Some of the romaine lettuce in my small kitchen garden is quite mature. The heads aren’t nearly as tall as commercial romaine that I bought during the winter, but the leaves make awesome salad. Incidentally, if you want really crunchy lettuce, plant it in sandy soil and don’t rinse it well before serving. Technically, it won’t be the lettuce that’s crunchy…
My small kitchen garden is exploding with growth. Some cool weather crops are well along: broccoli and cauliflower plants are about halfway to harvest, pea vines stretch about two feet up the trellises, and onions are starting to bulk up beneath 18 inch stalks. Early potatoes have finally pushed sprouts above the straw, and a few days ago strawberry blossoms popped. If that’s not enough, I’ve been using garden-fresh tarragon, cilantro, and sage in my cooking for more than a month.
Perhaps my most prominent Post Produce pronouncement: we’ve had many fresh lettuce salads from the kitchen garden over the past two weeks!
How I Plant Lettuce
In most years, I wait until late March and sow lettuce seeds directly in the vegetable planting bed. But produce at the local farmers’ market—and in the supermarket—was never mouthwateringly attractive this past winter. So, when I started seeds indoors in February and March, I included lettuce among my selections; I really wanted some garden fresh salad.
A day or two after I set my lettuce seedlings in the vegetable planting bed, they were kind of scraggly; the purple lettuce plants looked especially weak. We were having a dry spell so I had to water often to keep the plants healthy.
I set seedlings in the garden in early April—a combination of romaine and various leaf lettuces that came in a salad mix package. There are a few purple-leafed plants, two variegated-leafed plants, and some green-leafed plants. A week or so after setting these seedlings out, I set out a bunch of Ithaca lettuce plants. Ithaca is my favorite head lettuce, though I favor romaine in the garden because the plants grow large and provide a great mixture of crispiness and leafiness.
When planting lettuce seedlings, I leave about five inches between plants—both within rows and between rows. I’ll leave some of the head lettuce plants alone until they form mature heads, and I’ll harvest those whole. Others, I break outer leaves off the plants to make salads but I leave the rest of the plant to continue growing.
Lettuce Salads are Sweet!
Apparently I started a seed for purple lettuce right next to one for romaine lettuce. The seedlings looked sharp going together into the garden. However, the romaine grows about three times as quickly as the purple, so this particular purple lettuce plant lives now in nearly total shade.
We’ve had, perhaps, seven lettuce salads so far. Generally, the salad is a last-minute preparation: when the rest of the meal is nearly ready, I zip out to the planting bed, break off about two dozen leaves, rinse off the soil, and tear the leaves into forkable sizes. Going from garden to table in about five minutes leaves the lettuce no time to lose nutrition, flavor, or texture.
It’s so, so satisfying finally to be eating fresh food from the garden! I hope you’re enjoying homegrown produce at least as much!
Share Your Produce
Let the world know about the produce you’re harvesting. Create a blog post about your produce, and then use the Linky Widget below to link to your post. We can visit each other’s posts to learn what’s in season wherever bloggers garden.