(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in theDaily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, May 30, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING
SPINACH AND LETTUCE
For years I tried to grow lettuce and spinach and had terrible luck. But the last few years I’ve made some major changes and have been thrilled with the results.
Prepping the bed for greens starts the previous fall. I put a layer of salmon carcasses over the bed, pile on a foot of seaweed/leaf mulch, dump about an inch of seashell sand over the top and cover the whole bed with black plastic. The plastic keeps the nutrients from being washed away.
Seeds are started around mid-March. I count out the number of seeds for proper spacing in the bed (6-9 inches) and start the seeds indoors. I know that seems tedious, but it is crucial for success. In the past I would simply broadcast the seeds, but there were bare spots and the seedlings that did come up were too close together.
In April I uncover the row, run a tiller through it and let the ducks work it over really good, getting all the slugs and slug eggs. In mid-April, when the seedlings have at least two true leaves, I shoo the ducks out and transplant the greens into half of the bed with the proper spacing, covering the other half with black plastic again to save the space for a second planting later in the year. Finally I cover the whole bed with row cover.
Taking care of the greens is easy. Just provide adequate moisture and pull the weeds. The tender transplants will not grow much for a while, but once they recover from transplant shock they will show signs of growth. They are surprisingly hardy.
Harvesting can begin once the plants have about six true leaves. I just take a few here and there by clipping them from the plants with a scissors.
- SPINACH: Once spinach plants get too tall I top them and they branch out with more stalks. Last year the stems got HUGE. They were hollow and filled with rain but the plants stayed healthy and the leaves did not get bitter for months! I have friends who wait until their spinach plants have 16 leaves and then they pull the entire plant, throw a handful of compost in the empty spot and plant another seed. They have never had their spinach bolt using this method and have a continuous supply all season.
- LETTUCE: I only grow loose-eaf varieties of lettuce. Down To Earth U-Pick Garden customers just harvest by cutting the entire plant about two inches from the ground. The plants grow back and provide two more cuttings by using this method.
Eating greens is the best part. Some people do not like home-grown lettuce because of its bitter taste. But if you soak the leaves in a sink full of cold water for about 15 minutes this bitter taste is eliminated and the leaves get sweet and crisp. Greens can be kept stems-down in a container of water like a bouquet of flowers in the fridge, or on the back deck of the boat, without wilting or turning brown for days — just change the water daily.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241