Growing endive in the backyard garden
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When the time is right, I start growing endive. I grow endive mostly for my chickens. That might sound weird to you but the price for growing endive is 1 cent per endive plant.
Endive is really healthy for humans and chickens alike.
By growing greens for my chickens for almost no money, I can lower the food cost of my chickens.
When growing endive as food for the family, you can learn how to blanch the endive plants and make them less bitter.
What is endive
Endive or Cichorium endivia is a lettuce-like vegetable with strong big leaves or with curly long leaves depending on the kind you grow. In our country, endive is mostly grown as an autumn or winter crop. It can be grown in spring as well if you start the seedlings indoors as the seedlings are not frost-hardy.
Endive is edible in soups, stews or in fresh salads. The taste is more bitter than lettuce and the leaves are tougher than lettuce.
Endive is low in Saturated Fat and very low in Cholesterol. It contains a good amount of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Fibrous material, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese.
where to grow endive
Endive loves rich loose soil. Topping up the soil with nutrient-rich compost is for sure a good start before planting your endive plants.
Endive loves the full sun in spring and fall but half-sun is beneficial in summer as the plant easily bolts when temperatures are getting too high.
I personally always start endive in pots as this is easy for me. but you can start them in their final spot.
It’s easier to grow in pots because you have more control over the environment and soil. It’s also easy to see where you planted once you have planted out the endive plants.
Growing endive in rows
When growing endive in rows, you can plant the seedlings on a distance of 35 centimeters from each other. That’s a distance of 15 inches.
Growing endive in square foot garden
You can grow endive in the square foot method as well. I must say that the planting space of 1 endive per square foot could be a little narrow if you let the plants grow out. My endives sometimes have a diameter of 40 centimeters or 16 inches.16 inches is wider than the square foot measurement.
When to grow endive
As already mentioned, endive is an early or late vegetable. Growing endive early in spring and in autumn will get you nice big plants. But growing endive into the summertime could get you a lot of seeds but really bitter plants.
taking care of endive
Endive is really easy to care for. Make sure the soil stays moist but not wet. Wet roots could lead to root rot.
Work in a good amount of compost before planting endive. Although endive is a fast grower and can be harvested in 2 months to 10 weeks, it likes a lot of nutrition in the soil.
You can start growing it in the middle of summer or early in spring and you resow weekly until late in the fall, skipping the summer heat, as endive is quite frost hardy if you use row covers or a hoop house.
Just put one seed half an inch deep (you can sow more than one seed to thin out later on but endive seed is very viable) in compost or seedling soil. Keep the soil wet at all times until the seedling pops up after about 1 to 2 weeks. Try to water the plant daily and keep it moist but don’t let it stand in wet soil. When the endive has two real leaves you can put it in a permanent place until you can harvest it.
The plant likes a soil PH-value between 6.5 and 6.8.
transplanting or planting
If you have sown your seeds in seedling pots and you have multiple seedlings coming up in one pot, thin out to one plant and take the biggest one.
You can quite easily transplant the endive plants by gently removing the plant with the soil from the seedling pot. Make a hole as big as the seedling pot and plant the seedling inside. Make sure the sides are tightly fit. Press the surrounding soil against the potting soil to make good contact so the roots are well covered.
You normally only have to transplant once if you didn’t sow them in place.
Blanching endive makes the taste of endive less bitter and it gives a nice discoloration of the inner leaves.
although blanching is mostly done with the curly leaf endive, I’ll still explain it here.
There are two ways you can blanch your plants.
The first way of blanching endive is by securely tieing the leaves together with a piece of rope. The inside of the endive will discolor over a period of 10 days, give it a couple of days more or less.
The second method of blanching is with a bucket that covers the whole plant. It will take the same amount of time for both methods.
Whatever method you use, make sure the leaves are dry enough to cover the leaves. You always run the risk of having molds infest the leaves.
You can just harvest the endive plant as a whole. If you blanched the plant for several days, you’ll have to eventually harvest the plant as blanching tends to weaken the plants a lot.
I personally always cut off the endive at soil level and leave the roots in the soil. This has more to do with the health of the soil than with the health of the plant.
diseases and pests
Aphids tend to come back time after time and every gardener has to deal with them sooner or later. While sucking out the life of your plants, aphids can spread diseases with their saliva. You can treat the infestation with a hard spray of water, with a homemade insecticidal soap mixture or with pyrethrum. In any case, you’ll have to treat several times. Keep an interval of 5 to 7 days to kill off the critters and the eggs.
Believe it or not but the cabbage worm can be a pest for chicory plants. Endive can get in trouble with this caterpillar.
If you want to know how to treat cabbage worms, read this article about the cabbage worm.
Pea Leafminer, Liriomyza huidobrensis
The pea leafminer infects a lot of plants, one of them being endive.
The larvae of this tiny fly will make unsightly burrows in the leaves of the plant, making them unsellable. Spinosad containing insecticides will kill of this little critter. Be careful with spinosad, It kills off beneficial insects as well as pests. Try to use spinosad only in the evening when there are no bees around.
Although not a real disease, I still mention leaf burn. When your endive doesn’t have enough water and sun is fiercely shining, the edges of the leaves can start to curl up and die off. Control the water intake of the plant to get rid of this problem.
Whatever the fungal disease is that attacks your plants, the plant is done for and you can start over.
Fungal diseases mostly happen when blanching the leaves. Make sure to cover or tie up the leaves on a sunny day in the afternoon. That way, you’re sure the leaves have totally dried before compacting them.
I might not have all the diseases and pests posted here but I’ll amend the article if I come across other info that is valuable to growing endive.
So this is it for this blog post, I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share with friends and other gardeners.
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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.