How to Grow Mesclun Greens | Guide to Growing Mesclun Greens

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How to Grow Mesclun Greens | Guide to Growing Mesclun Greens  
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Overview

Mesclun, literally meaning "mixture", is composed of a blend of small or young leaves chosen to complement each other. Originating in France, mesclun mix traditionally contained equal parts chervil, arugula, endive and lettuce. Today, a much broader range of greens are included in mesclun mixes to create a blend that is satisfying to both the eyes and the palate. Modern mixes can include arugula, lettuce, endive, mustard, parsley, fennel, cress, chicory, tatsoi, mizuna, mache, radicchio and other greens. Edible flower are also added sometimes to add an exotic touch, and plants can be mixed and matched and used to complement the meal or occasion.

 
   
 

Seeds or Seedlings

7-14 days at 50-70 F

5 years

well-drained, slightly acidic soil

Full Sun, Part Shade

1" apart

3-6" apart

7-30+ days

Growing Guide
GROWING NOTES

Due to the variety of greens that can be included in a mesclun mix, growing recommendations may vary slightly. However, some general recommendations that should apply to most greens can be considered.

 

Most greens grows best in full sun, though excessive heat can cause plants to bolt to seed, or leaves to wilt. For an early start, seeds can be started in flats 4 weeks prior to the last frost and transplanted outdoors in mid to late spring. If growing in summer, select a partially shaded location, or one that receives primarily eastward exposure to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of excessive heat.

 

Many greens will tolerate of a wide range of soils, but will grow best well-drained, cool, loose, loamy soil with a pH between 6.5 to 6.8. Most are sensitive to low pH; lime to at least 6.0. To encourage tender and tasty growth, make sure location is rich in organic compost matter. Amend prior to planting if needed.

 

Sowing

Direct seed or transplant in early spring, as soon as you can work the soil. To get an early start, prepare beds the previous fall by working in manure or compost and raking smooth to leave a fine seedbed. Seeds need light to germinate; sow at a very shallow depth by covering with a thin layer of growing medium.

 

When sowing, many types of seeds grown for baby greens are smaller, light dependant germinators and should only be covered with a light dusting of soil. Keep seeds warm and well-moistened while awaiting germination. Avoid using a garden hose, or similar watering technique that can displace seeds. The suggested sowing depth given below (1/8") applies to smaller seeds such as lettuce, for larger seeds sow slightly deeper. A good rule of thumb is to cover the seeds to twice their thickness when sowing.

 

Direct-seeding

Sow seed 1/8 inch deep, 1 inch apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. When plants have two or three true leaves, thin to 12-inch spacings for crisphead varieties, 6 to 10 inches for other types. You can also lightly broadcast seed (particularly of looseleaf varieties) in a patch instead of a row.

 

Transplants

Sow in 1-inch cells 3 to 4 weeks before transplanting outside. Harden seedlings by reducing water and temperature for 3 days before transplanting. Hardened plants should survive 20 F. Space crisphead transplants 12 inches apart in rows 18 inches apart. Space other varieties 6 to 10 inches apart in rows 12 to 18 inches apart.


MAINTAINING

Use row covers to protect very early plantings from cold, to protect young plants from insects, and (supported by hoops) to shade crops when warm weather arrives.

 

Make succession plantings every week or two, and grow several varieties with different maturity dates for a continuous supply. Moisture, stress, and high temperatures, particularly at night, encourage bolting. As the season progresses, plant more bolt-resistant varieties. Locate plants where they will be partially shaded by taller nearby plants, latticework or other screen.

 

Greens typically have shallow root systems. Keep soil moist to keep plants growing continuously. Mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds (unless slugs are a problem). Fertilizing can be helpful to promote faster growth, especially a fish emulsion type that is not high in nitrogen that can cause greens to become bitter. Water lightly but consistently. Do not let soil get dried out.

 

For fall crops, time maturity around time of first expected frost. Mature plants aren't as tolerant of freezing as seedlings.

 

After intense harvesting (whole plant), it is a good idea to fertilize plants with an all-purpose fertilizer such as fish emulsion to help promote new growth. As always, avoid applying fertilizer directly to plant or leaves.

 
   
 

Heirloom seeds are the gardeners choice for seed-saving from year-to-year. Learning to save seeds is easy and fun with these books. Before you harvest, consider which varieties you might want to save seeds from so that your harvesting practice includes plants chosen for seed saving. Be sure to check out our newest seed packs, available now from Heirloom Organics. The Super Food Garden is the most nutrient dense garden you can build and everything you need is right here in one pack. The Genesis Garden s a very popular Bible Garden collection. The Three Sisters Garden was the first example of companion planting in Native American culture. See all of our brand-new seed pack offerings in our store.

 
   
 

Harvesting Guide

HARVESTING

Most baby green varieties can be harvested once they are about 3-4" tall. Time required to reach this height may vary considerably depending upon variety and local conditions. Warmer temperatures and ample moisture will generally result in faster germination and early grow, but can cause bolting (and bitter greens taste) later on.

 

Leaves can be harvested individually at any point with a scissor, snip or by hand. Just be careful to avoid tearing if collecting by hand.

 

Additionally, many mesclun type plants can be harvested in their entirety. Using a scissors or garden snip, take greens down to about an inch above the ground. Plants will begin to grow once again, and repeated harvests are possible from a single sowing. After harvesting, fertilizing the soil with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, such as organic fish emulsion, can help to promote faster growth and subsequent harvests. Plant should be ready to harvest again within a few weeks.

 

Many varieties of lettuce can be harvested as microgreens, baby greens, leaves, or entire plant. Ideally, greens should be collected early in the day, before the onset of midday sun, to prevent wilting.


SAVING SEEDS

Mesclun greens are typically enjoyed as a quick, convenient, and flavorful addition to your salad bowl. They are typically cultivated 2-4 times, and not allowed to go to seed.

 

Seeds can be saved from any type of green, if the plant is allowed to bolt to seed. The seed pods can typically be allowed to dry out on the plant. Rubbing separates the plumes and chaff from the seeds. When completely dry, shake the flower stems in the bag. Rub the seed heads between your hands to release more seeds. Put the seed through a fine mesh sieve that allows the seeds through but retains the chaff and plumes; this will give relatively clean seed. Winnowing is difficult because seeds and chaff are about the same size and weight. For extra cleaning use reverse screening, with a smaller mesh that retains the seed but lets small pieces or chaff and plume through. The dust produced during cleaning causes irritation to the lungs and eyes. If cleaning large amounts use a mask and goggles or clean outdoors.

 

Note that hybrid seeds resulting from two interbreeding but disparate species will often be sterile, or produce plants with less than ideal traits.

 

For seed saving suggestions on specific varieties, visit our other growing guides.

 
     
 
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