Designing With Lettuce

What’s the focus of this year’s garden?  Growing more greens.

Yet, it’s not just about growing more greens, it’s also about growing them in style!

This year, I’m approaching my garden as an artist, as well as a farmer.  That means I’m thinking just as much about design as I am about function and food production.

One of the areas I’m doing this in is my salad garden:  a raised bed of  mixed greens that I’ve planted  in triangular patterns.

The raised bed is six feet wide by fourteen feet long, and contains Summercrisp, Ben Shemen, and Jericho lettuces, as well as Erbette Chard and Asian Vitamin Greens.

To follow my lead in creating the patterns:  first, use grape stakes and wire fencing to outline the basic triangle shapes within the box (You can also plant peas or beans along the fence to help shade the lettuce and provide visual continuity when all of the lettuce is spent in the hotter days of summer).  Then, within each section  make two rows, in the shapes of consecutive triangles, for planting the seeds in.  (Each of the sections is intensively planted, leaving only about six inches in between the rows and three to four inches between the plants).  Sew the seed fairly heavily, and then thin when the seedlings reach the height of about two inches.  Alternatively, you can use seed tape, or ready-to-go transplants.  For added color and interest, you may want to plant something different in the center of each of the triangles – a specimen flower, or other vegetable.  Each of my sections  contains one Tete Noir Cabbage.

The lettuce is ready to harvest in just a few weeks, and, once harvested, can be  cleared out so that another masterpiece can follow in it’s footsteps — that is, if you can bring yourself to harvest it!

If you want the best of both worlds:  art and food, then I suggest you choose the “looseleaf”, or “cos” types of lettuce, as I have, that way you can remove just a few leaves at a time, with minimal damage to the overall look,  rather than the “head” types, where you’ll be forced to harvest entire plants all at once, creating gaps in the landscape.

I think lettuce is such a fun medium to work with when creating garden “art”, don’t you?  It sprouts and fills in quickly, providing almost immediate visual impact in the garden, brings beautiful colors and textures into the landscape, and is small enough to fit into just about any shape or pattern you can dream up.  Even if you don’t have a raised bed, like I do, you can still use lettuce as art in the garden along the borders of existing beds and many other places.

So, the next time you think about growing lettuce, why not put on your artist’s smock and do some designing with it?

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