Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Extending Your Home Grown Salad Season

Image: Free Digital
Heading to the garden and picking a basket full of fresh vegetables for a home made salad is a summertime treat. The problem for some is, there’s often an excess of carrots and radishes and other salad fillings ready at the same time and only for a few weeks. So, how can you extend your home grown salad season?

Short-Season Vegetables: Do Multiple Plantings

Short-season vegetables are those that don’t take long to grow, namely carrots and radishes. Instead of planting a full crop all at once, spread out the growing season by planting 2 or 3 small crops at different times.

Begin by choosing early varieties, which is great for Maine’s short growing season. Plant a small crop, wait 2 weeks, and plant another. If time permits, plant a third crop in the same spot where the first crop was harvested.

Early Carrot Varieties

  • Envy Hybrid
  • Scarlet Nantes
  • Sugarsnax Hybrid

Early Radish Varieties *

  • Champion
  • Black Spanish Round
  • Cherry Belle
  • French Breakfast

* Radishes typically take between 21 to 30 days to mature so any variety should do.

Lettuce, Onions and Tomatoes

While many other vegetables can be worked into a salad, some of the most common are lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Unfortunately, many varieties of these vegetables have long growing seasons. So, once again, choose the earliest varieties you can find.

Plant loose leaf lettuces, chives or bunching onions and indeterminate types of tomatoes for the simple fact that they take less time to mature. Loose leaf lettuce can be snipped on an as needed basis and once chives have been established, they too can be snipped for use all summer long.

The great thing about bulb onions are their edible tops, so while waiting for the bulbs to mature, snip the green tops and sprinkle over fresh salads. When it comes to tomatoes, plant some indeterminate cherry varieties. Indeterminate tomatoes are of the vining kind and will continue to produce until killed off by frost.

Early Loose Leaf Lettuce Varieties

  • Red Sails
  • Green Ice
  • Salad Bowl
  • Black-Seeded Simpson
  • Mesclun

Early Onion/Chive Varieties

  • Lillia Red Bunching Onions
  • Evergreen White Bunching Onions
  • Fine Leaf Chives
  • Purly Chives

Early Cherry Tomato Varieties

  • Sweet Baby Girl
  • Jelly Beans
  • Rainbow Bells Blend
  • Gurney’s® Baby Girls (determinate)

I hope these tips help you to extend your home grown salad season beyond a few weeks - I know it does mine.

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