A tasty and healthy green that was discovered centuries ago in France, mesclun is one of the easiest, most rewarding crops you can grow.
Today seed companies across the country have developed extraordinary mixtures of mesclun. Various blends include a combination of greens like lettuces, arugula, curly endive, mustard, etc. Choose a mesclun mix that sounds appealing - or better yet, a few different ones. The more varied your choices, the more varied the flavors in your salads.
In as few as 35 days mesclun is ready for harvest. If you plant more than one variety of mesclun, no two salads will ever be alike.
To sow mesclun seeds, pour them into your hand, hold your hand about a foot above well-worked soil, and then scatter the seed, trying to plant roughly 1/4- to 1/2-inch apart. This thicker sowing helps crowd out any weeds.
Moisten potting soil until it's the consistency of a wrung-out sponge (clumps together but will break apart).
Rubbing your hands together, sift enough soil over the seeds to cover them.
Lightly pat the seeds to ensure good soil contact.
Water the seed gently, using a fine spray. Keep the soil evenly watered until the seedlings emerge, which should be in about five to seven days.
If your landscape is limited or you just want salad fixings closer to the kitchen, cultivate in a container.
Protecting Your Crop
But whether you grow mesclun in a pot or a plot, keep in mind that birds love the baby leaves just as much humans do, so provide some net protection:
Using flexible black plastic tubing to build a small tunnel-shaped arch. Cross two pieces of tubing at each end of the bed, plunging each tube end into the soil. Add a single piece - single hoop - in the middle of the bed.
Drape lightweight netting over the frame. Use garden staples to hold it in place.
This frame is also great for shade cloth as the weather heats, extending the harvest by protecting the tender greens from the harsh afternoon sun. Winter protection, requires a more permanent solution.
A cold frame can help you have mesclun salads through the winter. Spring and fall are the mesclun's prime time for growing, so you usually need to take few precautions then.
Some 35 to 45 days after planting, your mesclun will be ready to harvest. One handy way to pick your crop is to use ordinary scissors with relatively long blades. Just grab a handful of the tops of the leaves and snip away, leaving about one inch of plant above the ground.
Cut only as much mesclun as you think you'll need. Baby leaves are best eaten fresh from the garden.
After harvest, fertilize the bed with fish emulsion diluted according to package instructions and water well. This feeding kick-starts the production of the next harvest.
Don't be shy about mixing and matching the mesclun.
In most climates, mesclun will provide three ample cuttings. After that, pull it up, throw it on the compost pile and sow another crop. Remember, a simple vinaigrette is all you need to enhance the wonderful tastes and textures of these tender morsels!