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.
Cardinal Hill Farms
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"
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
us with comments, suggestions and questions.