Lettuce and Greens
Spring planting and late summer plantings produce the sweetest and crispest lettuce.
Plant the seeds as per instructions on packet. Too deep and they may not germinate.
Take the time to plant the seeds sparingly. Overcrowded lettuce produces smaller plants.
Never let your seed bed dry out. Keep it moist.
A 1/2 inch layer of dried grass can help hold in moisture until the lettuce germinates.
After the lettuce is 2 inches high mulch with a straw/dried grass layer around each plant.
What Varieties Should I Plant?
Some of the main categories of lettuces are:
Loose-Leaf: This non-heading lettuce comes in a variety of leaf shapes and colors. This type is best for the home gardener because it can withstand hotter temperatures and is slower to bolt (go to seed) than most. Try buying a packet of mixed loose leaf lettuces and enjoy a rainbow of colors and tastes in your next salad
Romaine: It grows tall with elongated leaves. It is the typical lettuce added to Caesar Salads. It is crisp and usually dark green. It does well in Colorado Springs (especially in the spring and early fall). Jericho romaine performs well throughout the season in the Pikes Peak region.
Crisphead: This group is known for the iceberg varieties that is most popular in salads at most chain restaurants. It is usually a pale green in color. As a generalization, this group does not does as well as the others. It needs cool, long springs to develop a large, crisp, sweet head. We’ve had success with Burpee’s Burgundy Ice Berg Lettuce.
Butterhead: This group forms a soft head. It usually has a yellow center with dark outer leaves. This group is worth growing in the spring and early fall. The delicate buttery taste is a favorite of many gardeners.
When Do I Plant and How Do I Take Care of Them?
Plant lettuces and other salad greens in the spring. If you buy lettuce plants at the garden center you can plant them by May 1st. The local garden shops carry romaine and leaf lettuce plants in a six pack that are ready to transplant into your garden. Cut the bottom out of a 1 gallon plastic milk jug. Remove the cap. Place this over your tender lettuce plants until the weather stabilizes and all danger of frost has past. By May 15th you can plant some lettuce seeds outside. A common mistake for beginning gardeners is plant a long row of lettuce at one time. This is too much lettuce for most families.
A good rule is plant two short rows (2 feet long) every two weeks throughout the season. Always plant a mix. Some varieties do better during the hot weather and you won’t have to guess. Nature will weed out the non-thriving ones. Fertilize with fish emulsion and seaweed extract (as per dilution instructions on the bottle) once every two weeks. There are two ways of harvesting lettuce. You can cut the entire head off near the ground or just pick the outer leaves. The latter method is called the “cut and come again” method. In a few days you can harvest again from the same plant.
Keep your lettuce beds moist but not soggy. They will be sweet and not bitter if the soil is not allowed to dry out. Also mulching with straw or dried grass clippings around your lettuce plants is very helpful in keeping the moisture in and the soil temperatures cool.
Tips for Growing Spinach and Mesclun Mixes
Choose a very sunny location, 8 hours or more of direct sun per day.
Plant in well prepared soil. The soil can have 50% more organic material added than you would for other vegetables.
Spinach and some of the seeds in the Mesclun Mix should be planted in mid April or as soon as the ground can be worked.
Giant Noble Spinach is an early producer and tolerates the heat under a hoop tunnel.
Tyee Spinach is slow to bolt and Melody and Space are considered the tastiest by some. There are many varieties on the market. Most do well.
Plant just two to three short rows (3 feet long) at this time. Some gardeners plant long rows that produce more lettuce than they can use before it bolts. Staggered plantings are best.
For a full season of spinach plant short rows of Tyee spinach every two weeks until about mid August. HINT: plant in four inch deep trenches to moderate heat and drying during the hot summer months and always keep moist. SEE PICTURE BELOW