From the Desk of Ed Hume: Leaf Crops

March 31, 2010 at 12:02 AM Leave a comment

If you live in one of the warmer areas of the Pacific Northwest, you can (or may have already) started to direct some of the early greens like lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard into the garden.  If you live in the outlying areas of the Pacific Northwest or live at higher elevations, on the other hand, you may have just started such greens indoors now so that you will have young seedlings to plant as soon as weather conditions permit.

One of the greatest advantages of growing your own salad greens is that you can pick them fresh, full flavored, and high in nutritional value.   In addition, they are not only higher in nutrients than the mass-grown crops, but they are less likely to be infected with ecoli, as well.

The leaf lettuce is especially easy to grow and it’s so high in nutrients.  It’s hard to beat the fresh flavor when you pick it straight from your own garden.  One of the greatest advantages is that you can harvest leaf lettuce and spinach one leaf at a time or cut the entire plant an inch or two above the ground and it will renew itself.

The key to growing great tasting greens is to keep them growing fast.  That’s why Peter Chan, the famous garden author/authority, always recommends feeding leaf crops frequently with nitrogen based fertilizers.  The idea is to keep the greens tender, succulent, and tasty.

At planting time, prepare the soil by adding organic matter with your existing soil.  Compost, processed manure (the bagged stuff), or peat moss are excellent sources of organic matter.  After that, add the correct amount of vegetable garden-type fertilizer.  Finally, 3 to 4 weeks later, start light weekly feedings of an organic, liquid-type fertilizer.

One of the biggest mistakes the home gardener makes in growing lettuce and other greens is covering the seed too deeply with soil.  Read and follow the directions on the seed packet. Usually, the recommendation is to cover the seed with only 1/8 of an inch of soil.  Another mistake is sowing the seed when the temperatures are too warm, like in the heat of the mid-day.  It’s best to wait and seed greens during the cooler evening hour and not before a real hot spell.

If space is limited, our Bon Vivant, Gourmet Blend, and Mesclun mix are colorful and attractive enough to grow in flower and shrub borders.  Plus, the leaf textures provide a nice contrast with other plantings.  Ed Hume Seeds also features eight other varieties of lettuce and several other greens, including spinach, chard, radicchio and endive.

For a complete list of about 340 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, go to


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Ed’s Podcasts: Starting Seeds Clip of the Week: Controlling Weeds

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