washington, some members of the Cabbage Family are cool weather vegetables that are among the first to be planted each year, as early as March for transplants and April for direct seeding.

The vegetables in this class span several plant families:

  • Asteraceae (aka Compositae, or the Daisy Family) includes lettuce
  • Chenopodiodeae, a subfamily of the Amaranthaceae (aka Chenopods or the Beet Family) includes beets, Swiss Chard, and spinach
  • Caprifoliaceae (aka Honeysuckle Family) includes mache
  • Apiaceae (ormerly Umbelliferae) includes carrots and parsnips. Beyond their use as food plants, Apiaceae crops attract pollinators because their umbels provide a broad carpet of tiny flowers on which bees and flies can walk.
  • Brassicacaceae formerly formerly Cruciferae (aka Brassicas or the Cabbage Family) includes radishes, rutabagas, and turnips: To enhance your learning, see the resources included on the Cabbage Family webpage.

Topics covered include variety selection, what “open pollinated” means, cultural requirements, container growing, fertilizer needs, seed saving and the consequences of using hybrid seeds, major diseases and pests, as well as pest management techniques.

Below are resources to enhance your learning.

Leafy Greens and Root Vegetables PPT Slides

  • Growing Carrots in Home Gardens — WSU Extension Publication FS118E, a free 4-page download PDF, gives guidelines on selecting types of carrots to plant, planting, watering, harvesting, and managing pests.
  • How to Grow Parsnips —  Michigan State University Extension online publication covers preparation, planting, pests, harvesting and storage.
  • Growing the Chenopod (Beet) Family — WSU Snohomish County Extension online 1-page publication explains how to plant, maintain, and care for beets, spinach, and Swiss chard, along with advice about pests and diseases.

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