Spring has really arrived, when the lettuce comes up, at least in my mind. Nothing tastes better after a long winter of eating “store bought” greens than home grown lettuce. You may not believe it, but lettuce is really easy to grow from seeds or small starter plants. They require a limited space, not a lot of direct sunlight, and are ready to eat very quickly. Leaf lettuce is a plant you can harvest today and get more in a day or two – if you know how. Here’s the HOW: don’t cut the whole plant at once, just cut a few leaves off each plant leaving at least three small leaves behind. This will allow the plant to recover for the next harvest.
To prepare you planting space, you will need a well drained area or a pot with great drainage. Mix 2-3” of compost into your soil. There are lots of varieties of seeds for growing baby greens. Some of our favorites include “Black Seeded Simpson,” “Bronze Mignonette,” “Buttercup,” and for a little spiciness “Arugula Roquette.” Scatter the seeds or plant them in rows and stagger plantings every other week once freezing weather has ended. Pre-moisten the soil and cover lightly with additional soil. Since you don’t plan on keeping these plants to individual maturity, they can be planted closer. We keep a planting journal so we know when we planted what. Once plants are up, should you get another snow or freezing night, cover the seedlings over night with burlap or other ground cover material. Keep the soil moist. Discard when they start to bolt (grow tall and form blooms), they’ll get bitter.
To harvest, use a pair of kitchen shears or pinch with your fingernails when leaves are about 4” long. Gather leaves in the morning when they are plump with water. Rinse them 2-3 times in cool water and store in a plastic bag or in one of those clam-shell containers you saved from the winter greens. Your baby salad greens will be so fresh the plants won’t even know they’re missing. What vegetable means Spring to you?