Good Gardening: Fairy Tale
Hi All, Lane County Extension Service Master Gardener John Fischer here with KLCC's Good Gardening.
When I see bagged salad mix in the store, it is usually baby greens. I always thought the farmers grew greens to four inches, harvested the whole plant, and put in a new crop. But when my daughter married a farmer, I learned the win-win truth.
Commercial growers plant a wide row of mixed greens and just cut off the top three or four inches. Then the plants come back and are ready for harvest again a week or ten days later. Eight or ten harvests are not unusual.
You can do the same thing to extend your harvest. Rather than pick a whole head of lettuce, just slice off the top 4 inches. If you do this progressively in a row of lettuce and other salad greens, you will get five times more food on the table than if you wait for the head to be ready and pick the whole thing - once.
A partial harvest works well on kale, chard, and spinach too. For those crops, I pick a few leaves, off each plant, and like a fairy tale, new growth fills in the empty spaces almost as fast as you can say stir fry.
Not everything can be picked this way, but if you have beets, carrots or onions that are too close together, pick one in a crowd, and the other will take over the space. Giving the plants room to grow will give you bigger produce later, and something tender to eat right now.
If you knock over arugula plants and force them to grow sideways when they start to get leggy, they will produce more large tender leaves before they start to flower.
Eventually all the greens will go to seed. If you were clever, you used our cool wet spring to plant another row of lettuce so that you'll have some fresh L for the BLT when the Ts are ready in August.