Greens — especially lettuce — always remind me of the various accounts of Christ feeding the multitudes with several loaves of bread and a few small fish.
Unless you depend heavily on your garden for food you may not know why I relate lettuce to these biblical accounts. I’ll explain.
In the fall I sow a lot of lettuce and spinach. With a little protection from severe cold these crops last through the winter. And although they’re not gonna’ grow as quickly as in spring and summer— they’ll grow enough to give you a a few fresh salads and/or stir frys to remind you that spring is on the way.
The Real Payoff of Fall Plantings
The real payoff of fall plantings comes in late winter — long about March. Little by little that lettuce feels the pull of the light increase and the change in the earth and starts to grow. And although you’ll be starting new lettuce seed about then to take over when the older plants wear out, those plants that have overwintered will in all probability be your main source of lettuce for 3 or 4 weeks.
While you’re enjoying your salad everyday, the seed of your newly planted lettuce, beets, chard, spinach, and kale will be germinating. Then you’ll start to add another tiny leaf of those plants to your daily picking.
For the last two years I’ve lost most of lettuce and spinach I’ve sown in the fall — I think to slugs. (Yes, I have a plan to prevent that this coming fall — but that’s another story.)
Only a little patch of spinach — maybe 2 feet x 3 feet — made it through last year. Only about 5 lettuce plants made it.
I started picking on a daily basis the first week in March because by then I’m starving for greens. Everyday, I’d think to myself — surely I won’t get any tomorrow. (One would think this was my first year growing lettuce — rather than my 34th!)
For about 21 days — it was only those poor little over-picked plants that gave me lettuce for our lunch. After 21 days I started adding a leaf of beet, chard, newly grown spinach, and/or new lettuce that was barely out of the ground. (How it’s managed without rain I don’t know!)
Here it is 7 weeks later and I’m still picking those poor little plants — in addition to all the new stuff that’s coming!
One More Story
After all this ravishing of spring lettuce and spinach, I know you must wonder if one can ever “see” the lettuce (or spinach) in my garden. The answer is yes — in June when growth peaks it’s very visible. You’ve seen many pictures in past posts and already know I have hundreds of lettuce plants every year. I’m such a lettuce fanatic that I couldn’t stand being without it, especially come March after a long winter of rationing.
That being said, I have to share a story with you that always makes me smile.
We had customers come one day (our shop is in our home) about 3 years ago to pick up a copy of one of Bill’s Northern Neck Illustrated Journals. (It was after lunch and we had just finished a huge bowl of lettuce.) They commented on the yard and told me they had a wonderful garden. They asked if I grew any vegetables. I said yes. They wanted to see the garden. We walked out back and stood at the garden gate. One topic lead to another and they showed me pictures on their cell phone of their lettuce. It was lush, gorgeous, tall and huge. (Obviously, not picked.)
I said how beautiful it was and that I loved lettuce. As they looked across my garden they said, “If we had known you loved lettuce we could have brought you some!”
The moral of the story is — if you want lettuce that makes a big show in late winter and early spring don’t eat it all. 🙂
And of course, the story of the loaves and few small fish comes to mind.
Organic Gardening is Easy, Effective, Efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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