Gardeners tend to love the first salads of spring, and many of us long for greenhouses so that we can harvest all winter. But until I get the greenhouse of my dreams, I scheme about ways to have lettuce and salad fixings as early as possible.
This year I bought a roll of frost-blanket fabric from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and on a bright day in early February I dug up my lettuce beds and pots, composted them heavily, and planted them with various lettuces, planting broadcast-style rather than in rows. Half of the garden bed of lettuce I covered with a double layer of frost-blanket, secured with stones as weights. The other half was left open to the elements, and some was planted in big black pots about 2 feet high but wasn’t protected in any other way.
I supplied them with water (no need to remove the frost-blanket to sprinkle that bed) and otherwise left them alone.
On March 28th, about 6 weeks later, here’s what the beds look like:
This bed was under the frost-blanket. The little lettuces are over 4 inches high, and harvesting can begin.
This one is in one of the large pots. The lettuce is about 2 inches high, and won’t be ready to harvest for a few weeks.
These are planted in the open ground. They have survived hard freezes and an 8″ snowfall and are very small, but undaunted.
From one afternoon of planting, I will be able to harvest lettuce from late March through May, with minimal effort. I will be doing this again next year, and will also plant a bed in October and try to hold it under frost blanket through the winter, to get a jump-started bed in the spring. We urban yard-farmers have day jobs and minimal free time, and this is one way to make the most of it.