I usually plant lettuce and radish every three weeks from April until August.
Many gardeners look forward in the spring to that first salad made from homegrown produce, but most people continue to eat salads almost on a daily basis during the summer. There is rarely a summer barbecue or social event involving a meal where there are not several salads offered to hungry guests. Since lettuce is very often the basis, a good supply of salad greens is required if the garden is to provide such quantities of vegetables.
One way to ensure a steady supply is to practise succession planting. I usually plant lettuce and radish every three weeks from April until August, and in that way I always have an adequate supply of these vegetables for use in the kitchen. I also plant a few multiplier onions at the same time to have fresh green onions for salads. Later in the season cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, fresh young carrots and other vegetables can also be harvested to enhance the salads, but the basics – radish and lettuce – will still be required.
To employ succession planting, space must be reserved for the seeding of these crops. I generally squeeze them into small spaces between rows of other vegetables – particularly the ones that will not reach their mature size until later in the season, like zucchini. Toward the end of summer, lettuce and radish can be planted in
spaces occupied by vegetables, like peas and beans, which have already matured and been harvested. Of course, when a planting of lettuce and radish has been used up, that space also can be planted to yet another crop.
I like to plant a number of varieties of lettuce, including a loose-head type such as “Buttercrunch,” a Romaine variety and several leaf lettuces. I try to get lettuces that have different-coloured leaves and different textures. The last few years I have also grown “mesclun” which provides a wonderful assortment of lettuces for making salad.
In the heat of midsummer I make sure to water the young plants regularly and I feed the radishes frequently with a soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer that I dissolve in the water. I often hand water the lettuce and radish because the other vegetables in the garden do not need to be watered as frequently.
Besides salad vegetables, some gardeners practise succession planting by having a later sowing – about three or four weeks later – of peas and beans so that when the first planting is finished producing, the second planting is just coming into production. Other vegetables can be grown this way, but it is the salad vegetables, because they mature so quickly – and go past just as quickly – that are prime candidates for succession planting. This is a gardening technique you might like to try in your vegetable patch this summer.
– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba