Letters to Gardening Friends, May 3, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Isn’t this the prettiest bowl of lettuce and spinach?

I think so, but then I might be biased because those are the thinnings from my lettuce patch, harvested earlier this morning. They make a great salad, along with those onions and radishes from the garden, just as fresh as you can possibly get.

I’ve noticed that some people find it hard to thin out their lettuce and other crops so they leave the plants all crowded together. That’s such a shame because the plants don’t get a chance to grow as they should and the harvest is overall disappointing.

Thinning lettuce isn’t hard and it doesn’t waste the plants! To thin my lettuce out, I grab a little clump of lettuce, pull it straight up and out, and then cut off the roots and throw the leaves in a bowl. I leave a lettuce plant every four, five, or six inches apart, whatever seems right, and these will form nice lettuce heads for later eating.

Here’s a picture of my lettuce patch before I got in there and thinned it out.
You can also see in this picture that I kept true to my word and planted a second crop of lettuce which looks like it will be ready to thin out in another week or so. The best time to do this thinning is early morning when the water content in the plants is highest, or after a good rain or general watering.

Here’s a picture of the lettuce patch after thinning.
I gave my lettuce patch a nice drink of water afterwards. You’ll notice a row of mesclun, or mixed greens, over by the onions that I left alone. I generally just cut and eat those leaves and don’t bother to thin them out.

I hope to be cutting and eating lettuce for a good while, as long as it doesn’t get too hot too soon, which causes the lettuce to turn bitter.

But the conundrum of the garden is that I want it to get a little warmer so I can plant out my tomatoes and other “warm season” crops.

I did set out my tomato, eggplant and pepper plants in the shade today to start the process of hardening off. They’ve got to get used to the rugged outdoors after being inside since they germinated.

Dee, you wrote that you bought more tomato plants because your own tomato seedlings look puny. Mine do, too, but I’m going to resist the urge to buy tomato plants. (Stop laughing, Mary Ann, I am!) Every year I think my tomato plants are too puny to do much, but they always do well once they get a little sun and finally get in the ground.

My plan is to plant tomatoes and the rest of the vegetable garden on Memorial Day weekend, but I’m getting kind of antsy about it all, so I might plant everything this weekend coming up. We’ll see what the long range weather forecast looks like. Our typical last frost is around May 10th, but we’ve had frost as late as May 25th. The year we had that late frost, I had to buy all new tomato plants! But that’s another story for another letter…

I’m going to go enjoy my salad now. When I write next week, I’ll be three days into my vacation, the one I take every May just to garden. Won’t that be fun!

Flowers and veggies to all,

May Dreams Gardens

P.S. There are lots of blooms on my strawberry plants. A reader wrote last week asking about disappearing strawberry leaves on new plants and could it be that rabbits were eating them. Absolutely I would blame the rabbits! Speaking of which, I haven't seen any rabbits this year, and I haven't seen signs of them eating in my garden. So I haven't covered anything. I might be nuts. I might walk out there one day and find out that the rabbits are still around, not because they are sitting around waving "Hi, how ya doin' Carol", but because they are sitting around all fat from eating all my vegetables in the garden. Geez, I didn't realize I was this much of a gambler, a risk-taker!


  1. Bunny free..that is good news. A friend gave me lettuce fresh from her garden...delicious! I need to grow my own. gail

  2. I wish I had seen this before I thinned my lettuce seedlings. They're just tiny little things, & I some out, but they were way too small to eat. Next time I'll let them get bigger first.

  3. Thanks for the tips. Sunday was the last straw, when half of my broccoli plants were missing thanks to a rabbit. there is now chicken wire around the broccoli, cabbage, and strawberries. Here's hoping that works out.

  4. Good pointer about thinning the lettuce. I haven't grown it yet, but would love to next year.

  5. I think your lettuce patch is just about the prettiest I've ever seen. I find it amazing that our patches caught up with each other in spite of the fact that I planted mine sooner. Interesting isn't it? Your information about thinning is very, very good.~~Dee

  6. That is a spring picture for sure! What is better than the picture? I am sure the salad! Sometimes I like a solitary salad....lettuce alone!

  7. If I ever get serious about a veggie garden, I know it will benefit from all that I've learned from you three!

  8. I haven't seen any rabbits this year either. Last spring they were eating clover each morning in the back yard.

  9. Great tip on lettuce thinning. I'm new to the whole veggie gardening thing this year and I'm still a little unsure about when and how to thin, so this was just what I needed. Looks delicious!

  10. Hi Carol, what a daredevil you have turned into, early tomato planting and no bunny spooning! Thanks for the info about thinning the lettuce, I am one of those reluctant ones, and see from yours how much better it is to go ahead. I didn't realize you could grab a bunch rather than pull them one at a time. Thanks!

  11. I enjoyed this letter about thinning lettuce. I think my favorite spring gardening activity is thinning the spring salad fixings and eating them. I've also been pulling some leaves off of the mesclun greens, and have been remembering to add violet flowers and leaves to the thinnings, too. If you want to check out my post about it, the link/address is http://acornergarden.blogspot.com/2009/04/first-thinning-of-gamble-garden-april.html

    Happy Gardening!

  12. Oh, and I have seen bunny bites on my peas and a few lettuce leaves. They especially like romaine.

  13. That is one great looking salad garden! You'll inspire us all.

  14. Your lettuce looks GREAT. Inspirational as Sande said!


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