How to Grow Endive
Endive (Cichorium endivia) is a plants that have a bitter, buttery taste and are used in ornamental gardens and as salad greens. You can grow them easily from seeds in well-drained soil, in a sunny place. Endive thrives in cooler temperatures and requires ample moisture to stay healthy. You can harvest endive leaves or harvest fully-grown endive heads at the end of their growing season.
Preparing the Soil
Choose a spot that will get at least 4 hours of sun per day.Endive plants thrive in full sunlight but they can also tolerate partial shade, especially in warmer climates.They will, however, struggle if planted in a spot with full shade. Choose a spot in your garden free of obstructions that may block out light.
- In general, "full sun" refers to 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, while "partial shade" refers to 4-6 hours of sunlight per day.
Remove any weeds from the soil before planting endive seeds.Weeds can harm your endive plants by draining the soil of resources such as moisture and nutrients.Remove weeds by gently tugging them out of the ground when the soil is moist. For stubborn weeds, use a garden trowel to dig out the root systems.
- Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands while weeding.
- If the weeds in your garden are too out of control to get rid of by hand, use a herbicide as a last resort to kill their root systems. Use herbicide in moderation to prevent harm to your other plants.
- Use an herbicide meant for use on food gardens.
Improve soil drainage with an organic soil amendment.Endive grows best in well-drained soil. Aerate your soil by working an organic material such as perlite, vermiculite, or compost into it. Use a shovel or gardening rake to loosen the top 8 inches (20 cm) of the soil. Add about 2 inches (5.1 cm) of soil amendment material and work it into the soil evenly.
Adjust the pH level of your soil by adding nitrogen or sulfur, if needed.Endive grows best in soil with a pH level of 5.0 to 6.8. Purchase a nitrogen-based fertilizer and rake it into the soil to raise the pH level.If you need to lower the pH level, add elemental sulfur to the soil.
- Add elemental sulfur to the soil about 2 months before you plant anything so it has time to take effect.
- Consider using above-ground beds with potting soil if your garden soil is not suitable. It’s much easier to work with the soil you have rather than adjusting it to fit your needs.
- Purchase a PH level test kit from a garden center or online to assess your soil.
Planting the Seeds
Plant seeds directly in the ground 2-4 weeks before the last expected frost.Endive thrives in cooler temperatures.For the best results, plant it in the late winter or early spring. Aim to plant the seeds 2-4 weeks before the last frost is expected to occur.
- With this timing, the seedlings that emerge will have cool temperatures without suffering damage from the intense cold. Transplant the endive outside 2-4 weeks before the last frost.
- If you decide to plant seeds earlier than this, germinate them indoors to protect them from the cold.
Make rows of seeds that are 18 inches (46 cm) apart.Scatter endive seeds by hand in evens rows on top of the soil. Keep a distance of at least 18 inches (46 cm) between each row. This will accommodate the size of fully-grown endive.
- Endive seeds are very thin, so distribute them in a thin layer to avoid over-planting.
Cover the seeds with inch (0.64 cm) of soil.Scatter a thin layer of soil over the seeds. This will add a thin layer of protection from birds, wind, or anything else that might carry away the seeds after they are planted. Do not add much more than inch (0.64 cm) of soil, which may hinder the germination process.
Water the soil to dampen it.After planting the seeds, water the soil very lightly. Use a watering can to gently disperse water over the rows of seeds. Aim to dampen the soil, but not to saturate it.
Thinning the Seedlings
Look for the emergence of seedlings after 5-7 days.It takes roughly 5-7 days after planting for endive seeds to germinate. Note that not all of the seeds you have planted will grow successfully. Keep an eye on your garden for the emergence of seedlings around this time.
Dig the seedlings out gently using your hands.Use your fingers to gently loosen the soil around each plant. Dig about 3–4 inches (7.6–10.2 cm) down and lift the soil to make sure that you remove each plant and its entire root system in full.
- Alternatively, remove weaker seedling until they have the appropriate amount of space between them.
- Be careful when removing seedlings from the ground to avoid damaging their roots.
Re-plant each seedling 8–12 inches (20–30 cm) apart.If endive plants are left too close together they will compete for resources and your harvest will not be as successful. Dig holes that are deep enough to accommodate the seedlings' root systems, gently place the plants in the holes and surround their roots with soil.
- The rows of endive seedlings should remain at least 18 inches (46 cm) apart.
Water around the base of your plants every 1-3 days as needed.Endive requires a lot of moisture to grow properly. Give your plants water every few days as required to keep the soil moist and prevent it from drying up. Be sure to pour water around the bottom of the plants and not on top of the leaves.
- Watering the leaves may cause them to rot, eventually killing the plants themselves.
Harvesting the Endive
Start cutting off endive leaves as early as a month after planting.If you wish, you can make use of your endive plants once they are a month old. Gently pull away endive leaves where they meet the base of the plant. For easy removal, use a pair of small, sharp scissors.
- Leaves on your endive plants should be 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) long by this point.
- Rinse endive leaves thoroughly before consuming them.
Blanch endive heads before harvesting them to get a milder flavor.Mature endive plants have a bitter flavor that is unappealing to some. To get a milder flavor, blanch your endive plants about 2 weeks before harvesting them. This involves covering the heart of each plant from sunlight to slow chlorophyll production by:
- Tying the outer leaves of your endive plants together with rubber bands or string to block out sun. Do not do this for wet plants, which will result in the leaves rotting.
- Putting an upside-down flower pot over each plant.
- Making a shelter by laying a wooden board on top of supports, directly above your plants.
Harvest fully-grown endive heads by severing them with a serrated knife.Endive plants will reach maturity around 12 weeks after their first planting. Use a large serrated knife to cut through the base of each plant, just above the ground. Brace the top of the endive heads while you do this to ensure even cuts.
- New leaves should begin to grow on the remaining base after about 2 weeks.
- Endive will regrow until the temperature exceeds 70 °F (21 °C), which will cause bolting, or until the temperature drops below freezing.
- Curly endive is narrow and is usually planted for ornamental purposes while endive with smooth, rounded leaves is meant for culinary purposes.
- Endive seeds can be kept and planted for up to 5 years after they are harvested.
- After harvesting, endive will remain fresh in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Video: How to grow chicory/endive at home (indoors)
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