Conventional gardening wisdom suggests lettuce and greens are exclusively cool weather crops. However, it is possible to grow and enjoy fresh baby greens throughout the summer.
During the heat of summer greens will tend to bolt midway through their growth cycle. But this is OK. We’re growing and harvesting them as baby greens not mature greens.
Purchase a pack of mixed seeds, which should cover about 3 foot by 3 foot of garden space. Renee’s Paris Market Mix is a good choice as are these favorites: mesclum, red or green Deer Tongue, and Batavian lettuces such as Rouge Grenobloise.
Several other creative varieties to try:
- Asian greens: mizuna, savoy, or tat soi
- mustard greens: golden frill, green wave or ruby streaks
- kale: white Russian, red Russian, lacinato
- lettuce: red leaf, green leaf, red romaine
A simple planting can provide baby salad greens for several months.
1. Prepare the soil
Prepare a smooth level bed surface to improve germination rates in the garden. Rake the garden soil; remove rocks, clods, or weeds across the bed. Ideal soil should be well amended with planting mix and loosened for good root growth. For container gardening, fill the container with potting mix.
2. Broadcast the seed
Sprinkle seeds across the soil, placing the seeds about an inch apart in all directions or scatter them over a larger area. Sow the seeds in 8” wide rows for more formal greens gardens. Seeds should be planted over damp soil, to help them remain in place.
3. Stagger the plantings
Don’t plant all the seeds at once. Stagger the plantings every 2 weeks for a continuous supply of summer baby greens.
4. Cover with compost
Cover lettuce seeds of lettuce and other greens with a very fine layer of soil. Burying them too deep prevents them from germinating. Cover seeds with a light layer of compost or potting soil. Scoop compost between your hands and rub back and forth, sifting a light layer of compost over the seeds. Gently pat the compost, with the palm of your hand, to ensure good soil-to-seed contact.
5. Always use a watering can
A blast of water from the hose easily lifts the lightweight seeds and washes them away. Avoid this problem by watering the seed with a gentle stream from a watering can until the seeds can germinate. Be sure to keep the soil consistently moist while waiting for the seeds to sprout.
6. Harvest with scissors
Use scissors to harvest the baby greens when they reach 3 to 5 inches tall. Harvest the outside leaves first, cutting them off 1 inch above the soil line. Spray the plants with diluted liquid organic fertilizer and keep them moist. The greens will re-grow then harvest again in the following weeks.