Grow Mixed Greens in Your Garden
Mesclun, Mixed Salad Greens, What's the Difference?
Mesclun is another, but fancier name for the spring mix salad mix found in your local grocery store. Mesclun includes any combination of salad greens including leaf lettuces, mustard greens, beet tops, chard, kale, and arugula. Plant small quantities through the gardening season for a sustained crop.
Even the name spring salad mix is a misnomer because by changing the seeds planted in the mesclun mix, you can extend the greens in your garden from early spring through and beyond the first frost. In the spring use cool loving varieties of lettuces and greens then gradually switch over to heat tolerant summer varieties and in the autumn switch back to planting cool loving lettuce and green seeds. With added protection either by planting your greens in your garden or even in the house, you can extend your salad green growing year round.
At A Glance How to Grow Mixed Greens
Begin planting in spring as soon as ground can be worked, extend harvest with successive plantings every two weeks. Use various seeds in mix to extend the harvest.
Planting depth: sprinkle seed on worked ground, rake into top 1/2 inch of soil.
Distance between Plants: Thin to 1-2 inches apart.
Germination Time: 3-7 days
Growing Time required: 30-40 days
Space Saving tip: Grow under and between taller plants, such as staked tomato plants, especially during the summer.
Create Your Own Mesclun Mix
Mesclun can be bought premixed, but creating your own mesclun mixture is a good way to utilize left over seeds. Take green seeds left over from the previous season and mix them with lettuces and other greens suitable for the coming season. For instance, say you have some black seeded simpson lettuce left over from last year as well as some mustard, and kale, from last fall's garden. Buy a spring lettuce mixture and some beet green seeds and you have a great mesclun mix. As summer approaches, add in slow bolting lettuce like oak leaf as well as swiss chard. As the summer season wears on, add new kale, collard, and another package of mixed lettuce seed.
For planting your mesclum salad greens, you can either plant them all in a bed by themselves or tucked in under and around other slower growing vegetables. By tucking them in and around other slower growing vegetables, you will be able to get a better use of the garden bed in that when the slower growing vegetables need the space, the greens which have already provided a harvest will gradually bow out and make room for the other vegetable. This is definitely an excellent way to maximize garden space in a small garden, however, this may not be the best option for someone with a large garden because picking your greens for your daily salad would having to go all over the garden to find the greens because they are all over the place. A better option in this case would be to devote one specific bed to salad greens. A 4x8 foot garden bed of salad greens successively planted will provide more than enough greens for a big salad for two people on a daily basis.
Before planting your mesclun, incorporate a lot of organic compost into your garden soil. Salad greens need lots of humus-rich soil to conserve moisture and provide plenty of nitrogen for rapidly growing plants. Work ground until clumps have been broken up and ground is raked smooth. Broadcast seeds onto soil and gently work over with a rake. Water generously and continue gently watering every day until greens begin to germinate.
Because greens are rapid growing and many lettuces are shallow rooted and mostly water, make certain that soil remains moist, but not soggy. Make certain that the mesclun gets at least one inch of water a week from rain or irrigation. Water in the morning rather than the afternoon in order to prevent disease.
Because you have a mixture of different greens, you're less likely to have insect damage in your mesclun. If however, you start seeing that some insect is eating your greens, dust your greens with either wood ashes or diatomaceous earth (DE) or spray with a cayenne spray. Cayenne spray will also keep animals like deer and rabbits off your greens.
Diseases are easily prevented in your mesclun by rotating your vegetable garden so that the same vegetable family is not growing in the same soil year after year, by providing plenty of organic material, and watering in the morning rather than later in the day.
Harvesting Your Mixed Greens
Harvest your mesclun early in the morning when it is still crisp from the overnight hours. There are two ways to harvest mesclun, Either you can pinch off the outer more mature leaves of individual plants or you can cut whole plants within 2 inches from the ground. Cut plants will grow back within a few days.
Mesclun is best if eaten fresh, but will keep as long as two weeks in the refrigerator.
Grow Mesclun Indoors in the Winter
If you can grow mesclun in the garden, you can also grow mesclun in containers in the house so that you can have fresh homegrown salad greens year round. Plant mesclun inside the same way that you do mesclun outdoors in planting containers containing at least six inches of light, organic planting mixture. Begin plantings indoors at about the first autumn frost while you still have greens in the garden. Continue plantings once a week until you are able to start planting mesclun in the garden. This will give you at least one salad every week during the winter.
As with outdoor gardening, make certain that the soil is kept moist, but not soggy. Keep at room temperature.
Once your mesclun begins to germinate, make certain that your plants get enough light. Putting your mesclun under grow lights is a better solution than putting your plants in the window during the winter months. Keep mesclun under grow lights at least six hours of light a day. As temperatures become more temperate and above freezing, start taking plants outside during the day rather than using grow lights.
In addition to growing mesclun in the garden or indoors, a greenhouse is also a great place to grow mesclun.
A Sustainable Mixed Greens
© 2014 Donna Brown
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