It’s Harvest Time: Salanova Lettuce Mix
September 17, 2020
Salad mix is one of the few crops we harvest for the entirety of our market season.
It also has the most loyal following of all our produce. We seed our first succession in Mid-March for a first harvest at the beginning of May, and with seven successive plantings, we harvest well into October. That’s five months of the year! We seed in paper chain trays, allowing us to use the Paper Pot Transplanter to transplant the lettuce into the field, which saves us time and allows us to grow as much salad mix as we do. At four rows per bed and six inches apart, that’s nearly 800 lettuce heads per bed (11,200 heads of lettuce per season!). While our summer days get very hot, the cool nights allow us to grow lettuce to maturity and harvest before the plants bolt (start forming flowers and seeds) due to heat stress. Many regions have to take a break from lettuce in the hottest months, so we feel lucky to be able to produce as consistently as we can. With a pattern of hotter and hotter summers, our climate changing could affect our ability to grow salad mix all summer long.
Cut and Come Again
We use a mix of eight Salanova varieties of lettuce. These tender flavorful varieties of lettuce grow in rosettes, with all leaves connecting at a central point at the base rather than up a vertical stem in a cone shape like other lettuce varieties. This means that we can quickly harvest by making one cut to separate the small uniform leaves. The plants continue to grow new leaves, giving us two or three harvests from each plant. Salanova lettuce has slightly thicker leaves while remaining juicy and tender, allowing it to hold up well during harvest, washing, and packing, giving it a longer shelf life than many other varieties of lettuce.
Diversity, Rotation, and Rest
One of the central tenants of all agriculture practices on the ranch is Diversity, Rotation, and Rest.
In our vegetable fields, this means that we grow over 70 varieties whose positions rotate each season and we leave about 25% of our growing area in rest each summer. This not only helps us have a variety of crops for market and our CSA each week, it also helps control pests, weeds, and diseases, and keeps our soils healthy and balanced. These are common practices in sustainable and organic vegetable production, but it should be noted that the concepts of diversity, rotation, and rest as tenants for ensuring the land’s capacity to support us are indigenous knowledge. The Ute Indians, the original inhabitants of this valley as well as much of the southern rockies, structured their whole society around diversity, rotation, and rest to ensure sustainable stewardship of the land.
As we face an unprecedented climate emergency, we need to acknowledge that many of our best solutions to help our climate are deeply rooted in indigenous knowledge and connected to regenerative agriculture.
Vegetable Crew Lead at Rock Bottom Ranch