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Radishes and Lettuce

Posted in: Gardening,

Description

Plant Early - Plant Often

Sometimes, especially in New England, we look at vegetable gardening as a one time process, meaning that you plant everything at once around Memorial Day, water and weed, and then wait for the harvest. With some plants this is not the case. In fact, with certain vegetables you want to deliberately plant every two weeks or so, so that you avoid a large quantity of ripe produce all at once. Radishes and lettuce, two of my salad favorites, are examples of easy to grow plants that can be enjoyed all summer long if you space out your planting times instead of all at once. This makes them “succession crops,” so called because their growing period is short enough to allow successive plantings, such as early spring, summer, and late summer.

Succession planting will also help you use the vegetables before they “bolt,” which is when a flower stem comes up from the plant. If they reach this stage the vegetable is past its’ prime eating time and means the plant is more bitter tasting. So for some plants such as radishes, lettuce, and even spinach you want to plant successively and enjoy more produce for a longer period.

Ingredients

Radishes and Lettuce
Radishes

Radish is a cool-season, fast-maturing, easy-to-grow vegetable. Garden radishes can be grown wherever there is sun and moist, fertile soil, even on a small city lot, for example. Because they are so easy, it is a good plant to get kids involved with gardening. The seeds are large enough for them to handle and they see results within days instead of weeks.

The variety French Breakfast holds up and grows better than most early types in summer heat if water is supplied regularly. Additional sowings of spring types can begin in late summer, to mature in the cooler, moister days of fall. Winter radishes are sown in midsummer to late summer, much as fall turnips. They are slower to develop than spring radishes; and they grow considerably larger, remain crisp longer, are usually more pungent and hold in the ground or store longer than spring varieties.

If you do not like your radishes too hot or spicy, pick them earlier as the hotness is the result of the length of time they grow and not their size. So if you want less “heat,” pick them earlier.

Place the seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep and about 1 inch apart. If you plant more, thin spring radishes to 1/2 to 1 inch between plants. (Winter radishes should be thinned to 2 to 4 inches, or even farther apart to allow for development of their large roots.) On beds, radishes may be spread lightly and thinned to stand 2 to 3 inches apart in all directions.

If you plant the radishes too deep they may not germinate. Do not worry, just come back a week later and fill in the spaces without seedlings with more seeds.

Save the young thinnings of both summer and winter radishes. They taste very good when tops and bottoms are intact. Both summer and winter radishes store well in the refrigerator once the tops have been removed, because the radish leaves cause moisture and nutrient loss during storage.


Lettuces

You want to grow and enjoy several different types of lettuces and fortunately this is easy to do. There are two types of lettuces to grow – head lettuce and cut-and-come-again lettuce. The head lettuces you wait until the whole head has matured and harvest the entire head all at once. The cut-and-come-again you cut off what you want to use and it will grow back, just like your lawn. I think that it is one of nature’s treats that you can have your lettuce and eat it too. Another thing that I like about it is that you can cut it when the leaves are young and tender.

Lettuce is a fairly hardy, cool-weather vegetable that thrives when the average daily temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees F. It should be planted in early spring or late summer. At high temperatures, growth is stunted, the leaves may be bitter and the bolting stalk forms and elongates rapidly. (Tip: If you have bitter lettuce, try washing and storing the leaves in the refrigerator for a day or two and much of the bitterness will disappear.) Some types and varieties of lettuce withstand heat better than others. That is why one of my favorite lettuces to grow is Canasta, because it does not bolt. I know that when I plant it in early summer it will last through even the dog days of summer.

Some of my favorites to plant are the Vulcan, the Gentilina, Tongue of the Canary, and Boston Bibb. But if you want to taste more zingy flavors you can grow Arugula. There are two types – wild and the more common domestic variety. The wild has a very thin saw tooth like leaf and will come back year after year because it has a deep tap root. I grow a type called Wild Rocket. The more common type of Arugula grows very rapidly and will go to seed very quickly as well.

To grow lettuce, you will probably end up over-seeding since the seeds are so small. This will require you to do some thinning, at least twice during the early growth period. Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep (about 10 seeds per foot) in single, double or triple rows 12 to 18 inches apart. The good thing is that the seedlings removed may be transplanted or eaten.

Instructions

About The Cook

Guy Esposito MDGuy Esposito is an orthopedic surgeon whose other passion is vegetable gardening. From his early medical school days until the present, he has been growing a variety of vegetables in his home garde

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