Mesclun on my mind

Lettuce in August

Mesclun remains the mainstay crop on this tiny farm. What I grow is perhaps not strictly “mesclun”, it’s nine varieties of lettuce with no other, more exotic greens—arugula, mizuna, and so forth—mixed in. Also, at times if it gets away a bit, the leaves can be kinda large, making it more of a basic salad mix. Still, it’s all mesclun around here, and this year particularly, we’ve grown LOTS. Salads are popular, and for no reason easily explained, the acceptable price at our farmers’ market is way higher than for any other crop (except, perhaps, blueberries?!). It’s a top seller on market day, it’s dead easy to grow, most of the time, and none of the other, larger local growers bother with it (only one other farm regularly has lettuce). So it’s an all-around winner. Then there’s the big BUT: hot, dry mid-summer weather, when the germination rate is usually terrible, the beds grow rapidly and are hard to time, and the heat can easily turn a fine, fresh-tasting crop into a messier, partially bolted bit of a nightmare. Simply seeding in many extra beds isn’t a solution, because the watering and weeding this would require would be insane. You simply have to keep planting moderately and frequently, and hope for nice weather breaks. Shortages are inevitable, and cut directly into customer satisfaction (expectations, expectations!!). For these reasons, at this time of year, mesclun is always on my mind. For the last couple of plantings, we’ve used…BURLAP for the first few days after seeding, which actually works, reducing watering in time and increasing the germination rate quite a bit. Next year, I intend to finally figure out an even better way…

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3 thoughts on “Mesclun on my mind”

  1. “Shortages are inevitable, and cut directly into customer satisfaction”

    I would say, rather, “Shortages keep the punters hungry for more!” :-) Hmmm… I think I see Bronze Arrow in there, along with Gold Rush; don’t recognize the light-green curly one, but very familiar with the darker-green roughish-leaved lettuce — just don’t have a name for it (besides the nicknames I invent for everything.)

  2. I’m fairly dumb when it comes to tiny farming, (never had one) but they say this kind of lettuce will grow in the shade, (at least, in New Mexico) so maybe if you find a cool, shady spot to plant at least some, it might get you through the hottest part of summer with at least some lettuce. Or, maybe make some temporary shade at the North end of your plot, just for this. if it’s really a profitable crop, I would say it’s worth it. Or, consider planting it under your corn for shade.

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