Gardening with Laurie: Grow your own salad greens
I remember when I was growing up, my father always liked to have a wedge of iceberg lettuce covered with some type of salad dressing as part of his evening meal.
Even later in his life, when there were other types of lettuces available, he really preferred his wedge of iceberg. I don't remember there being another variety of lettuce in our house. Were there no other types of lettuce available back then?
Fortunately, today's consumers are able to pick from a long list of different lettuces and salad green varieties - everything from arugula to romaine. We gardeners are able to grow many different types of these salad greens right in our own gardens, flower beds or in containers.
With the reports in the past few years of contaminated bagged salad mixes, you might want to consider trying your hand at growing your own.
The best advice I would give someone wanting to grow lettuce would be to plant during cool weather, make succession plantings of several different varieties and don't bother with the iceberg. Iceberg lettuce likes long, cool seasons to grow. Our weather usually doesn't provide those conditions.
You first want to make sure the soil you plant in is loaded with a lot of good, organic matter (compost) and natural fertilizer. Lettuce and all the salad greens grow much better in a soil that is high in organic nutrients.
Avoid planting seeds too deep and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. After your seeds have sprouted and grown, water them well, as the soil starts to dry out. Spreading a natural mulch over the soil will help to keep root systems moist with less watering from you.
One thing you will have to closely keep a watch out for will be worms. There are several types of worms out there that will be very happy to help you get rid of all your delicious plants. Keep a bottle of your BT Worm Killer or Spinosad handy to safely get rid of these pests.
Planting seeds or plants at spaced intervals will keep you supplied with salad greens for weeks to come. Harvest your crops whenever you want a salad. Most all lettuces and salad greens will be good at all stages of maturity. This allows for a longer harvesting time.
By just harvesting the outer older leaves, your plants will continue to produce. I find the best time to harvest greens is early morning while the foliage is crisp and moist from the dew.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.