Tag Archives: lettuce

Seed Saving in a School Garden

It is late winter and many of the crops from our September planting are either finished (cauliflower, broccoli, peas, beets, and carrots) or bolting (cilantro, lettuce, arugula). Now is the time to pick out which plants we want to save for seed. Choose plants that are healthy, vigorous and with characteristics worth saving. The red Lollo Rosso lettuce below is being chosen for its deep red leaves. We have placed a stake next to with a large circled “S” on it. This is to remind us that we are saving this plant for seed and not to harvest it.

Saving lettuce seed

Our arugula was fantastic this year, the lobed leaves were very mild compared to the more bitter arrow-like leaves even late into the season so we are letting the entire patch go to seed.

arugula patch

“Maintaining the genetic diversity within a population is the key to its continued evolution and the ability of the plants to adapt to varying environmental conditions. To avoid detrimentally decreasing the genetic diversity being maintained within a population of plants, seeds should be saved from the greatest possible number of plants that meet the selection criteria.” – Suzanne Ashworth, “Seed to Seed”

oakleaf lettuce

Green Oakleaf Lettuce being saved for seed

Eat Your Thinnings

My summer lettuce patch is partially shaded by large squash leaves. This keeps the lettuce from bolting during the long, hot summer.

I originally broadcast my seeds rather than sowing in rows to maximize the amount of produce grown in such a small space.

Using this approach it is necessary to periodically thin out the plants to give them enough room to grow and allow for adequate sunlight and nutrients.

As you can see in the photo above I got a bagful of lettuce and one of basil by thinning out the lettuce patch. You could hardly tell that i made a dent.

Bottom-line: periodic thinning will keep you in lettuce (and basil) all summer.

Starting from Seed

The vegetables we grow are mostly annuals. They start from seed, flower,
and end as seeds all within a defined year. That’s their life cycle.

Bolted Lettuce

Bolted Lettuce

Save some seeds this year.  The easiest are cilantro and lettuce.
We also do arugula, fennel, marigolds, beans and sunflowers.
See Starting from Seed for more instructional material.

marigold

Marigold Seeds

Week 23 – Bolting

Bolting is the term used when a vegetable crop runs to seed. It is triggered either by a cold spell, a hot spell, or changes in day-length (photoperiod). Annual crops will bolt in the first year, biennials in the second year. Some vegetables (lettuce, mizuna, arugula, etc.) become unusable (bitter) once they bolt.

A tell-tale sign that a vegetable has bolted is the formation of a central stalk. Once you see this you know that the vegetative stage is over and the flowering stage has begun.

I recommend allowing one or two plants to bolt (lettuce and cilantro are good choices). This will not only give students an opportunity to view the complete life cycle of a plant, it will also enable the formation of seeds of which we can save for the following season.

bolted-cilantro

More on Bolting at Wikipedia

Happy New Year

I’m sure glad students will be returning next week. Peas are getting plump, broccoli heads are blossom tight, carrots are starting to push their shoulders from the ground and our lettuce patch needs thinning, not to mention all the weeding that needs to be done!

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Week 14 -Mixed Green Salad

Red Leaf Lettuce

Our lettuce and mixed greens are loving this weather; not too hot, not too cold. The students have been harvesting the outer leaves of all our different varieties, as well as thinning out those grown too close together to add to the mix.

We have such an abundance its time to discuss salad dressings. How do we enjoy all this edible greenery? First of course, we wash it. If you have alot, fill a sink with water, dump your greens in and let them soak for a few minutes. Drain them in a colander and either dry them off on paper towel or spin dry in a lettuce spinner.

Next lets make our salad dressing. The simplest salad dressing is olive oil, lemon and salt which can be applied right into the salad . You want just enough to coat the leaves without any pooling in the bottom of the bowl.A more elaborate dressing would be an herbal vinaigrette. The recipe is as follows: In a bowl or small jar combine 1 teaspoon ketchup with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a dash of soy sauce. While mixing with a fork or twirling the jar, slowly add 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil depending on your taste. Then chop finely any combination of the following herbs: basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley. Add to the dressing with a dash of salt and pepper, shake well and pour over salad. Enjoy!

Lettuce Bolting

In the heat of summer lettuce will bolt and shoot up a central stalk 3-4 ft high. After the plant flowers, seeds will form and can be collected for the following season. Currently we have been collecting seeds from coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, lettuce, and pole beans; also from such flowers as: marigolds, cosmos, and sunflowers.