Summer Salad Greens

Summer Salad Greens

Here are some ideas to keep the salad greens coming all summer.

We have all been enjoying our spinach, lettuce, and mesclun green crops this spring, but with the summer heat upon us, these greens will fade quickly, leaving us in the lurch for salad greens. We can certainly use summer crops of kale, Swiss chard, and Chinese greens for sautéeing, but fresh greens for raw eating may be at a premium.

Gardeners in cool-summer areas can often use succession planting to continue to grow lettuces throughout the summer. But even in these climates, it’s best to keep plants well watered and mulched, especially newly germinated or freshly transplanted seedlings, and young plants should be protected from the afternoon sun with shade cloth.

Gardeners in most areas will need some warm-weather alternatives. Here are some ideas to keep the salad greens coming all summer.

  • Heat-Resistant Lettuce: Most lettuce grows best in cool weather. However, some varieties have been bred for heat resistance and the ability to grow well without bolting. Varieties such as ‘Summertime’ and ‘Jericho’ will grow better in the heat than most other varieties.
  • Malabar Spinach: We often think of spinach as a cool-season, low-growing green that bolts quickly with even a hint of hot weather. Malabar spinach is different. The plant vines and thrives in the summer heat. It produces tasty leaves, sometimes with red stems, all summer long. However, it really is a tropical plant, so it loves temperatures near 90 degrees F, but struggles with temperatures below 70 degrees F. In cool-season areas, consider starting plants indoors so they will have a leg up on the growing season.
  • New Zealand Spinach: This spinach hails from New Zealand; hence the name. It grows 1 to 2 feet tall and starts really putting on growth when traditional spinach plants are bolting. In cool areas, consider starting it indoors to take advantage of the summer heat. Like beet seeds, the “seeds” are actually dried fruits, so individual seeds will have multiple sprouts. Thin plants to the healthiest sprout.
  • Oddities: Nasturtium leaves and turnip greens are not your usual salad fare, but a few leaves are a nice addition to a salad. Just don’t try to make a whole salad from them alone. The greens might be too strong flavored.