This guide on how to grow chicory includes everything you need to know about planting chicory and caring for chicory plants.
Chicory is an herb-like plant that gardeners grow for both the roots and the leaves. It loves cooler temperatures, which is why it is ideal for growing in both the spring and fall months. Easy to grow and full of health benefits, chicory is a plant that can add flavor to your menu and decoration to your garden. Look at these tips for growing chicory, and see why it is a plant you should add to your gardening line up this spring or fall.
How to Grow Chicory
How to grow chicory from seed:
Use nutrient-rich peat pots or planting trays to get your chicory seeds started. You should use nutrient-rich and loosely packed soil for best results, and find a growing space that gets at least 6-8 hours of full sun per day. Depending on your climate, you want to start your chicory seedlings indoors 6 weeks before the last frost of the season. While chicory can handle cooler temps, it will not do well if it faces frost.
While typically chicory seedlings are planted 6 inches apart, you don’t have to worry about overcrowding chicory seeds. You can always pack them in closer then thin them out as they grow, leaving the stronger ones to be transplanted outdoors. Keep your peat pots and trays moist during the growing process, and prepare to transplant once the threat of frost has passed.
How to transplant chicory seedlings:
You can plant your chicory seedlings (either from seeds you began indoors or from seedlings purchased) once the threat of frost has passed. Temperatures should reach a steady 75 degrees or higher in order to achieve success.
Seedlings should be planted 8-10 inches apart. If you wish to plant them in rows, the rows should be at least 2 feet apart. They do like part to full sun but will do well with some shade. These plants like to be kept cool, so water them frequently (2 inches per week) and place mulch around the base.
How to grow chicory in containers:
Like most leafy greens, you can grow chicory in containers. This is ideal if you are working with limited garden space. You should allow plenty of space when planting chicory in containers, so use roomy pots that offer at least 12-18 inches in width and depth per plant.
It is even more important that the pot you use has proper drainage as chicory doesn’t like mushy soil. Drilling additional holes into the bottom of the flower pot may be ideal and can help keep the soil moist but not muddy. Even if using a container, you should still entertain the idea of mulch to help with keeping roots cool and moist.
How to care for chicory seedlings:
Chicory plants love nitrogen-rich fertilizer, so if you wish to give your plants a little pick me up, this kind of feeding is advised. You can feed at the beginning of the season and again at the middle of the season. This nitrogen boost will help keep the chicory flourishing.
You may encounter pests, such as rabbits, squirrels, aphids, and beetles. If it appears that something is dining on your chicory, a food safe pest spray is advised. You can also try natural solutions like planting it close to pest repelling herbs.
If you live in an area that doesn’t get regular weekly rainfall, make sure your chicory gets at least 2 inches of water per week. If the temperatures get exceptionally high, water more frequently.
How to harvest chicory leaves and roots:
You can technically harvest chicory leaves anytime during the growing season. Should you wait past 60 days from planting, the leaves may become bitter. Simply cut the leaves from the chicory plant to harvest. Rinse and use.
Should you wish to harvest the root of the chicory plant, wait until the foliage above ground is about 5 inches tall. You can then pull the root from the ground just as you would a carrot. Pull gently from the stem, then brush the root to remove dirt and debris.
Chicory is best when enjoyed fresh and can become bitter or lose flavor altogether if stored. Use chicory in recipes just as you would lettuce, turnips, or collard greens.
Consider these tips on how to grow chicory and see why so many people love this healthy plant!