Lettuce – and other Greens – Miracle Plants

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.

New lettuce coming up.

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!)

Small patch of over wintered spinach.

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!)

This is the size of lettuce I pick in March.

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!

This is what my little spinach patch looks like now after I’ve picked it all winter and everyday for the last 7 weeks. Not too impressive for a visitor.

 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.

This big bowl feeds 4 normal people or 2 lettuce fanatics (us). Multiply 2 or 4 servings by 21 for the first 3 cold weeks of spring or multiply by 49 for bowls picked to date since the first week in march. Doesn’t make a show in the garden, but it sure is good!


Organic Gardening is Easy, Effective, Efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.


Related Posts:

Lettuce – There’s No Right or Wrong Way

Greens – Now is the Time to Plan for the Heat of Summer

Lettuce – Eating Fresh Even After it Stalks

Lettuce – Delicious as a Cooked Green

Lettuce Bitter? Secrets to Keeping it Tasty

Lettuce – Spinning Like a Great Chef

Spinach Talk

Lettuce – Favorites, Tips, and Several Sources

Lettuce – Plant in the Fall – Harvest for 3 Seasons

Lettuce – A Teaser and Reminder

Lettuce – Time to Plant


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  • Your story likening your lettuce growing and use to the loaves and fishes was so inspiring! Thank you!
    –Sue T.

  • I’m really glad you found it inspiring, Sue. Thanks so much for letting me know and thanks for reading.

  • Hi Theresa

    I recently planted some squash plants in a tray indoors. They shot up with 8 inch stems with 2 leaves on top and have now fallen over. Not the sturdy leafy seedlings I was expecting. What did I do wrong?


  • Hi Frank,
    You didn’t give me a lot of information about how you are doing things, but it sounds like you don’t have a good light source.

    If you’re going to raise plants inside you have to have lights about 2 inches from the plants in order for them to fill out rather than get long stems reaching for light. If you don’t use an artificial light source — then you’d need a heck of a great southern exposure window.

    I don’t grow inside for this very reason. I have no set up and no room for one. If I allow seed to germinate inside — they go right outside after germination. For a start on more information about this you might want to read the post, Warm Wather Crops and the Winter Sown Method. And there are dozens of other articles on TMG telling you more about seed starting.

    The good news is — it’s warm enough now for you to put those squash plants outside. Pot them up first. Add a tablespoon or so of compost to the grow mix. And try starting more seed in a few pots. You can keep the pots in a warm place inside if you want and then set them outside when they break the soil. You’ll see a big difference with those that get the proper light.

    Best of luck with them!

  • Hi Theresa, I do exactly the same thing with my lettuce. People are always surprised and delighted to get a garden fresh salad in February. Do you save seed from year to year? I am loving the Speckled Trout lettuce so much this year from Seed Savers Exchange, that I’d love to save the seed. Do you save lettuce seed?

  • For years I never bothered to save seed. But as what’s happening in the seed industry becomes more and more of a concern — I am making a diligent effort to save my own. I think it’s wise to see what might be coming and try to take some precautions — like saving your own seed.

    In the last two years I’ve saved seed, but only with a couple of varieties that happened to be where it was convenient to allow them to stay there and go to seed. (As you know — lettuce takes a while to seed.) Last year I needed the space and didn’t let all the lettuce stay — so I didn’t get seed.

    I definitely would like for this Forellenschluss to seed — as it is such a fabulous variety!

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