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Salad Days

The most familiar lettuces are those found in the produce aisle such as Iceberg and green or red leaf varieties. But there are hundreds of other greens, including mustard greens, spinach, endive, radicchio, beet greens, parsley, mache and cresses, each with its own delectable flavor and unique form.

Growing your own greens not only allows you to try new and exciting varieties, but is a real cost saver, too. For the price of one packet of seed you can have delicious salads for several weeks. And if you plant the seeds early in cold frames, you'll have homegrown greens long before most plants in the garden even emerge. In fact, they grow best in the cool, rainy days of early spring and late fall.

Some gardeners grow each variety of salad greens separately in rows or containers, while others combine 4 to 5 different kinds to create mesclun, a seasonal mixture of greens grown and harvested together. You can easily make your own mix with a variety of leaf lettuces and other greens, or you can purchase pre-mixed seed packages.

To get a continuous supply of delicious greens through spring and early summer, sow a handful of seeds every 10 days or so. Because lettuce languishes in the heat, make the final planting 2 months before the maximum daytime temperatures average 80 degrees. Bon appetite!

Here is a list of my favorite salad greens.