Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

I love your newsletter and have gotten a lot of growing information on flowers and hoop houses that I couldn't find anywhere else. I hope you can answer this question for me. I am interested in raising salad mixes for sale to restaurants. I am having a problem locating information on exactly or even approximately how much seed to plant to ensure a pound of greens harvested at the "baby" stage. If I direct market my salad mix to a local country club, I would like to know how much seed I need for each pound of salad greens ordered. I understand that this would be just an estimate and depends on the time of year and the growth rate of the lettuces. But any information you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Coylie Ries
Cardinal Hill Farms
Dunbar, Iowa

 

 

DEAR COYLIE:

Darned if we know, Coylie. Luckily, we do know lots of vegetable farmers, and one of them, Darrell Frey of Three Sisters Farm in western Pennsylvania, sells baby greens salad mixes to upscale restaurants in Pittsburgh. Here’s what Darrell had to say:

“The answer is not so straightforward, as you rightly surmise. I remember asking the same question of growers and getting a smile and a shrug and "it just depends" in reply.

At Three Sisters Farm, we seed about six or seven small handfuls of different varieties of lettuces in a bed measuring 50 feet by 4 feet. This is about three to four ounces of seeds, which will yield around 20 to 24 pounds of 2 inch to 3 inch leaves in 4 to 5 weeks, depending on season.

Usually, we hope to get two weekly cuttings of 20 pounds each week. On rare occasions, we can get a third cutting, but the quality may drop.

Baby lettuce leaves can be from 1 inch to 4 or 5 inches long. Planting densities, germination rates, temperature soil moisture and fertility can all affect the yield. I recommend larger leaves and finding customers who do not mind a variation in size of the lettuce. This allows the grower greater flexibility in harvest schedules. It also allows for the inclusion of unsold head lettuces (smaller varieties such as ‘Lollo Rosa’ and ‘Tom Thumb’ in the mix.

Another consideration is the cost of seeds. The price of lettuce seeds vary considerably.We buy them by the pound and half-pound. Some more expensive seeds—such as ‘Dark Lollo Rossa’ and ‘Deer Tongue’—can be planted in smaller amounts to add accent to larger plantings of less expensive seeds, such as red salad bowl and red romaines.

Good luck and Bon appetite!”
Darrell E. Frey
Three Sisters Permaculture Design
defrey@bioshelter.com
www.bioshelter.com

 

 

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