Sorting and cleaning salad mix

kevinw1April 26, 2004

How do you guys clean the weeds out of your salad mix?

I harvested my first batches of mesclun and baby lettuce this weekend, grown by broadcasting seed thickly onto raised beds. Harvesting using grass shears was OK but our time-consuming problem was picking out the grass, clover and other weed leaves, even though there weren't many weeds on a volume basis (mostly shaded out, and we had weeded as well before harvesting).

Even very carefully picking through before bagging left us with a few weeds which went out to customers - I know because there were some in the leftover bag we had for dinner last night :-( And it took HOURS to do!

Kevin

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robin_maine

I water well and then weed. Then, rinse the plants off with a spray of water and leave them for a few days. It lets the disturbed roots settle a little before I start harvesting. I think it's much easier to weed the beds thoroughly than to pull weeds out after harvesting.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2004 at 8:11PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

how to get the weeds out of the salad mix. if you did not intesively weed the bed than you have to pull them out of the mix by hand. Do this before you wash it because this is far easier to do with dry greens than wet.

Cutting the weeds down before you harvest will keep most the weeds out of the finished product but means extra time harvesting.

The better way is to use a one row seeder like an earthway and seed the mix thickly (2" to 3" band) in rows. We get three rows in a 3' wide bed. One row of lettuce and the other two a mix of the other greens we use. We have 12' between rows which is good to get a shuffle hoe into. The other trick is to hoe once after tilling the bed and before seeding it and than hoe/weed as you see the tiniest weeds. In some beds I have to spend a half hour a day pulling seedlings from between lettuce plants the first ten days after germination if I haven't prepared the bed (i.e. hoed before planting) well enough.

Lucy

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 9:20AM
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stan_gardener(cen ca)

i use plug trays and transplant out. i dont have a weed problem but salad mix is labor intensive no matter what style you choose.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 1:09PM
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kevinw1

Thanks for the replies!

We've now done another 2 weeks harvesting and have improved the process (weed thoroughly beforehand, then one person harvests into a white plastic seed flat, scans the cut batch for weeds, hands to a second person who also scans for weeds before dumping into the tub and spraying down... have 2 trays passing back and forth.) It probably takes the same amount of time altogether but the time is spread over several operations so it doesn't feel as bad.

Still, as you say, it's more labor intensive than I realised before starting out :-(

So I am re-doing the plan and reducing the amount of salad mix (since at this point we are producing quite a lot more than we can sell) and increasing the amount of whole lettuce and other stuff which is easier to harvest and prep and not so weed-critical.

Kevin

    Bookmark   May 9, 2004 at 10:26AM
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stan_gardener(cen ca)

heres a little more detail on how i cultivate lettuce. i tap
2 or 3 seeds into each cell of a 200 count tray. in about 3
weeks i transplant out at 6" spacing to a 3'x20' bed. after
about 2 weeks i thin out all clumps leaving the best 1 every
6". thinings go in the mix. the next week(6) every other head gets lopped off for mix.i keep "lopping" the already
pruned heads until the untouched heads are ready to cut whole. every week i get about 80 good heads, a bed of thin-
nings and a few beds of loppings from a flat.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2004 at 1:37PM
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kevinw1

Hi Stan

Some questions about your method....

When you thin and the thinnings go in the mix, do you cut them or pull them? Presumably if you pull them you have to cut off the roots - do you find that's time consuming?

What are the advantages to starting your seeds as transplants rather than directly in the ground? Are you doing that to get better germination once the weather turns warm?

Kevin

    Bookmark   May 10, 2004 at 12:17AM
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stan_gardener(cen ca)

hello kevin
i thin by cutting the smallest head with kitchen shears at
the stem,ive gotten to were i can grab the little head by
the top snip off the bottom holding the best leaves while
the roots and bottom leaves drop. the best leaves go in a
5 gal. bucket full of water. it definatly takes time but im
sitting down (another bucket) under plastic or shade cloth
and its checked, cooling and had its first rinse. lettuce is
probably only about 1/3 of my mix and im not as obsessive
with the other greens.
advantages to using plugs-you get the same yield with less
space-less space means your water and compost go further,
alot of weed compatition is also eliminated. its easier to
protect a tray of seedlings in a tray than in the field.
i like these forums because you get introduced to many dif-
ferant techniques. in a book you usually get one persons ex-
periance-here its many.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2004 at 2:41AM
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redindiana(z5 IN)

Do customers complain (or care) about tiny holes on mesclun mix...from bugs I assume...though I've not seen any around it. It looks like it's only bothering the one type of green..out of all the varieties. I don't use anything on them, keep the weeds pulled and water often. Any help would be appreciated.

I've notice in a couple of gardening books the pics they used also had tiny holes in their looseleaf lettuce.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2004 at 9:39PM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

My arugala always has holes and I always sell out. at least they know you don't spray chemicals

    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 9:28AM
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kevinw1

One particular variety of oriental greens in our mesclun gets chewed on quite a lot, everything else seems to be left alone. I pick out any really badly chewed leaves I see, but I am sure I miss some of them and no-one has made any comment.

Kevin

    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 11:11AM
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stan_gardener(cen ca)

flea beetles. a few holes help hold the salad dressing.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2004 at 1:22PM
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gponder(7/South OR)

"a few holes help hold the salad dressing"
Stan, I like that!!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2004 at 10:36AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

row cover and sticky traps will eradicate flea beetles in under 3 days leaving you with holess arugula. put a trap every 3' or so in the bed

Lucy

    Bookmark   May 26, 2004 at 9:19PM
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stan_gardener(cen ca)

two reasons why i dont use pre mixed seeds were mentioned.
one is identification. i need to know at least the name of
all the plants i use and who goes with that name.
two would be pest control. i have a flea beetle problem with
bekana but none with red giant mustard. if they were inter-
mixed i would have to use controls on both,not just the one
in need.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2004 at 1:53PM
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kevinw1

I'm going to be experimenting with my next mesclun planting, starting long skinny "plugs" indoors (in the plastic liners from cookie packages :-) ) and planting them out, with the idea that we can mulch between them to keep down weeds, and there won't be weeds in teh rows because they are started in potting mix.

The currently growing batches are showing that the weed-free soil layer (potting soil or boiling-water treated home-made compost) on top of the regular bed soil also works, but it's now getting hot and dry enough that it's hard to get good germination outdoors.

Kevin

    Bookmark   May 28, 2004 at 11:28PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

I make my own "pre mix" of lettuces so I know exactly what I am planting and generally prettier. I direct seed into a stale bed (one that has been well weeded 2 times/2 weeks before seeding). lettuce is directed seeded using a gardenway seeder, takes about 4 minutes. after the lettuce has germinated the other greens are directed seeded in their own areas so there is a row od mizuna, a row of arugula, etc. the beds are 4' wide so we can easily get 3 rows per beds and have plenty of room for a shuffle hoe.. entire planting time is about 10 minutes. i hoe as soon as i see weeds germinating and that takes about 10 minutes per 50' bed.

i use row covers to keep insects and weather off the plants. Flea beetles do get in under the covers so for these I make sticky traps out of 16oz water/pop bottle and tangle footÂ. i fill the bottles wirth water, cover the outside of the bottle with tangle foot and place these every 3' or so under the row covers. Takes care of the FB's in about 24 to 36 hours and afterwards there is zero damage.

Holey salad mix is not a good thing. I get premium price because I have organic mix that is free of damage.

You wouldn't sell a tomato with a hole in it why would you sell greens with holes?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2004 at 2:45PM
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gponder(7/South OR)

Ohiorganic: "I get premium price because I have organic mix that is free of damage" What is "premium price" in your area?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2004 at 11:32PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

$3 for a 6 oz bag or $12 a pound. Most folks around here get $6 a pound in bulk or $2.50 for 8 oz bag.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 9:47AM
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barksister(z4WI)

I am growing salad greens for market- first year - though I have been an avid salad green grower for years. However, I have been dealing with the flea beetles. Appreciating the tips. Where did you get tanglefoot, Lucy? By the way, thanks for all the information you've given on so many forums (ie, marketfarming). I went to your website last year and got all the scoop on row covers as I spent last summer experimenting.

However, this year the flea beetles have been horrendous. Or is it that I'm noticing them more now that I am growing for market? Anyway, I assume tanglefoot is a brand of sticky trap?

My question is about MULCHING YOUR GREENS. What do you all use, if anything?

Thanks,
Debra

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 10:11AM
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huisjen(z5 ME)

Tanglefoot is very sticky goop in a can. It's used for banding trees to keep insects from crawling up or down the trunk, so you'll find it with the arborist supplies (and probably pesticides) in many well-stocked hardware stores.

It's great stuff, but be prepared to stick to everything after you work with it and don't wear any clothes that you want to be presentable later.

Katey

    Bookmark   June 9, 2004 at 3:59PM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

I got a gallon can of it from GardensAlive about 8 years ago. I believe most gardening catalogues carry it (and in far smaller containers). hand cleaners like GoJo or Goop get tanglefoot off of hands and clothing.

I do no mulching of slald greens, just a lot of hoeing. Natural Mulch gets into the cut greens worse than weeds.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2004 at 5:31PM
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thumbfarmerlady(MI)

Hello newbie to the salad too. This is my learning curve year. Been selling herbs and had planned on staying w/ pretties not edibles but I cook so much w/ the herbs its been a natural add on. My family is loving all of it.
I sell a@ $3 each or 2 @$5 in three and half inch pots. deep four inch pots w/ larger herbs @ $5. Planning on selling fresh cut herbs this weekend and making a delivery to a resturant w/ the same.

Raised beds w/ muck and using the dabbled shade to my advantage. I have found my herbs and vegies are not as happy in the full sun.

Need to get brave and expand beyond my little rows.I grow naturally not organic.

I have enjoyed this board tremendously!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2004 at 9:21AM
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davidbooth65

Growing it fast and close helps for me. I often add a layer of weed free compost to the bed which reduces weed pressure and adds fertility. I seed the rows thickly about six inches apart. It grows fast and usually I just hand pull some lambsquarters and a few other weeds by hand until the lettuce forms a canopy and then it is mostly a non-issue. It is also very clean this way. I prefer a lettuce only mix but if you have flea beetle problems consider growing arugula, mustard, etc. under row cover and lettuce without it. My farm customers love to see the long rows of multicolored salad mix and a row cover would ruin the view.

David

    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 3:05PM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

I haven't grown mesclun or baby anything, mainly because my cutomers aren't high-end types. It seems to me that eliminating weed seeds would be a priority, and soil solarization to kill seeds in the top layer would be a big help(see link below). Subsequent mulching with a coarse pine bark without small grade particles would seem to stop splash-up of debris onto the greens. Such a mulch could be created by sifting pine bark through a 1/2' mesh hardware cloth and saving the coarser grade that doesn't fall through. A layer of newspaper or rolled painter's masking paper under the bark should also end germination, and not blow around with bark on it. If you are using plugs, I'd think that planting into such a mulch would end most weed germination and prevent much soil splash as well.

Come to think of it, what about a paper mulch alone?
I know it wouldn't last long, but isn't this a short-crop anyways?

I use this sort of wood chip/bark mulch myself for most of my beds anyway, and find it very good for having clean produce. Builds soil, conserves water, encourages worm activity right to the soil surface, prevents compaction and weeds.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil solarization

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 9:40AM
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ohiorganic(5/6 SW Ohio)

Mulching is problematic with mesclun because it is planted very closely (We seed a 2" band heavily with seed so there is no more than a mm between plants). using a bark mulch would take all the nitrogen away from the greens which would mean bad growth. i have no idea how paper or plastic mulch would work as the planting "holes" would have to be a continuous hole the length of the mulch. Straw mulches just get in the way when harvesting and make the mix dirty.

The best solution is to plant in a stale bed, one that has been tilled 3 to 4 times every 5 to 7 days before planting the mix and than being sure you get in there with a hoe a few days after the mix germinates.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 10:33AM
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