Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gardening Goal: Lettuce Self Sufficiency


I have a garden goal for this year. It formed in my mind on my first real gardening weekend this spring. I want to grow all of my family's lettuce, starting this spring, and hopefully lasting year round. All of it. I do not want to buy anymore lettuce ever. The more I think about it, the more feasible and exciting it seems. I admit that my level of excitement about home grown lettuce is perhaps greater than the average person's. This is the kind of stuff that I get really worked up about. 

Lettuce Sprouts, Parsley, Cabbages

I am hoping that by taking over an entire crop, I can actually make a small difference to the way we buy food in our house. Usually we grow a little of this and that in our vegetable garden. We end up with a few peas, a couple of asparagus spears, the odd tomato, and a lot of lettuce in the summer. Most of the stuff we grow doesn't really change the way we buy groceries because we can't grow enough of anything. We grow all the lettuce we need in the summer without trying too hard. I want to really extend that lettuce growing season as far as I can into the winter outside and then grow mostly indoors for the short part of the winter when we get freezing temperatures. My family eats a lot of salads, so it makes sense for us to provide ourselves with a very local, organic, inexpensive alternative to the bags of greens shipped from all around. I am hoping to save money in the long run, since seeds for greens are so cheap. We will also save plastic packaging and a lot of food miles, as we often buy organic lettuce from California. 

Sprouts in Cold Frame

My Plan:

-I am growing a variety of greens in order to have crops which tolerate a variety of temperatures and seasons, to create the longest possible outdoor growing season. This will prevent (hopefully) everything bolting at once or a cool spell killing everything. The mixing is a buffer against weather changes. 

-I am planting salad greens in a bunch of different beds, containers and hanging baskets, in my front and back yard, in a cold frame and inside my house in a sunny room. This way I hope to have different areas that are always thriving. I will supplement salad greens with overwintering cabbages and kale.

Indoor Lettuce and Tomatoes in Hanging Basket

I am still growing all that other stuff, the various bits and pieces that we usually grow: tomatoes,  rhubarb, blueberries, garlic, chives, strawberries, cauliflower, cabbages, beans, peas, cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, pattypan squash. I am very excited about my potato columns which I read about in here. They seem to be working well so far.

Potato Column, Tiny Potato Sprouts

If you live in a really different climate, you can adjust your growing strategies to try this project, but some combination of these basic elements should work anywhere. You might be fighting bolting in heat, or struggling to warm up snowed in crops, but adapting these strategies could work nearly anywhere.

Blueberry Blossoms

Greens I am Planting:
Spinach, Romaine, Arugula, Kale and Swiss Chard, and several packets of mixed lettuces that we had lying around from earlier planting seasons, which seem to be germinating in spite of their age. 

Does anyone have any advice for me? Maybe you are already doing this or you know particularly heat or cold tolerant greens? I expect that I will become very familiar with the climate preferences of each of my favorite vegetables pretty quickly, but I always need advice.

Do you have garden goals? Have you ever taken over an entire crop in a small garden? Or several?


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