Sure, it might be winter outside right now, but before you know it spring will be rushing past! That’s why even in January, I’m making seed purchases and getting ready for a fantastic garden salad harvest that will be ready to eat way before my neighbors even get started!
Making this happen requires just a bit of planning, some seed starting equipment and a small cold frame or two. (Check out my video on how to build a simple cold frame). First off, you’ll want to get some seed ordered right now! I usually order mine online from one of many good outlets like Burpee Seed or Seeds of Change. My first order of the season will generally be a packet of romaine lettuce, spinach and mustard greens. (I’ll also order a packet or two of radish seed like Cherry Belle to use as markers and for an early snack as they can be ready to harvest in just 30 days).
When the seeds arrive, I’ll take a small folding table, some starter trays and a fluorescent light to begin growing my starter plants. The seed starting trays can be purchased at most garden centers or you can make your own. Just make sure to use a sterile starting medium (like Miracle Grow potting mix) to avoid disease problems like damping off. From past experience, I will generally start about 30 seeds (a mix of romaine, spinach and mustard greens) in early February. This will generate enough salad plants early in the season to make up for the lag period while waiting for the direct seeded crops in my raised beds. These will be ready for the cold frames by mid-March. Now, since I already have romaine growing from the previous fall – (please see my article Cold Frames Now Paying Off) I will just make a little room and set the tray into the cold frame for a couple of weeks or until conditions are favorable to plant in the raised beds.
In no time at all, you’ll have plenty of fresh salad greens for the table. With a little extra planning you can enjoy home grown lettuce for most of the year.