Growing Leafy Green Vegetables in Tennessee

May 20, 2009

The last stop on this virtual tour of organic gardens here at Veggie Gardening Tips will take us to Tennessee to visit Bonny’s garden and check out some of her techniques for growing delicious spring greens and extremely colorful beds of tender lettuce.

Read on to discover what Bonny is growing and has to share from her creative organic garden’s raised beds:

Here in Tennessee on February 16 you can start planting your early spring garden and for me this means lettuces. peas, and radishes.  If you have never grown your own lettuce you really don’t know what you are missing.  My spring greens are so tender and flavorful that I have a hard time eating “Store-bought” lettuces.

Planting a Rainbow of Colorful Lettuce Greens

Because I live in a small zero lot line subdivision I try to make my garden as beautiful as it is healthy.  I direct seed my lettuce seeds into the garden in a rainbow shape with each stripe of the rainbow in a different type of lettuce.  MY choice for a rainbow salad garden uses 5 lettuces centered around my returning Italian parsley.

I use a Mesclun mix as the inner most ring as it will be ready for picking first in about 45-50 days.  For the second ring I normally use a Buttercrunch since it is shorter in height but forms a beautiful little head.  The third ring is my all time favorite Black Seeded Simpson for a pale green loose headed lettuce.

I typically throw in a red lettuce for the fourth ring.  I especially like the Red Oak Leave lettuce for great color and a unique leaf shape.  I complete the outer ring of my rainbow with a Romaine which has a nice erect shape and keeps longer in my Tennessee garden.

Alternatives to Growing Early Lettuce in the Garden

Because lettuce is bad to bolt to seed in our climate I don’t have good luck with spinach in my spring garden.  I try it every year but am usually disappointed.  This year I think I will wait until the fall or maybe try it in my raised beds if I really must try again for a spring crop.

I also have better luck with Arugula in my raised beds.  Not only are these tender greens cleaner grown in a raised bed but it looks beautiful and is easy for kids to help with the picking without tromping on the lettuce.

A word of advice if you want a fall lettuce garden is to buy your seeds in the spring.  For some stupid reason it is next to impossible to find lettuce seeds in Tennessee in the fall yet our weather is perfect in the fall for lettuces.

Great Returns from a Small Green Investment

I usually order my seed from either Gurney’s on Henry Fields.  Both of these catalogs offer $25 coupons on a $50 order so you can get a great deal along with good product.  The total cost of the lettuce rainbow described above is $10.95.

This amount of lettuce will allow you to share all you want with friends and neighbors throughout the spring and eat a healthy salad everyday until the weather turns too hot for lettuces to thrive.  Then you simply throw the leftovers into the compost pile and grow your next crop in the same space.

That’s all I have time to tell you today.  It’s time to bundle up and take advantage of this sunny but frigid day to walk my garden and dream my groceries into reality.  Remember if you can dream it, you can do it.

Hope you have enjoyed reading the gardener’s chronicles from Patzcuaro, Mexico, Northern Virginia, Teakettle, Belize and today’s entry from Tennessee. A thank you goes out to all the guest gardeners for sharing their gardens with us, and you can look forward to Bonny passing along her organic gardening tips here on a regular basis.

I loved reading and hearing about others who have a passion for gardening but may not have a blog of their own to share their experiences. If there is an interest and others are willing to share their expertise and offer a peek at what’s growing in their backyards I hope to continue publishing these garden visits on occasion in the future. That’s an open invitation for you all!

Other Related Vegetable Gardening Posts:

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