Growing chicory is very easy, and the plants actually don’t require much care. You should plan for growing chicory during the cold weather, because it is a cool season crop. Chicory is a great winter vegetable and you can grow it in almost everywhere.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is available throughout the world. It can be found growing wild in many areas of the United States (although it is not native to the U.S.).
Chicory is also known by some other names such as wild endive, wild bachelor’s buttons, succory, ragged sailors, hendibeh, horseweed, coffeeweed, blue weed, bunk, blue dandelion, blue daisy and blue sailors.
Chicory is grown mainly for it’s leaves. And the leaves are generally eaten raw as salad leaves. Some people also prefer the roots and the tender shoots.
The root chicory has been cultivated in Europe as a coffee substitute. The roots are eaten in many different ways such as roasted, ground, baked and also used as an additive (especially in the Mediterranean region).
However, growing chicory in your home garden will give you plenty of choices in your kitchen. Growing chicory is very easy and the plants will grow well in almost all types of soil.
How to Start Growing Chicory
As we have mentioned above ‘growing chicory is very easy’. You don’t have to think much about growing this vegetable. Here we are describing more about the steps for planting, caring and harvesting chicory.
Choose a Chicory Variety
There are many different varieties of chicory available. You actually have 2 types of chicory to choose from namely Whitloof and Radicchio. And there are many varieties to choose from in each type.
The Whitloof type is grown for the large root, which is used to make a coffee supplement. Some common varieties within this type are;
- Flash and
The Radicchio variety produces tightly formed heads with burgundy or dark purple leaves. Some common varieties within this type are;
- Rossa di Treviso and
- Rossa di Verona
You can choose any variety depending on the availability in your area. You can consult with some existing home gardeners in your area for better recommendation.
You can start growing chicory either from seeds or from seedlings. Search your nearest nursery for the seedlings. And the seeds should be easily available in your area.
Best Time for Growing Chicory
Chicory is a cool season crop. So, you should plan for growing chicory during the winter season or colder months.
If you live in the northern areas with excessive cold, then you should plan for planting chicory 3-4 weeks before the danger of frost has passed.
Preparing the Soil
Chicory plants are very hardy and they can be grown in almost all types of soil. But the soil must have to get full sun for better growth of the plants.
After selecting the site, you have to prepare the soil. Just tilling the soil and adding some organic materials into it will be enough for growing chicory.
Chicory plants can be grown either by seeds or by planting the seedlings. If you want to grow from seeds, then the seeds should be started indoors 5-6 weeks before the seedlings are moved outdoors.
Sowing the seeds in rows will be good, and the rows should be 2-3 feet apart. Space the seeds about 6-10 inches and you can thin later. Sow the seeds to about 1/4 inch deep and water immediately after sowing seeds.
In case of planting transplants, plant them 10-12 inches apart in rows. Plant the transplants in afternoon and water them immediately after planting.
Caring for the Chicory Plants
Chicory plants generally require less care and management. Although, taking additional care will ensure better growth of the plants. Here we are describing more about the common caring process for growing chicory.
Fertilizing: Chicory plants don’t require additional fertilization, if you have already prepared the soil by adding organic materials into it. Although applying liquid fertilizers fortnightly will be good.
Watering: Chicory plants grow well if the soil remains moist constantly. So, water the plants often.
Mulching: Mulching is required for growing chicory. Mulching helps to retain moisture into the soil and also helps to prevent weeds from the garden.
Controlling Weeds: Weeds consume most of the nutrients from the soil, and ultimately the plants suffer. So controlling the weeds is important. You can easily control the weeds by hand or by using a hoe.
Thinning: If you are growing chicory from seeds, then thinning is required. Chicory plants don’t grow well if they are overcrowded. So thin the plants to about 10-12 inches apart once the seedlings have 3-4 true leaves.
Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases are generally less in the chicory plants. Slugs and snails are some common pests for the chicory plants. Beer traps, sawdust, eggshell barriers, copper tape and bio controls are some good ways for controlling slugs and snails.
Leaf rotting is also common for the chicory plants. The chicory leaves rot in damp conditions or when the plants are grown under cover. Removing the damaged leaves and improving ventilation system under cover will help to prevent this problem.
For salads, harvest the chicory when the crowns are full and well colored. Generally the darker the color, the more bitter the taste.
But if you plant the chicory for roots alone, then they will be ready to harvest within about 120 days.
The leaves generally become ready for harvesting withing 60-70 days from planting.
These are the common ways for growing chicory organically in home garden. Hope you have enjoyed this guide! Happy gardening 🙂