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how many square feet of baby leaf lettuce per person?

 
Gilbert Fritz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I am planting densely sown, baby leaf lettuce to be cut when about four inches high. Supposing each person wanted a mid sized salad a day, how many square feet per person should I plant per week to keep the salads coming?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I tried something like this a few years ago.

I'm going to make the assumption that you are harvesting individual leaves as opposed to shearing the lettuce and that you're planting very densely. In that case, I would shoot for about 18-24 square inches per person. Leaf lettuce grows FAST and will bolt quickly when it warms up. At times you may have smaller salads and other times you may have HUGE salads. As long as you don't pick the central leaves out of the rosette, your leaf lettuce will keep producing for you until it gets too hot and puts up a flower stalk. At that point, your lettuce will be bitter.

Have fun - the kids will love this!
 
Walter McQuie
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Location: Northern New Mexico
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I grow salad mix for our local farmers market in the manner Jennifer describes. I can usually harvest from a bed for 3 or 4 weeks. After that the quality declines, particularly texture get tough, even though it is only hot enough for quick bolting to be an issue in June. I transplant into 35 square feet of bed every two weeks--three or four lettuce plants in a 1.25"x1.25" cell (72 cells per 10"x20" flat) every six inches. I thin them to one plant when they are the height you're aiming for and get maybe 3 or 4 ten ounce bags of salad mix. I figure about 3 or 4 medium salads per bag or per 10 square feet. If you are going to harvest everything at the 4" stage you could plant much denser. The week after thinning I start harvesting the biggest leaves and get another 3 or 4 bags. The next two weeks I get double that and then the quality starts dropping and I usually take the newer leaves for a much smaller harvest. You get more yield per square foot this way, but it is more labor intensive than clear cutting at the height you want. I agree with Jennifer's estimate for the technique we use, but think you may need twice that space if you clear cut.

ps. I like my lettuce leaves a little bigger than the bland, tender/insubstantial 4 inch meclun stage.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Walter - that's exactly the way it went for me too. And I had areas where I did successional growing. I actually used mortar mixing trays with some holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. Every 10-14 days or so, I'd start a new tray (basically when I remembered to do it! ) I've done Bloomsdale spinach this way too - way more flavorful than lettuce. Although once those plants get going it seems like the more you harvest, the more you provoke them into growing - just keep picking off the outer leaves. I just wish it didn't get so hot here so quickly - the season is short for spinach in the low desert.

 
Walter McQuie
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Location: Northern New Mexico
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Jennifer - I certainly agree about the spinach; I sell all the lettuce I grow, but regularly enjoy spinach. It can also last a few more weeks than lettuce. Even in the high desert there's a period when it's too hot for spinach, but lambs quarter is all over the place then.
 
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