Vegetable Garden Update: Leafy Greens

It’s already May and the plants are really starting to take off. We have already started to enjoy the fresh spinach and lettuce and we are waiting for the others to catch up. Throughout the week I’m going to break down the garden in sections and talk about what’s working and what’s not.

Greens

Lettuce
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What you see here is my massive crop of lettuce.
Varieties: Black Seeded Simpson, Grand Rapids, Merveille des Quartre Seasons (aka Four Seasons Lettuce)

What I have learned so far:
1. There are countless varieties of lettuce however they all fall into one of these four categories a) Leaf Lettuce (Black Seeded Simpson), b) Butterhead lettuce (Merveille Des Quartre Seasons), c) Romaine (large tall leaves), d) Crisphead (typically what you find at grocery stores).
2. Lettuce grows best in fall and spring months when the weather is cooler but there is still plenty of sunshine.
3. Leaf lettuce varieties usually take the shortest time to grow (45 days) and will grow back the leaves. (aka cut and come again).
4. In contrast butterhead lettuce takes longer and will not grow back it’s leaves. However it is beautiful to look at and are so delicious.
5. Biggest enemy : Aphids but a regular washing of the leaves with the hose have kept them contained.

Spinach
Varieties: Catalina Baby Spinach, Bloomsdale and Correnta.
What I’ve learned so far:
a) Spinach loves cooler weather and certain varieties will bolt (begin to flower) making them inedible.
b) Spinach leaves will grow back after they have been cut.
c) Baby spinach is not ideal for Zone 9 and hot weather. I could not get a sustainable crop from this variety.
d) Spinach seeds have a short shelf life and my seeds from last year did not yield any plants.
e)Biggest Enemy: Snails since the leaves lie flat they are easy prey for slugs and snails.

Chard
Chard is a mystery plant to me as I have never eaten it. It is however very pretty to look at.
Variety: Bright Lights
What I have learned so far:
a) Chard is in from the beet family although it resembles spinach.
b) Bright Lights Chard has stems that are either bright red or yellow.
c) Young leaves can be chopped up and used in salad.
d) Adult chard leaves get quite large but have a bitter flavor. They must be cooked or steamed to remove the bitterness.
e) Enemies: A mysterious virus or insect has recently infected my chard. It was growing great but recently it has developed white colorless sections on it’s leaves.

Despite the fact that greens are really more ideal for cooler climates I highly recommend growing and experimenting with different varieties. Nothing compares to a fresh salad from your garden.

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12 thoughts on “Vegetable Garden Update: Leafy Greens”

  • We just planted some Mesclun seeds and thought that your post was very helpful. It’s nice to see what worked for other people.

  • Thanks for doing this post! I grew lettuce 2 years ago, and I had gotten a late start, which is a disaster in so Florida! I am planning this year to start some from seed on October 15 and it will be fun…all leaf varieties! I love to give bags of lettuce to friends and family.

  • That problem with your chard could be leaf-miners. Where I am (Bozeman, MT) they’ve been a real problem in chard, beet greens, spinach, and I think broccoli. They’re any of a variety of flying insects. I’ve finally taken to growing the problem plants under row covers, cursing all the while.

    Where are you located? I glanced around on your site a little but didn’t see a location. Probably I just missed it.

    Good luck with the chard–I’m going to double-check organic solutions, in case you’re interested. I’ll probably need them myself pretty soon anyway!

    –Kate

  • Shala: Mesclun sounds good. You should have tasty greens in no time.

    Jenny, Angie, and Amy: Thanks

    Julie: That sounds like a good plan, I’m sure Florida has it’s own unique gardening challenges.

    Kate: I live in Davis, California not far from Sacramento. I suspect your right about the leaf miners. What I read is that they don’t respond to topical solutions since they are literally in the plant. The best thing to do is to pick the infected leaves. If you have any advice I would appreciate it!

  • What great lettuce selections. So healthy and green. I’m looking forward to seeing photos of the salads you create with them. And thanks for the growing tips.

  • White colorless spots? Hmmm, I don’t know about those leaf miners but the only colorless spots I’ve gotten on any plants are sun burns. If you water when there is full sun and it’s in the mid 80’s-triple digits then the light will reflect off the water and it will burn the leaves. Just like people burn fast when their in water. lol. That’s what happened to my lilies, I watered them around 11am every other day and they died from sun damage. lol. That’s sort of happening to my marigolds too, they have these light brown trails all over most of the leaves, I have not idea if that is normal or not.

  • White colorless spots? Hmmm, I don’t know about those leaf miners but the only colorless spots I’ve gotten on any plants are sun burns. If you water when there is full sun and it’s in the mid 80’s-triple digits then the light will reflect off the water and it will burn the leaves. Just like people burn fast when they’re in water. lol. That’s what happened to my lilies, I watered them around 11am every other day and they died from sun damage. lol. That’s sort of happening to my marigolds too, they have these light brown trails all over most of the leaves, I have no idea if that is normal or not.

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