The days are lengthening, the green tips of my daffodils are sprouting, and the unassuming blossoms on my sweet box shrubs are perfuming the air. With these signs of spring, my thoughts turn to my vacant vegetable beds. Those neglected boxes of dirt with remnants of last year’s pepper plant that never bore fruit, a few weeds and tracks from a critter. I hope he’s not living under our house.
I feel the itch to plant heat-loving tomatoes, peppers, and squash, but it’s too early in the season. Besides, I’m not one for spending much time laboring over my garden when it’s still cold and rainy outside. To satiate my itch to plant this time of year, I sow lettuce seeds: Quick, easy and almost foolproof. The trick is to know whether or not the last frost has happened where you live. Contact your local OSU Extension office. Even after the last frost, you may still want to give your seedlings a little extra warmth with a cloche or a horticultural blanket. Both easy to find at gardening supply stores.
Despite the fact that most of us associate salads with summer, lettuce varieties – red leaf, green leaf, romaine, Bibb – prefer cool seasons like spring and fall with temperatures in the 50s and 60s. The delicately leafed vegetable is also not particularly picky about her soil unlike the nutrient-greedy tomato plant. Yes, loosen the planting soil up a bit and of course, make sure it’s not simply hard clay, but no need to fuss with soil amendments.
Sow rows of lettuce seeds every three to six weeks beginning in early spring and you’ll have a steady supply of the mealtime staple until temperatures climb to more than 75˚F and wilt the thirsty leaves. If you don’t have a gardening patch, not to worry, lettuce is perfectly content in containers as well. Make sure to thin out the seedlings once they sprout leaving the most robust looking ones to mature.
In the garden, you will probably do battle with slugs, but there’s always beer or bait or copper wire to take care of those guys. Besides that, let the spring rains water your plants, and get your kids to harvest the bounty for your evening meal.
Carrie’s Favorite Vinaigrette for Spring Greens
– 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
– 1 tablespoon minced shallot
– ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
– a pinch of salt