Endive has wild heads of deeply divided green leaves with a slightly bitter taste. Also called frisee lettuce, Endive is great in salads and can be eaten as a baby leaf. Endive is a fast-growing cool season crop that will tolerate a small amount of shade.
Binomial name: Cichorium endivia
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Sow Endive Seeds
Endive can be grown year-round in most climates. Avoid planting in extremely hot or cold weather which can affect germination and growth. Use the table below to identify the best time of year to sow endive in your climate.
Endive plants are best grown in full sun. Choose a location that will receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day.
Endive plants need a well drained soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. Prepare soil by weeding it thoroughly, digging it over to loosen it and adding aged animal manure or compost. Keep the area free of weeds until planting.
How to Sow Endive Seeds
Endive seeds do not require any treatment (eg soaking, stratification) before sowing.
Endive seeds can be sown directly into the garden OR seedlings can be raised in trays or other containers and transplanted to the garden once established.
Sow seeds directly in the garden 5mm deep and 20-30cm apart.
Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
Seeds should germinate in around 4-7 days at a soil temperature of 15-18°C.
Young seedlings will need protection from pests, pets and weather until they are established.
Fill trays, punnets or jiffy pots with a good quality seed-raising mix, or use soil starter pellets.
Sow seeds 5mm deep.
Keep soil moist but never wet or dry.
Seeds should germinate in around 4-7 days at a soil temperature of 15-18°C.
Transplant seedlings to the garden once they have their first true leaves and are large enough to handle (usually 5-10cm tall).
Plant out, spacing plants 20-30cm apart.
Tip: Endive seeds can also be sown in the less formal ‘scatter seed’ method. Simply roughen the soil, scatter seeds evenly over the surface, then smooth the soil over lightly to cover the seeds.
How to Grow Endive
Endive plants need regular watering during the growing season. Water when the soil is dry about 5cm below the surface (test this by scratching away a little soil with your finger). Water deeply in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid watering the leaves of plants to avoid fungal diseases. Learn more about watering here.
Optional: To give plants room to grow, thin seedlings when they are large enough to handle. Pull out any weak or small seedlings so plants are spaced about 20-30cm apart.
If soil was well prepared no extra fertiliser should be necessary. In poor soil or to give your plants an extra boost, application of a high-nitrogen fertiliser or one formulated for leafy greens or herbs can be beneficial:
Apply slow release fertiliser at the recommended rate when transplanting or when seedlings are 5-10cm tall.
Apply liquid fertiliser at the recommended rate and frequency during the growing season.
How to Harvest Endive
Endive should be ready to harvest in approximately 50-80 days.
Leaves are ready to harvest when they are large enough to eat, and can be harvested as needed. Harvest leaves by pinching off the outer leaves, leaving some on the plant for future growth. Alternatively, harvest whole heads by cutting them at ground level. Eat endive leaves as soon as possible after harvesting. Store leaves short term in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge.
Common Problems when Growing Endive
Like all plants, endive is susceptible to some pests, diseases and other problems. Below is a list of the most common problems gardeners encounter when growing endive plants:
Bitter taste can be caused by plants growing too slowly, suffering a setback in growth or being harvested too late. Enrich soil with aged manure before planting, ensure plants are watered deeply and regularly, and harvest when they are young and tender.
Bolting is when a plant prematurely flowers and goes to seed. Bolting can be caused by a period of extreme weather. Avoid sowing seed until after the danger of frosts has passed or in very hot weather. Water plants regularly and deeply in hot weather to prevent them suffering heat stress.
Damping off is caused by a fungal growth that transfers from the soil to seeds or tender seedlings. Seeds may appear not to germinate, or young plants start to rot when they emerge from the soil and become soft and mushy at the base before dying. Use new potting mix if raising seedlings, do not water foliage and avoid waterlogged soil. Read more about damping off here.
Heads not forming is usually caused by warm weather or by growing plants too slowly, without adequate water or nutrients. Check to make sure you are growing a head-forming type of endive. In warm climates, grow endive in autumn and spring to avoid extreme temperatures. Water regularly and ensure adequate compost or fertiliser is applied.
Slugs and snails are molluscs that feed on tender leaves and shoots, mostly at night, leaving slimy trails behind them. Control them by removing their hiding places, keeping free range poultry, collecting them by torchlight or by placing traps. Read more about slugs and snails here.
Whitefly is a sap-sucking insect related to aphids. They are often found in large numbers on the underside of leaves and will swarm in clouds when disturbed. Plants may have yellowing leaves or may wilt, and growth will be slowed. Whitefly can be removed with a garden hose or sprayed with soap spray. Badly affected plants should be destroyed. Attracting beneficial insects that will prey on whitefly can be beneficial. Read more about managing whitefly here.
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