Endive has long been a popular berry for gardeners, because it resists disease, bears little to no harm from adverse weather conditions, thrives on little in the way of fertilization, and can tolerate most soils. Endive can be used both to protect the lawn from grazing animals and to provide the same botanical value in your flower and vegetable gardens. It is a fast growing, full-flowering perennial that is useful for creating borders, for providing a border throughout an area where native grass is not present, or to provide barriers between bare spots. If you prefer your flowering perennials to come up continually, you can prune them to maintain their full height.
Ideal for planting in a variety of areas, Endive seeds will tolerate milder climates better than some other perennial vegetables. They are a warm season crop and best planted in cool, dry weather. They do well in most climates and do not need to be fertilized, though planting them after frost will ensure their survival. The best time to plant Endive seeds is late spring through early summer, when the ground is warm and moist enough to hold moisture, but not wet. Sowing Endive seeds as close to the start of spring as possible will ensure early growth. When planting Endive seeds, make sure you cover the entire surface with loose soil, especially if planting in a shallow garden.
When you're ready to plant your Endive seeds, dig holes where they'll be planted, using a depth of six to eight inches. Dig out an area that will account for six to eight inches of protruding stems, and this should be your planting area. The holes should be dug in just slightly deeper than the root system, since the roots will expand as they grow. Once the holes have been dug, cover with half soil and then add one tablespoon of composted bark to the mixture, making sure the mixture is packed firmly.
After the soil is ready, you can begin to plant your Endive seeds. Plant them six to eight inches deep, making sure there is at least six inches between each pair of roots. Because these plants are slow to grow, it may take several growing seasons to produce a thriving crop. Keep in mind that they grow best in partial sun, and you will need to provide them with plenty of sun during the hot summer months.
After the planting has taken hold, it will be necessary to water the plants regularly to keep the roots from drying out. Because the slow growing endives are drought friendly, it's important to water only when the soil is dry. For optimal flavor production, take care to water only the center of the roots, allowing the outer edges to go dry before covering with more. When the summer comes, move the Endive plants indoors, putting them in a dark room and turning the lights off. As the leaves start to wilt, you can repot them using moistened potting soil and a light amount of fertilizer.
To harvest your Endive crops, begin by pulling the plants off the trellis, cutting the tops off individually. Use your garden shredder to carefully dig up the root ball, removing any green or brown matter. The stems should not be cut more than an inch above ground level, since this will stimulate new growth. Take special care not to damage the stem and allow air to circulate around the plant. It is important to prune the plant, since the vigorous growing endive seeds lost most of their flavor when planted.
Once the stems are free of green matter, remove them from the vines and set aside. The stems are most flavorful when they are still covered with fresh leaves. For the best flavor, let the flowering buds dry on the opposite side of the plant, rather than in direct sunlight. Place them in a glass jar with a small amount of water and cover completely. The Endive heirloom seeds should remain in the jar for about five years, but taste better after about seven years. While the plant has time to improve its taste, this method is the best way to harvest full sun endive seeds.
Frost is a natural threat to Endive plants, but with the proper care they can withstand frost and survive most mild winters. During the cool season, keep the Endive seeds dry and cool, mulching with hardy grass clippings to protect the roots. When choosing what variety to plant, choose one that can tolerate cooler temperatures during the cool season. The taller growing stem will also do well under these conditions.