Perfect for new gardeners, lettuce and salad greens are among the easiest and quickest garden crops to grow.
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1. Consider raised beds if you want to keep your garden tidy and neat. They can be as low as 6 inches or as tall as 3 feet, depending on your preference.
2. If you have a nearby hose, install convenient drip irrigation to provide a constant source of water during the season, which salad greens prefer. Lettuce and salad greens are 80 percent water, so be sure to keep the plants moist.
3. Salad greens love cool weather, so take advantage of the spring and fall seasons to plant a crop of greens. Nitrogen feeds and supports leafy green plants, so till in nitrogen-rich compost or aged manure with a garden fork before sowing seeds.
4. Flea beetles are one of few pests (other than rabbits) that affect salad greens, and they can leave your greens with small holes. Prevent flea beetle damage by covering greens with a floating row cover.
5. Many greens are “cut-and-come-again,” giving you several harvests from one sowing. Clip the leaves just above the roots. Water well, and new greens will sprout in a few days or weeks.
6. Combine plants in various shapes and colors such as colorful edible nasturtium and red basil to add visual delight. Include colorful and variegated leaves to break up the mostly green lettuce patch.
7. Most greens grow easily from seed, so direct-sow seeds. Sow seed ½ inch in the ground, tamp the soil, and mark the spot with a plant tag. For continuous harvests, plant successively every two weeks throughout the growing season.
8. Some greens, such as lettuces, grow fast; others, such as mâche, are slower to germinate, so be patient. The unique rounded, cup-shaped leaves of this mild-tasting green offer a striking contrast to a bowl of greens and are well worth the wait.
9. At the end of the season, plant a cover crop of buckwheat or annual ryegrass to keep building the nitrogen in your soil, which is essential for healthy greens.
10. Harvest salad greens with scissors just above the roots. For cleaner greens, harvest before a rainstorm to avoid mud splatters. A salad spinner makes washing and drying greens easy. Wrap washed greens in a towel during storage to absorb excess moisture.
Read the original article, The Salad Lover's Garden Plan.
Excerpted from The Complete Kitchen Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden. Visit her at ellenogden.com.