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High Yield Gardening: How do we harvest contunual greens without depleting plants?

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ineedacupoftea
Denver, CO

December 14, 2012
12:00 PM

Post #9358186

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?

Always amateur,
Kenton

steadycam3
Houston Heights, TX
(Zone 9a)

December 14, 2012
4:39 PM

Post #9358390

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.

This message was edited Dec 14, 2012 7:52 PM

CountryGardens

CountryGardens
Lewisville, MN
(Zone 4a)

December 14, 2012
5:52 PM

Post #9358437

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.

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RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

December 14, 2012
7:11 PM

Post #9358502

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.
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

December 15, 2012
8:04 PM

Post #9359514

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.
Jim41
Delhi, LA

December 16, 2012
12:48 AM

Post #9359573

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

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

December 16, 2012
6:41 PM

Post #9360226

I'd love a couple of those seeds if you manage to save some
..
Jim41
Delhi, LA

December 17, 2012
11:45 AM

Post #9360752

I'll be glad to share if I have any.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

December 17, 2012
11:54 AM

Post #9360755

Diana_K said:
>> So you are harvesting the middle leaves.

Cool idea! I'll try that.

However, I will always remove the outer leaves when they get yellow or too full of holes (Bok Choy in slug country).
Jim41
Delhi, LA

December 18, 2012
6:26 AM

Post #9361299

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.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

December 18, 2012
10:38 AM

Post #9361492

Bro. Jim,
That name sounds about right!

Hugs!
Jim41
Delhi, LA

December 21, 2012
8:42 PM

Post #9364344

If I don't have any success with saving seed from my plants, I have a source lined up so we are in business.
ineedacupoftea
Denver, CO

January 1, 2013
7:14 PM

Post #9372767

Brilliant!

Thanks everyone!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 2, 2013
7:08 AM

Post #9373040

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.

Linda.

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.

Thanks!
LiseP
San Antonio, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 9, 2013
11:29 AM

Post #9380159

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.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

January 9, 2013
11:43 AM

Post #9380168

LiseP,
The Soloist Cabbages I cut last week are already regrowing! Have to cover them with nylons!
LiseP
San Antonio, TX
(Zone 8b)

January 14, 2013
1:46 PM

Post #9384901

Cool idea on the nylons. Let me know how it works out.

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