NOW IS THE TIME TO PLANT LETTUCES and spinach in the garden, even if it is still a bit cool in March. Growing lettuces does not require a big garden space—the smallest of gardens or container gardens can be quite productive. Six to eight weeks before the last frost is perfect timing for starting these cool-weather loving crops from seed.
THERE ARE FOUR MAIN CATEGORIES OF LETTUCE to choose from—loose-leaf, butterheads and bibb, romaine, and crisphead. While all are considered easy to grow, growing romaine and crisphead types into full heads does take more time and proper air temperatures are important. Air temperatures of 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit are best for growing lettuces.
PLANT LETTUCE SEEDS IN A WELL-PREPARED garden space. They can be planted in single rows, in a broad row, or cover an entire area or container. Just ensure you have adequate space to enter the area for harvesting. Lettuce seeds are quite small so I like to use a folded piece of paper, allowing the fold to hold the tiny seeds and gently tapping the paper to release the seeds into the row. If you are using a broad row it is easy to simply broadcast the seeds over the area. Cover the seeds lightly with 1/4 inch of soil, then water gently.
LETTUCES WILL GERMINATE QUICKLY, in two to eight days. Keep the planting moist for best production. Lettuces can be harvested any time in the growth process; you simply have to choose what works best for you. I prefer a continual type of harvest, treating all my lettuces like leaf lettuces and trimming individual leaves or clear cutting small handfuls as needed. Harvest lettuces in the morning when they are sweet and full of water, clean immediately, and spin dry, storing them in plastic bags in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
I have two small dogwoods that voluntarily came up about 2 feet apart. I want to move one: when can I do that?
There are a few different species of dogwoods (Cornus), all of which are propagated from seed. Named cultivars will not resemble the plant they came from if you try to plant seeds from them.
Since yours are growing so close to each other, it is a good idea to move one of them while they are young and manageable. This way they will not be competing for space, light, or nutrients as they mature. As for transplanting, as long as the ground is not frozen, now is a fine time.
Anytime from late fall through early spring, while the dogwood is dormant, is a good time to move it. The only time you should not move your plants is during the hotter months of the year.
Prepare the new planting space before digging up the existing plant. Reducing stress during the move will help ensure a successful transplant. Choose an area of the garden that receives full to part sun.
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