Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mesclun, a short word for lots of leaves

Grow Journey seeds of the month in the blue light of a cold winter afternoons, above. We had a two day spring scare but are back to more appropriate temperatures, and I don't think they will last. I have been gardening. Seed trays are sprouting (8 artichokes, so far), and in the vegetable plot seeds have been sown after one more oyster shell powder application. As fast as I prep beds, the damn squirrel trio has been excavating. I must figure something out.

When you log into your personal Grow Journey account you now have access to an expanded My Seeds description, which covers the seeds you have received, past and present. The information here goes far beyond anything any other seed company is doing in terms of providing specific background and cultivation instructions for those seeds, edible landscaping advise, and other useful growing tips. So instead of Googling madly and deciding what online sources to trust, you have everything in one place. The information is equally helpful for new gardeners and experienced gardeners. This component comes from Grow Journey's Education Director, Eliza Holcombe Lord, who is a permaculture teacher, master naturalist, and master gardener. "She knows more about plants, soil, insects, and the natural world than anyone we know," writes Aaron von Frank, Grow Journey's co-founder.

Bear with me for a copy and paste, to give you a taste of what I see when I log into my account. This is two thirds of the info for just one of my February seed packets, a mesclun mix. Every seed gets the same treatment (the photos are of my mescluns past, as the current batch is still germinating).

"...this [Spicy Spring Salad Mix] is our exclusive robust mix which we’ve curated to contain varieties that are unique and grow well together. We’ve put together a blend of traditional arugula, ‘Winter Red’ kale, ‘Bellesque’ endive, ‘Paris Island’ romaine (cos), ‘Brussels Winter’ chervil, ‘Pokey Joe’ cilantro, garden chives, ‘Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled’ cress, ‘Tatsoi’ spoon mustard, ‘Golden Frills’ mustard, and ‘Vivid’ choi. These are all fast-growing varieties that will mature at roughly the same rate to produce a colorful and richly flavored braising or raw mix. If you prefer your salads on the milder side, just mix it with the amount of lettuce you prefer to dilute the strength. TIP: If you don’t like cilantro, their seeds are easy to recognize and pick out since they are large and round (cilantro seeds are also known as coriander – the spice). In case you aren’t familiar with the appearance of whole coriander spice, we’ve included a photo to help you identify them below. The arugula and mustards will be sweet and mild after frosts and spicier once they age or the weather warms up.

"All of these varieties are tolerant of light frosts and grow best in cool fall, spring, or winter-covered weather (season extension supplies). In warm weather they become bitter, spicier, and bolt (flower and set seed). Mesclun is usually sown densely, like pepper sprinkled over soup. To make sure your seeds spread evenly, you can thoroughly mix the packet of seeds with around a pint of sand or potting soil before sprinkling it in your desired planting location (only mix in the seeds you plan to plant that day). If your soil is kept moist and fertile, you can start harvesting in as little as 3 weeks! Make sure to use scissors and trim the plants approximately 1-2 inches above the soil level so their crowns can resprout additional flushes of leaves. Harvest at any size (even sprouts, though 4-6 inches tall is ideal). You also have the option to space the seeds further apart if you prefer mature “heads” of leaves instead of giving a haircut to a “chia pet” patch of baby-leafed varieties. Mesclun is grown a little differently than regular greens, even though it is often the same species and varieties of seeds. Make sure you check out our instructions to get the best results.

"Mesclun mixes are one of the easiest and most aesthetic vegetables to mix into an edible ornamental landscape. They automatically include a rich palette of colors and textures, provide almost instant gratification with their short maturity, can be adjusted in size to fit almost anywhere, and they even have attractive flowers later in the season. You can squeeze a square foot patch of mesclun seeds between young transplants to make the bed look full while the transplants plod along to full size (by the time the summer veggies need the space, your mesclun can be removed) or you can get even more creative.

"For a really whimsical approach, take a long piece of yarn or other string and loop it in shapes and twists on the soil surface between the other vegetables in your bed until you like how it looks. Next, take your mesclun seeds and sow a 3 inch strip of them all along your piece of yarn. When the mesclun begins to grow, it will look like a ribbon elegantly woven between your other plants. If you prefer something less time consuming, try creating a stencil by cutting a shape out of a piece of posterboard or an old cardboard box panel. Lay it on the ground and sprinkle your seeds inside the shape. The larger the shape, or the more often you repeat it in the landscape, the more visual impact your mesclun plantings will have. Even just a simple circle could look great—if you use your circle stencil every 2 weeks when you succession sow your greens, your garden will have an eye-catching, uniform case of the polka dots in no time!

"Planted in a Container – Just like using mesclun in the landscape, there are few edibles as easy to turn into a pretty patio or front door accent as mesclun mixes in pots. If there were ever a “just add water” option for ornamental container gardening, mesclun would fit the bill. Since you know your mesclun greens will look great all by themselves, your biggest task is selecting a pot you enjoy. There aren’t many restrictions for colors or patterns either, since this mesclun comes in an array of pretty greens, blue-silver, chartreuse, and purple. It’s also got nicely textured spiky, feathery, rounded, and compound leaf shapes to prevent monotony. As long as your pot is at least 8 inches deep and has a diameter wide enough that you can plant your seeds approximately ½ inch apart from each other, you’re good to go.

"If you’d like to do something else to spice up your spicy mesclun, consider tucking other fully edible plants in a large container and then sowing your ring of mesclun around them. Pansies are a great option since they prefer the same cool growing conditions and their leaves and flowers have a faint wintergreen flavor. Pea shoots or podding peas are another perfect partner, perhaps with an attractive trellis or topiary ball to climb on. Another choice is to use larger specimens of greens in the center of your mesclun for size contrast (such as colorful kale or chard) or a plant that will eventually take over the pot when the mesclun fizzles out (just make sure to choose a plant that tolerates cool soil and has no toxic parts in case you accidentally clip its leaves when doing your salad haircuts). Some fully non-toxic options are strawberries, most culinary herbs, nasturtiums, borage, calendula, celery, fennel, or onions."

...they're not messing around.

Also new on the Grow Journey website is the Organic Gardening Supply Store, a curated Amazon store and effectively a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to garden organically. Want great organic, heirloom seeds, organic gardening learning resources, organic gardening products? All there, from live ladybugs to seed starting supplies to  gardening books.



  1. I've managed to foil the squirrels and cats (mine included) by putting bird or deer netting down over the beds. I hold the netting down with earth staples which seems to
    work. Once the plants get bigger I cut out some of the netting to give the plants more room.

  2. Buy a bunch of those little wooden Victor mousetraps, set them (no need for bait) and place them around the areas where the squirrels dig. I use them in newly planted pots too because the squirrels like freshly disturbed earth. After they've been startled a few times by snapping traps, they leave things alone. It's not fool-proof, but it works for awhile until plants get bigger and they lose interest.

    1. Tempting! But I'd be worried that squirrels or birds or possums would get their paws and feet and heads snapped and broken...


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