A tiny landscape of lettuces: Especially with the hot, dry weather we’ve been having, you can’t go wrong with a few trays of leaf lettuce seedlings, lending support to the baby greens in the field! Transplanted at 8-10″ spacing, lettuces in a variety of colors and shapes—oakleafs, salad bowls, lollos—can be picked at least a couple of times as leaves for a bigger-leaf greens mix, or thinned as they start to really fill out, with two or three varieties bundled and the rest left to grow all the way. Lettuce options!
The season’s first field planting of salad greens, making a brief public appearance from under row cover, where they’re in flea beetle protection – we’re weeding today. Mustards, bok choi, arugula (a brassica relative), mizunas and more. So perfectly tasty, plucked straight from the ground, with a little dirt garnish for good measure…
Floating row cover, weighed down and made semi-transparent by water, is all that stands between fine young brassica greens and the scourge of the flea beetle. The cover is placed right after seeding, weighed down by rocks every 12.5′ feet, briefly rolled back for weeding, and progressively loosened as the greens grow—we use 14′ wide sheets on 10′ wide beds. This medium-weight cover has worked as a good all-round solution, offering a few degrees of frost protection, and more durable than a lighter, insect-only weight, which would allow better light transmission (this medium weight one is 85%) and better air circulation, but also be more likely to tear.
Adding a pinch (5g) of fairly pricey Rushmore (a beautifully deep-red oakleaf) to a batch of salad mix. This is the basic all-lettuce summer blend: seven varieties, selected mainly for color (greens to reds), texture (flat to frilly), and to some degree, seed cost (the price range of lettuce varieties is quite extreme). This inexpensive digital gram scale makes it easy to add relatively small quantities of certain varieties, and keep each batch consistent. Weigh out, shake up in bottle, ready to go. Here: 100g – that’s a lot of little lettuce!
Yesterday’s harvest that went to today’s farmers’ market, my earliest market start by almost two months! From the unheated greenhouse: kale, green and red mustard, and lettuce mix times two. Harvest conditions: -2°C outside, a perfect-working-weather 10°C inside. At the end, the sun came out and it started to get sweatingly hot under a T-shirt, shirt and fleece. But, already done! No rinsing, just covered and into a cool room for a 6 a.m. pick-up this morning. It felt a little odd, starting the year’s Saturday markets so early, and indoors—this fall, if all goes as intended, weekly market will cease to end for winter and become instead a fully year-round thing…
This bowl of lettuces and kale is the first cut of spring, taken from the unheated greenhouse while snow flurries whip around outside. With the help of 6 mils of plastic and some row cover, the salad easily survived three months of winter, with temperatures that went down to -30°C (-22°F). The texture and color are good, the taste, deliciously bold. Fantastic! The flowers are bok choi that managed to bolt in the alternating warmth and cold—on sunny days, the hoophouse temperature could easily reach 10-15°C (50-59°F), even when it was sub-zero outside. Interesting!
The covers are off and it’s all shades of green! That’s about three months, left to their own devices, living through freezing nights, often around -20°C (-4°F), and a low of -32°C (-25.6°F), under a couple of layers of medium-weight row cover, which means, little light (with the plastic added in, somewhere around 50% of already weak winter sun). Inside, at ground level outside the row cover, the lowest it got on the coldest night was an amazingly not-so-chilly-at-all -13°C (8.6°F). As a simple survival test…excellent!