That is, with leafy-green plants such as Kale and Chard who can be harvested regularly but in small amounts (as opposed to one big harvest of the whole plant), how much of the plant can one take so as to leave enough "for the plant" to regenerate? Are there any general rules-of-thumb as there are in pruning trees?
Does anyone else take a leaf here-and-there from their kale and want to know how long they can keep this up?
I harvest all my lettuces this way. When I need a salad, I take 1 leaf here, two leaves there... over all the plants. I usually dont take more than 3 leaves per plant unless the plant is especially robust. I grow chard but dont eat it but I do remove lower leaves that become tattered. Ive heard of some folk who harvest the centers first but I always harvest the most outer leaves first. Ive harvested lettuce this way all the way until it bolts in late spring. Hope this helps.
We do a lot of Kale for our Farmers Market. We take all the leaves off of a plant except very small ones at top. Almost impossible to keep up with a nice big row.
Swiss Chard can be cut a couple inches off the ground & will regrow, even suckering & making a bigger plant.
With Bok Choy, I take outer leaves first. It's certainly better to take them before they turn yellow and die.
My rule of thumb for harvesting them while plants are still far apart is to leave "most" of the plant behind, so it has plenty of leaves to support rapid growth. Also, I usually take only "big" leaves and stems, since small leaves are still growing rapidly and will give me more harvest per square foot if I let them grow.. You get more yield soon if you prune lightly at first, then prune more heavily as the cr5op fills in.
Let's say I take less than 1/3 from each plant, usually less than 1/4, when they are fairly young.
But I think that is over-cautious. I could probably take 1/2 or 2/3 (maybe 3/4) of a healthy young Bok Choy plant and it would come back. A heavy early pruning might slow it down, since fewer leaves means less photosynthesis and less energy fopr new growth.
But I plant Bok Choy much denser t6han it 'wants to be" at maturity. So once plants start to touch, I pull entire heads and let the rest get bigger. The hearts are more tender, anyway.
I guess I could just prune every plant heavily as they start to touch, instead of taking 1-2 whole plants each day ... but that's more work.
For leaf crops that sort of open out, leave the outer leaves so less dirt splashes onto the other leaves.
Leave the inner, new leaves to grow larger.
So you are harvesting the middle leaves. Big enough to be worth harvesting, but young enough to still be tender and tasty. I harvest lettuce this way, several leaves per plant.
I've always thought your leafy vegetables did better and produced more to pinch the leaves heavy. My mustard is in a 4x20 raised bed and I pick it back ever week. I get 2 T-Shirt bags crammed full. That keeps the leaves more tender. My collards, I pick every leaf but the terminal buds. It is surprizing how quickly they come back.
Speaking of collards, I planted six plants a man gave me. He raised them from seed and elderly woman gave him. Didn't have a clue as to the name, just they were of the seed her mother always planted. The leaves have a purpleish cast to them with the veins purple. They don't over waist high. They taste a lot better than the ones I've been planting the past two years. I'm going to try and let a couple go to seed.
Gymgirl, I visited an older man in my church yesterday and was telling him about the collards. He knew the name of them. They are Georgia Blue Stem. He said that was all anyone planted when he was a boy.
Regarding harvesting the bok choy type cabbages. I cut down all three of my Soloist Cabbages over the weekend, to save the undamaged leaves from the humongous cutworm residing smack dab in the middle of the tightly closed leaves.
How do ya'll keep them from burrowing into the center of the cabbage and setting up shop? These leave grow similar to how a Romaine Lettuce looks.
P.S. I read somewhere that you could encase the growing cabbage in a pantyhose/nylon stocking and the worms wouldn't be able to get threw. Lemme know.
I've had the best luck with planting bok choy in my hanging planters. They make nice greenery in with the flowers, and I'm guessing they would be safe from most cutworms too. This was for a small variety, however.