Today, We have a guest post from Liz Mountain The Food Skills Co-ordinator at the Local Community Food Centre in Stratford. I have the pleasure of working with Liz on Thursday mornings at her Shovel to Spoon program where participants learn about growing and preparing lots of different foods.
With Ground Hog Day well behind us, spring planting is on our doorstep. Marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, Ground Hog Day represents the time farmers historically start planning their planting season.
We all know that the highest nutrient content is found in recently picked vegetables, yet few of us believe we have time or space to commit to growing our own. This fact is a shame, considering the many health benefits associated with gardening. The act itself is considered to be one of the best overall exercises one can engage in. Then there are the nutrients. And the flavour.
If you would like to challenge the notion that gardening is too time consuming, some of the easiest and most satisfying plants to grow are mesclun lettuces. As cold hearty plants, they are one of the first to be planted in the spring season. They actually can have 4 seasons, if you are careful to shade them from summer heat and mulch them heavily in winter. Mesclun lettuces lend themselves well to container gardens and take very little space in amongst other plants in a more traditional garden.
As one planting will produce 3 harvests before it is time to turn them under and plant again. These little potassium and vitamin A storehouses are a nice alternative to the costs associated with purchasing leaves from someone else.
To sow the seeds, sprinkle liberally on damp soil, cover lightly with more soil then water again. Keep the soil damp, not wet, until they start to sprout. Then water when the soil dries down. Growing them tightly packed will keep them small. You can grow them indoors especially if you have a cool well lit area for doing so.
Use clean scissors to trim for your salad, and watch the leaves grow again for the next harvest. Planting different pots at different times will guarantee successions of harvests, and touch the magical part of your
imagination as you care for the plants.
I started this blog with groundhogs for a reason. They, too, enjoy a crisp salad. Another reason that planting lettuce in containers is a good choice if you are venturing into gardening for the first time.