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Jump start spring with lettuces, radishes, onions

Updated on January 23, 2015
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from my mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Salad bowl favorites

The earliest crops in most gardens are lettuces, radishes, green onions.
The earliest crops in most gardens are lettuces, radishes, green onions. | Source

Choosing loose leaf or cutting lettuce

Perfect salads and salad dressings

There will be a dozen different lettuces in my spring garden. Most of these leafy greens are never available at the supermarket. You may be able to find loose leaf lettuces and tender baby greens at farmers markets.

Choose a variety of lettuces to stretch your springtime salad days. Some lettuces and more cold tolerant, even able to take a light frost. Others will carry you into summer. A mix of colors, shapes and sizes will create endless spring salads.

The first harvests from your garden every year will be salad makings, Mesclun salad mixes, tender butterhead and young romaine lettuce taste even better with this salad dressing blend accent.

The seeds of these lettuces are fast-growing but do not form heads. Sow thinly either in a container, a block or a row. Since lettuce seed are small, it is easy to crowd seeds when planting. Keep thinning the lettuce seedlings. Toss the thinnings in a salad or on a sandwich.

Continue thinning lettuce until the plants are about 5 or 6 inches apart. Now try cut-and-come-again harvesting. Cut each rosette just above the ground. You can expect two or three more harvests like this before lettuce starts to bolt (make flowers and seed).

Cut only what you will use, this lettuce is not a good keeper. Rinse a couple of times then, dry leaves. Lettuce is ready for dressing.

If you do choose to store the lettuces, loosely wrap in a damp paper towel and place in a zip lock bag, refrigerate.

Perfect for salads. Making herb vinegar.

Mesclun and radishes

Continue to thin mesclun and harvest radishes while the season is cool. An unexpected heat waves will cause lettuces to bolt.
Continue to thin mesclun and harvest radishes while the season is cool. An unexpected heat waves will cause lettuces to bolt. | Source

Grow three varieties of lettuce

Loose leaf
"Garden Babies"
Oak Leaf Lettuce
"Caesar Duo"
"Kagraner Sommer"
"Garden Ferns"
"Merveille De Quatre Saisons"
"Farmer's Market Blend"
"Ruby Gem"

Hanging baskets of baby greens

Sneak and extra crop of salad greens in your hanging baskets. They will be harvested long before it is warm enough to put summer blooms in the baskets.
Sneak and extra crop of salad greens in your hanging baskets. They will be harvested long before it is warm enough to put summer blooms in the baskets. | Source

Seed sources

Renee's Garden

Nichols Garden Nursery

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

There are many places to get lettuce and radish seed both locally and online. For years, I've purchased seed from these companies and received speedy service with all items delivered as promised.

Simple salad dressing

The perfect salad dressing starts with two basics, oil and acid

3/4 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil (3 parts oil)
1⁄4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (to 1 part acid)

From this basic recipe of 3 to 1, the recipe opens to your creativity. As a herb gardener, I am going to substitute herb vinegar for the lemon juice in the same proportion. LINK more herb vinegar information.

Herb vinegar, garlic, olive oil dressing

A salad dressing is simple and light . It will highlight the seasons best salads greens. Start with this basic recipe.

1 clove garlic

fresh cracked black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup herb vinegar

3/4 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil

Using a fork, crush garlic* clove. Add garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar in a pint jar. Shake to mix. Add about a ¼ cup of olive oil to jar. Vigorously shake. Repeat twice. Shake until contents are emulsified.

Strain dressing through a fine sieve, discard solids, or just remove smashed garlic glove. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator. Use within 3 days. Makes about 1 cups.

An immersion blender will fit in the pint jar, if you would rather blend than shake the dressing until emulsified. If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again just before use.

* CAUTION: There are a large number of cases of botulism every year because home-prepared mixtures of garlic in oil. The FDA recommends that these garlic and oil blends be made fresh for use and not left at room temperatures. Any leftovers should be refrigerated and used within three days, frozen for longer storage, or discarded.

How to Make Tarragon Vinegar.


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