Sunday, June 30, 2013

How to plant and harvest Cut & Come Again lettuces

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Planting and using the cut and come again method can be the most rewarding way to get greens from your garden.  You plant at one time and then harvest through-out the entire growing season.

Most types of greens can be used in the cut and come again method.  I successfully use mesclun mix (both sweet and bitter mix) and any Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, oak leaf lettuce, or even kale.  All grow back successfully for several harvests from the same spot.  I plant as early as the package allows, usually planting bio-intensively - using a entire packet of seeds for my 1X6ft row.  Then as soon as my plants are 4 inches tall, I start to harvest.

I harvest by taking a pair of garden sheers/scissors and cutting off only the top 2 inches of the plants leaves.  This leaves the bottom of the plant to continue to grow.

As I come back again and again, I always head down the row with my garden scissors to the spot that is the tallest and start cutting there.  I leave the bottom and those leaves sprout new growth within a day or two so that within a few weeks I can cut that same exact spot again!  It’s a brilliant way to have greens all summer long.

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With this particular spot, I planted early lettuces with shallow roots (sweet mesclun) which will bolt by late July and be pulled.  This will give my corn a bit more room to spread out and get ready to create it’s own harvest.  (The peas on the other side of the corn will also be pulled around that same time.)

Chard works a little differently than lettuce greens, as it doesn’t get super bitter when it bolts.  So when it gets away from me (notice I don’t say ‘if’?) I will just allow some of the plants to bolt and pick the leaves off the sides of the bolting stalk instead of pulling them all out.  This is also true of kale, but not of any lettuce greens.  It is only a consideration when planning where you want your season long harvestable crops to go.  Place chard and kale in spots they can live all season… but lettuce can take up space early and then be pulled to make room for my needy crops (like corn, tomatoes, and onions that require room when they are fruiting) and then,  because they do not need pollination to create a crop, you can plant lettuce for a late crop right below you fruiting crops and have a winter harvest as well!

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Here is my chard row:

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Can you see the spaces where I have harvested already?

It’s a 1X4ft row that I placed an entire packet of chard seeds in just as we hit the last frost date.  Because I use chard in my juices in the morning, I tend to have two of these rows going at all times and I also use beet greens from my beet thinnings.  That way, each morning have that sweet chard flavor and garden fresh nutrition that absolutely can not be beat! 

Happy gardening!

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