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Greens Galore

Information from Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

To some, "salad" means lettuce. In many languages, the names for the two words are nearly synonymous. If your experience with salad greens is limited to lettuce, however, you have scarcely begun to explore the possibilities.

Salad greens are rewarding crops to grow. They mature quickly in the cool-season garden, providing tender taste treats before other vegetables are ready for harvest. By planting small plots in successive weeks beginning in late March, harvest may be extended well into summer. (To keep late plantings cooler and productive longer, provide light shade.)

A steady supply of moisture and nutrients is needed for good growth. Root systems of most greens are limited. Keeping the upper six inches of soil moist, but not soggy allows growth to continue unchecked, a critical factor in maintaining sweet flavor. Apply two pounds of nitrogen and one pound of phosphorus per 1,000 square feet before planting to ensure adequate fertility.

Salad greens adapt well to wide row gardening. Space plants 6 to 12 inches apart in all directions to maximize productivity from small plots.

Lettuce is by far the most popular salad vegetable. The crisp head types found in the grocery store require a longer growing season, and lack the nutrition and flavor of leaf and loose head lettuces. Leaf types which performed well in variety trials at Colorado State University include 'Red Sails', 'Royal Oakleaf', and 'Selma-Lollo'. Best loose head types in the trials were 'Cindy', 'Nancy', 'Rosalita', 'Sangria', 'Buttercrunch' and 'Victoria'.

Spinach is another standby for early season gardens. 'Tyee', 'Melody' and 'Bloomsdale Long Standing' may be planted in spring and again in August for a fall crop, and which may also over winter for early spring harvests.

Other Cool Season Salad Crops

  • Arugula - Also known as roquette or rocket salad. Leaves and flowers add sweet/peppery tang to salads.

  • Chard - Good for cool or warm season salads. 'Rhubarb' chard makes an attractive ornamental as well.

  • Corn Salad - Also known as mache or lamb's lettuce. Subtle, buttery flavor. Over winters with protection.

  • Cress - Curly cress or peppergrass grows quickly indoors or out for a peppery addition to salads.

  • Dandelion - Bitter flavor. Garden varieties are available, but leaves from unsprayed lawns are easy to find.

  • Endive - Flavor is bitter. Cover plants 2 - 3 days before harvest with margarine tub to make flavor milder.

  • Mustard - Tangy flavor. Oriental mustard, mizuna or kyona is milder than most.

  • Radicchio - A red, heading type of chicory. 'Guilio' does well in spring; 'Alto' later in season

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010