We’ve Got Greens

Back in late April I mentioned our plans to become self-sufficient in salad fixings. I said, “Starting next month (or so), I don’t want to buy a single head of lettuce ever again, if I can help it.

A month or so later and we are on the way. Over the last few weeks we’ve harvested bits and pieces here and there, but today I am harvesting the first two of eight fully formed heads of lettuce from the raised bed that is dedicated to greens. Unfortunately, I can’t take full credit for these plants as I bought them as transplants and did not sow them from seed. We were so behind this year between travel, bad weather, and building the garden that I decided to buy a few to give us a push.

Meanwhile, the recycling bin salad garden is coming along swimmingly. Changing the clamps kept the squirrels out and we haven’t had a problem since. Eventually the greens grew big enough that I was able to remove the chicken wire without any further digging. Unfortunately, I had to resow some seed after the squirrel digging debacle and this resulted in a very tightly sown bin. I’ve been carefully removing seedlings from the bin and transplanting them elsewhere in the garden (as well as pots) to make use of the extra plants and provide some space for those that are still in the bin.

We now have several lettuce plants on the go all around the garden, tucked in underneath and around this and that, as well as in the raised bed. I have also planted several mustard greens and lots of edible flowers throughout.

We are coming into a windfall of salad fixings. For the time being, I’ve bought my last bag of lettuce from the market. I just hope the summer heat doesn’t come on too strong, too quickly!

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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16 thoughts on “We’ve Got Greens

  1. Your lettuce looks great! Do you get more than one crop out of it, or do you pull it after harvesting the first time and replant?

  2. I’m so jealous of your green growing abilities! I thought that planting a small patch of lettuce would see me through but after harvesting one salad’s worth of leaves I have gotten no more production…I think my little babies have gotten too hot, we’ve had a few 90 degree days: Not pleasant!

  3. We just had salad from our garden last night (thanks again for the seeds). I’m now regretting not staggering the planting a little more. We’ll be eating salads every day for a while….

  4. Gayla – it looks great! Have you found varieties that will survive the intense summer heat? I am hoping like crazy to find some I can get to grow through the summer months. My problem is that this time of year we are consuming massive amounts of lettuce from the garden, none is going bad in the fridge since we pick as we eat and then about the time I’m addicted, it bolts. I’m determined to find some heat tolerant varities! I asked Rick Bayless’ gardener how he’s able to get salad greens through summer and he said he grows Tango and Bianca Riccia Endive. So far these are doing great! I’m also trying a red lettuce that is said to be heat tolerant. Curious which ones you’ve had success with.

  5. I threw in some mixed Italian greens in my lettuce plot in the fall hoping to get a late crop. Instead they came up first thing when the ground defrosted. We’ve been eating salads of radicchio, dandelion and endive since Easter.
    On another note, where do you get your straw to keep the weeds down? I have only found “decorative” straw at garden centres.

  6. Lindsay: I get a few crops, although I find that store-bough transplants bolt faster and don’t often make it to a second harvest… which is why I always suggest growing from seed when you can — it’s cheaper and the plants last longer.

  7. Derek: We eat salads constantly when it’s hot so I just go for it and don’t bother staggering. I do stagger radishes.

    Gina: As a general rule of thumb I always tell people to go for either the leaf varieties or the crisphead varieties. For a long time ‘Mascara’ was my go-to leaf variety. ‘Red Sails’ is also easy to find and it does tend to last a while. ‘Pablo’ is a nice crisphead.

    The other trick ( as I mentioned to someone else above) is to direct sow from seed. I find that direct sown plants last longer than transplants…. even the transplants I grow myself.

    I’m going to write about this another time, but I specifically built a bed just for greens so that I can install hoops and a cover when it gets too hot.

  8. Aubrey: Straw is incredibly difficult to find in urban areas. You need to go out of the city for it. Sometimes the stuff advertised as decorative is good straw, they just market it that way so they can charge more. I’ve paid a premium when I was desperate.

  9. Hi Gayla,

    I love your blog! You’ve inspired me to start my very first balcony garden!
    Question for you… For lettuce and other greens, how far should I space the seedlings if I’m growing them in a container. What happens if they are too crowded? Do I always have to harvest the whole plant? I live in Vancouver. Thanks!

  10. Ciao Gayla-

    My arugula is already bolting, but everything else is looking very good right now. That bed is in dappled sunlight from a large golden plum tree, so I’m hoping everything doesn’t bolt quickly.

    I found my Rau Ram at Humber, very exciting! I still need to get over to Fiesta to see what they have, though.

    I had to augment my basil with a Humber Cinnamon this year. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

  11. Hi Gayla,

    I too need lettuce growing advice. I’m growing mesclun in self-watering containers. Last year the leaves were turning yellow/pale green, from a lack of nitrogen I assume. This year I’m feeding them alfalfa tea and they are deep green and red! But they are starting to look unhappy, some leaves look sickly, yellow, shrivelling up. I’m in Ottawa and the heat has arrived – are they just giving up the ghost?

    I’m really excited for you about your garden! Love to see the updates!

  12. Your greens look yummy!
    I have a question about the straw you use as mulch. I wanted to try that last year but my local nursery (who was selling the straw) warned me against it, claiming my beds would be full of weeds. Do you find that the straw carries weed seeds?

  13. I went out to my garden a couple days ago and found one of our lettuce plants ripped out of the ground and it was half ate. I am pretty sure it was one of them skunks we have around here. My garden is not caged in so deer, skunks, and other pests think its a buffet.. I am looking into purchasing hot pepper spray to keep the deer and skunks away.. I hope it works!!

  14. I’m a newbie to your site and love your blogs. I just thought I’d share with you, a fantastic technique followed by many over here in the England, which enables you to reduce the amount of salad seed sowing and can ensure you have salad all year round (under-cover in winter)from as little as four module sowings! We leaf cut rather than whole heads, taking just the outer leaves off every week, this prevents bolting as the plant focuses its energy on producing foliage to go to seed, so it never quite gets there (Each head will allow between 8-12 crops). You need to be quite organised with plant spacing, varities and ensure you pick frequently, but its much more cost and time effective to do this than re-sowing and harvesting whole heads,and you’ll have a mixed leaf salad every day for the whole summer. The guru of market gardening who has this technique down to an art form here in England is: Charles Dowding – there are books of his on Amazon etc.. Cheers, just thought I’d share that with you.

  15. I am so thrilled you use straw. I read about a variety of mulch and all stated the benefits of straw. However I was surprised it is so hard to find in stores and I don’t see anyone near me using it. I finally found a couple local places (I live in farm country).

    I’m also glad to hear heat is most likely my lettuce problem. My other problem is my husband is away and I don’t pick enough when it is time. I have to spend more time with the food saver!

    Thanks so much for your web site. I know it takes time. I love to garden and love to read about and see other’s gardens.

    If I may – for Megan’s fence comment above, we use a wimpy plastic netting and green metal stakes as a fence. It is cheaper, easy to install and not very visible. It sags in a few spots, but who cares. The plastic netting loops onto the metal stake’s prongs lined up on the stake.

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