We'll admit, when we sowed our first lettuce, spinach, chard, and herb seeds in our raised bed in mid-January (we can do that in Texas), we went a little seed-crazy. Before too long, there were sprouts all over the place. And while we like to think that every little sprout has potential, making thinning difficult, we went ahead with the task at hand. But those little sprouts didn't go to waste. Here's a tip as you start your own spring garden.
We thinned out each row of plants so that each seedling would have at least 2-4 inches of space to grow (just what most leafy greens like). And instead of tossing them into the compost bin, we mixed our thinnings in with the lettuce from our CSA to make a winter salad full of flavor.
Now, before you go eating any and all thinnings you yank from your young garden, take a minute to research their safety; some, like carrot tops, rhubarb, and tomato leaves, produce small amounts of toxins like alkaloids or oxalic acid.
But we harvested baby radish, tunip, chard, lettuce, spinach, parsley, and cilantro greens and enjoyed them immensely (with no adverse reactions). According to one site that sells microgreens, Fresh Origins, commonly eaten include: amaranth, arugula, beets, basil, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, cilantro, cress, fennel, kale, mustard, parsley, radish, and sorrel. We've also read that chive, bok choy, and turnip microgreens make for tasty eating.
Best part? Even if you don't have room for an outside garden (and therefore no need for thinning), you can grow them in your windowsill.
Image: Amber Byfield for Re-Nest.