Italienischer - 8 lb.
Michelle Batavian - 2.8 lb.
Reine des Glaces crisphead - 1.6 lb.
Rhapsody Butterhead - 8.2 lb.
Ruby Gem Romaine - 4.3 lb.
Sweetie Baby Romaine - 4.6 lb.
Winter Density Romaine - 6.3 lb.
Do you see a theme there? It's mostly heading lettuces, either romaine, butterhead, or crisphead. I used to grow a lot of cutting lettuces, usually a mix of different shapes and colors. Then one day Dave fessed up that what he really likes is crunchy lettuces like romaine or iceberg, and he really likes butterhead lettuces as well. Well, I like those too, but it always seemed like much more of a
Italienischer is a huge oakleaf type that has big thick midribs when the heads get to be mature and it's got enough crunch to keep Dave happy. I can also harvest it on a cut-and-come-again basis for my own lunch salads. It is a versatile, incredibly productive (look at that yield) and good tasting lettuce that seems to be well suited to my climate so it will be back this year. This heirloom variety is available from a lot of sources, my seeds came from Fedco.
|Reine Des Glaces|
Rhapsody Butterhead has been a reliable producer in my garden. I keep coming back to it because it produces really good generous sized heads. Butterhead is a bit fussy about weather, but this one is worth it, I just have to resist the temptation to sow it when the weather warms up. It's also readily available coming from Renee's Garden Seeds which I can pick up at the local hardware store.
|Ruby Gem Romaine|
|Sweetie Baby Romaine|
|Winter Density Romaine|
Winter Density, is a somewhat loose headed romaine that can get to be quite large but is also good for cut-and-come-again harvests. The name is somewhat deceptive because it seems to thrive just about year round in my mild climate. Again, another unfussy variety that is well suited to my climate and our tastes so it stays in the lineup. The seeds for this heirloom are widely available and my seeds came from Fedco.
I would really like to be able to harvest lettuce through the year, but so far I've not been able to manage that. In 2015 I went without lettuce in August, October, November, and December. In 2014 it was January, February, August, and November. In 2013 there were 7 months with no lettuce harvests. I haven't harvested lettuce in August since 2011.
Heat was one obstacle in 2015, it was an unusually warm year. Another obstacle was a severe lack of gardening motivation in the fall. I just didn't get around to starting things for late fall and early winter harvests. I did get lettuce going in September which I thought it would carry me through October. But I went away for one week in mid October and was anticipating some nice salads when I got home because there was some lettuce just starting to form nice heads. But those little heads quickly shot up about 2 feet while I was gone. I hadn't counted on those heads blowing up so quickly. When the weather is cooler it seems like it takes forever for heads to form and then I'll have a 2 or 3 week window to harvest them before they thoroughly bolt. So, lesson learned, if I want salad in the fall I need to do more succession sowing of just a few heads every couple of weeks and perhaps try some more heat/bolt resistant varieties. We'll see, it seems I still have a lot to learn about lettuce before I can figure out a year round growing schedule. More on that in my post about 2016 planned varieties...
The other problem I'm having is that I need to improve my record keeping. I've been spending a bunch of time going back through my notes trying to match the dates that I sowed seeds to the dates that I harvested those veggies. I've got a very detailed spread sheet for harvests, each harvest tallied on the day I picked it, summarized by Harvest Monday, further summarized by month, and then for the year. And I do keep track of when I sow and plant out, but that information is not well organized. So now I'm trying to modify my harvest spread sheet to show the dates that I sowed the seeds for a particular harvest. This will be particularly helpful for the veggies that I need to sow in successions, like lettuces and other salad greens, and other quick cropping things like radishes. It takes longer for them to mature when the days are short and cold and seemingly no time in the long warm days of summer. So I hope that matching up sowing and harvest dates for particular veggies will help me to figure out the intervals between successions.
Other Salad Greens. There are some other greens that I like to add to my salads to spice things up, including arugula, cress, mizuna, radish leaves, and mild chicories.
|Dutch Broadleaf Cress|
|Ruby Streaks Mizuna|
|Saisai Leaf Radish|
Mild chicories, which includes frisee. I've pretty much given up on growing frilly frisee and turned to trying other mild chicories that can be harvested on a cut-and-come-again basis instead of waiting for a head to form. Last year I tried a variety called Spadona. It somewhat resembles a smooth edged dandelion but it is much less bitter. It does have some bitterness and the more mature the leaves get the more pronounced the bitterness, but I didn't find it to be overly bitter. I enjoyed the young leaves fresh in salads and the more mature leaves cooked. I sowed the seeds directly in the garden expecting to only harvest for a short time, but I ended up harvesting from April through July. That surprised me since my experience with other chicories, including radicchio is that it bolts quickly in the spring. Unfortunately I didn't get around to sowing more in the fall. I will be growing this one again and I think I need to find a spot in the garden and sow some seeds now! The good thing is that I need only find a small space, the plants grow quickly and it will take just a few to meet my needs.
Other leafy greens I grew last year were chard, spinach, and amaranth.
|Peppermint Stick and Golden Chard|
Chard is a green that I could harvest year round here if I so desired. A spring sowing can produce for a full year. I used to grow it year round but found that I wasn't harvesting it in the summer, the plants were just getting huge and taking up space and hosting aphids and other bugs. The last few years I've been sowing it in the summer to harvest through the fall and into the winter. It bolts in the spring but it tends to be one of the last overwintered greens to do so. Last year my final harvest was in May. I only grew two varieties, Peppermint Stick and Golden Chard. Peppermint Stick was by far the most productive, I got 8 pounds from the 2014 sowing. I don't remember what happened with the Golden Chard, but I only got a little over half a pound from the 2014 sowing. This was another veggie that suffered from my malaise last fall. I had sown the seeds as planned in August and got some nice little seedlings of Peppermint Stick and Italian Silver Rib going, and then failed to set them out in the garden in a timely manner. I finally set them out in the garden on November 20. So, they are out there, alive but not necessarily thriving. Oh well.
|Summer Perfection and Verdil Spinach|
|Thai Tender and Tender Leaf Amaranth|
That's it for my look back at 2015. Now it's time to look forward to coming attraction for 2016. The seed orders are already arriving!