My salad days,
When I was green in judgment…
I’ve heard second hand that local growers believe direct-seeding salad in September is foolish. In my defence, I just try stuff that Eliot Coleman tries, adjusting somewhat to the fact that Maine is ~5 degrees latitude south of ours. I try to get local opinions when I can but usually I can’t. But sometimes ignorance can be bliss.
Such bliss comes in the form of my low-tunnel salad green experiment which is vastly exceeding my limited expectations although partly because of luck. Pauline and I prepared the bed on a very busy Saturday afternoon in September, the 11th. We worked a little overtime that day because the forecast called for rain starting that evening which would be good for germination and bad for any subsequent attempt at seeding. The rain came and, after a couple days of soggyness, I put the hoops out and covered it with poly, which harnessed the limited sunlight to create extra warmth.
The first picture was taken on October 10th, a month after seeding; the second, on the 27th. Despite record September rains and typical rainy October weather, there’s apparently been enough light to create a bit of a problem; too much growth. My plan was to harvest about 1200 heads of romaine sometime in February. But the seeder obviously dropped way more seed than one every 4″. There are so many plants that they now threaten to start rotting since there’s virtually no air flow between plants.
Solution: thin the plants to 4″ apart (for now, later I see it will have to be more like 8″ or 12″). I pull out the plants I don’t want to keep, then cut off their roots, keeping just the succulent leaves. Then I call it salad mix and sell it to people and the health food store for $9/lb.
This post was meant to go out at least a week ago so here’s an update. The thinning is pretty much complete which is good because Natureworks is having a hard time selling it. People at this time seem to be more interested in braising mixes and head-lettuce. With the constant daily loss of light, I doubt we will be able to harvest heads from these beds this calendar year but it could be a little earlier than my initial guess of late February.
We have another double bed with a low tunnel into which we transplanted all the lettuce and brassica plant starts that got too big to sell in the fall. They look great – and big – so I’m thinking we might start taking those off any time now.