I may not be enjoying the 100% success I envisioned when I started planning my garden but I have been able to make a few salads from my crops. While my cucumbers are nowhere near ready to harvest, I have red oak leaf lettuce, leaf lettuce and mizuna that are ready to toss with dressing. And, I’ve found a few long, skinny radishes, too.
Even if you haven’t planted anything yet yourself, you can still plant lettuce and radishes and be certain of a crop. Feeling tempted? I hope so. Here are some tips for growing your own lettuce, radish and cucumber plants.
• Choose a location that gets lots of morning and mid day sun but that is fairly open so that it doesn’t become too hot; heat can lead to wilting and to the development of strong, bitter tastes.
• Spacing in the garden depends on the size of plant you want to harvest. Fully developed heads of romaine or leaf lettuce require 12 inch (30-cm) spacing. Baby lettuces (harvested at about 3 1/2 inches [9-cm]) need only about 2 inches (5 cm) between plants and rows can be about 7-inches (17.5 cm) apart.
• When harvesting, cut leaves level with the crown of the plant – about 2 inches (5 cm) from the soil – so that the roots remain in tact and more greens can grow.
• Plant two crops of lettuce a couple of weeks apart so that you will have a rotation of greens mature enough to harvest.
• Spacing and thinning are important steps to prevent the plants from competing for sunlight, nutrients and water. Keeping up with these tasks limits fungal disease, too. When thinning, choose weaker (i.e. smaller) sprouts that are 3 inches (7.5 cm) out of the ground. Wash the thinned leaves and use as sprouts in sandwiches.
• These vines grow rapidly and require substantial space. Vertical training methods and new dwarf varieties now allow cucumbers to be grown even in small garden plots.
• Cucumbers are usually started by planting seeds directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed and the soil is warm enough for seeds to germinate.
• Plant seeds 1 to 3 cm deep; thin the seedlings to one plant every 12 inches (30 cm) in the row.
• Misshapen cucumbers may result from poor pollination or low fertility so remove them from the vine.
• Since most types of radishes grow very quickly, you can have a nice crop of radishes even if you start late. Choose varieties labeled “early variety,” which mature within three to four weeks for the speediest results.
• Although most people only use the red bulbs for salads, don’t forget that radish leaves are delicious raw, too.
• Plant a row of early radishes and a row of mid-season radishes so that you can harvest all summer long.
• Be sure to water radishes well and consistently, as thirst slows growth and produces hot, woody radishes.
• Leaving radishes in the ground too long will develop an unwelcome toughness, so check the crop every two or three days.
Got a hankering for a salad after reading this post? Don’t forget my salad dressing posts published earlier this summer.