Growing Mesclun in the Home Garden

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Growing mesclun, or in other words, lettuce mix, is very easy! Mesclun seeds are easy to sow and the lettuce leaves are ready for harvest in just a short few weeks. It is a fun and tasty crop that should be a part of anyone’s vegetable garden!


Do you know that feeling at the end of winter… The burning desire to stick your fingers in the soil? I’ve learned over the years that a winter break for a gardener is very important, however, there are only so many weeks of gardening break that I can take. I get to the end of winter and usually feel like if I don’t go out to plant something I might not make it…

Also, when you get used to eating fresh food from your own garden or homestead you simply can’t wait for that first harvest. It’s like your taste buds are screaming at you to give them something real already!

Growing Mesclun…

mesclun greens growing in the garden

Well, mesclun greens are just the cure for all those problems! They love the cool weather so you can plant the seeds early. They are very easy to grow, delicious and mature in a short three weeks. They regrow so you can harvest at least three times! Sometimes I honestly feel like these greens save me from going completely crazy in late winter!

Reasons to Grow Mesclun…

  • Easy to plant – simply because spacing doesn’t matter, you can sprinkle the seeds and they’ll grow beautifully even if they are really close together.
  • Great for small gardens – since spacing doesn’t matter with mesclun greens, you can fit many plants in a very small area.
  • Grow indoors – they are very easy to grow indoors in a pot or a tray. Most houses, cooled or heated, keep a temperature that these leaves love. You just might need to add grow lights or build yourself a grow light system.
  • Grows fast – in a matter of three weeks, you can harvest your own salad leaves!
  • Regrow – You don’t have to pull the plants when you harvest! You can cut the leaves and the plants will grow more of them. Most of the time, you can harvest three times before you’ll have to pull the plants and start again.
loose lettuce in a bowl

Mesclun Mixes to Grow…

I usually get my lettuce mixes from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I’ve tried a few of their mixes and love them all! I’ve listed my top three below. The first is my go-to and my favorite, however, I’m sure the other ones are great as well.

  1. Allstar Gourmet Lettuce Mix
  2. Encore Lettuce Mix
  3. Starstruck Lettuce Mix

Where to Plant…

  • In containers – loose salad leaves grow great in containers indoors or outdoors.
  • In garden beds – you can plant mesclun mixes in any size of garden bed or in a section of a garden bed and grow another crop (like carrots or beets) next to them.
  • In rows – if you prefer growing loose lettuce in a traditional row or a raised row, that’s fine too. Space your rows 6 inches apart. You can also grow mesclun as a second crop within a row. For example, plant musclun between carrots, radishes, beets, around potato plants, between onions or garlic that is planted in a row and so on. Since they grow fast, they’ll most likely be gone before the main crop is ready for harvest and won’t compete with it.

No matter where you plant your mesclun, make sure that your plants are in part to full sun. Full sun (about 8 hours a day) is best, however, these plants will do good even if they get less sun (six hours or so). If you are growing loose lettuce indoors, make sure that the plants get enough light. You can place your container close to a South facing window or you can add grow lights over it.

When to Plant…

Mesclun, like other lettuce varieties, is a cool-weather crop. The seeds germinate best at soil temperature of 40-68 degrees F (to check your soil temperature, simply stick a kitchen thermometer in it). The leaves grow best at air temperature below or around 70 degrees F. For a continuous crop, sow every 2-3 weeks until the weather gets too hot for the plants.

Since the seeds can germinate at low soil temperature, you can plant these seeds very early, however, take into consideration that if you do, you might need to protect the young leaves from frost. This can be done by covering your bed or row with frost fabric (like these ones) or with greenhouse plastic.

Also, consider that these are relatively easy conditions to achieve and maintain indoors since most homes are either cooled or heated to about 68-70 degrees pretty much year-round. So, if you feel like growing your own lettuce leaves indoors the only thing you might need to add is a good source of light.

Soil Requirements…

Just regular garden soil will do. Your bed or container doesn’t need to be deep and contain a lot of soil. Just 8-10 inches of soil is enough. A pH of 6.5 is best. Good drainage and a high level of organic matter for best results. Make sure that your soil can drain well and since we are planting the seeds close together which means the plants are going to grow really close to each other, there is no need to mulch to prevent weeds.

How to Plant Mesclun…

One of the best things about mesclun is that you don’t need to worry about seed spacing. Loose lettuce seeds can be sown very close to each other (4-6 seeds/inch). Seeds can take between 5-10 days to germinate.

  • In rows – if you are planting loose lettuce in rows, dig a trench 1/4 inch deep, sprinkle the seeds, cover them with soil, and firm the soil lightly. Keep your rows at least 2 inches apart.
  • In beds or containers – if you are planting lettuce mix in a garden bed or any sort of container, I find that the easiest way to do this is to scrape the top 1/4 inch of the soil and transfer it into a bucket. Sprinkle the seeds all over the bed or the container, cover the seeds with the soil that you previously removed, and tap it down to firm it.

How to Care For Mesclun…

  • Weeding – there is almost no weeding needed in a bed of meslun greens. The leaves grow close together and cover the soil so weed seeds usually can’t germinate. You might have a weed to pull here and there.
  • Watering – like most garden vegetables, this crop also needs about an inch of water per week.
  • Pests – there aren’t many pests that bother these leaves. You might find a slug here and there but they are easy to remove by hand.
  • Fertilizing – if your soil is rich in compost and organic matter, you probably don’t need to worry about fertilizing. However, I like fertilizing with diluted fish emulsion when the plants are about one inch tall. I also love to mix a little bit of worm castings into the top layer of my soil before planting.
harvesting mesclun

How to Harvest Mesclun…

You can start harvesting mesclun when the leaves are about 4 inches tall. Cut the leaves 1 inch from the soil. Transfer leaves into a large bowl then, before you leave the garden, make sure to remove debris from around the plants to improve their regrow quality.

How to Store Mesclun…

Take your bowl of freshly cut leaves into the kitchen and set it in the sink. Fill the bowl with cool water and let the leaves float in the water for a few minutes. Make sure to move the leaves around a bit, sand and soil will sink to the bottom of the bowl. After a few minutes, scoop the leaves and transfer them into a salad spinner to dry them.

Once the leaves are dry, transfer to a bag or a plastic container and store in the fridge (35-40 degrees F). Fresh salad leaves from the garden will last a few weeks in the fridge. They are ready for you to use!

making a salad with mesclun greens

How to Use Mesclun…

  • In salads – make a salad from just these greens or add them to basically any salad.
  • In sandwiches – stick these fresh leaves in any vegetarian or meat sandwich (try this homemade venison burger).
  • In green smoothies – are you into the whole world of green smoothies? If you are, these leaves can be added in any recipe that calls for greens.

These leaves are really easy to grow and a great ingredient to have in the fridge to add to any salad or sandwich. They are crispy and tasty and add great flavor anywhere you add them. And, of course, they are healthy! If you are new to gardening, or if you feel like trying to grow some vegetables indoors, these leaves are a great place to start.

More Gardening Content…

How to Grow Mesclun

How to Grow Mesclun

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Planting Time: 5 minutes
Growing Time: 21 days
Total Time: 21 days 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $4

Grow your own mesclun, also called loose lettuce, to add to any salad or sandwich!

Materials

  • Garden bed, row, or container ready for planting
  • A packet of mesclun greens

Tools

  • Trowel

Instructions

  1. Ensure that your bed, row, or container are ready for planting. Good drainage and soil that is rich in organic matter is important.
  2. Planting:
    In rows – if you are planting loose lettuce in rows, dig a trench 1/4 inch deep, sprinkle the seeds, cover them with soil, and firm the soil lightly. Keep your rows at least 2 inches apart.
    In beds or containers – if you are planting lettuce mix in a garden bed or any sort of container, I find that the easiest way to do this is to scrape the top 1/4 inch of the soil and transfer it into a bucket. Sprinkle the seeds all over the bed or the container, cover the seeds with the soil that you previously removed, and tap it down to firm it.

Notes

  1. When to plant - plant indoors or as soon as the soil can be worked outside. Seeds can germinate in temperatures between 40-68 degrees F. Plant every 2-3 weeks for continuous harvest. If you are planting outdoors early, make sure to protect the young leaves from frost by covering them with frost protection fabric or with greenhouse plastic.
  2. Germination - seeds take 5-10 days to germinate. Make sure to keep the soil moist during germination.
  3. Weeding – there is almost no weeding needed in a bed of mesclun greens. The leaves grow close together and cover the soil so weed seeds usually can’t germinate. You might have a weed to pull here and there.
  4. Watering – like most garden vegetables, this crop also needs about an inch of watering per week.
  5. Pests – there aren’t many pests that bother these leaves. You might find a slug here and there but they are easy to remove by hand.
  6. Fertilizing – if your soil is rich in compost and organic matter, you probably don’t need to worry about fertilizing. However, I like fertilizing with diluted fish emulsion when the plants are about one inch tall. I also love to mix a little bit of worm castings into the top layer of my soil before planting.
  7. Harvesting - you can start harvesting mesclun when the leaves are about 4 inches tall. Cut the leaves 1 inch from the soil. Transfer leaves into a large bowl then, before you leave the garden, make sure to remove debris from around the plants to improve their regrow quality. In most cases, you can harvest three times before you'll need to pull the plants.

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8 thoughts on “Growing Mesclun in the Home Garden”

  1. I have only grown Romaine lettuce but my neighbor grows salad !if lettuce. I may try lettuce nd this fall. Too hot now here in South Georgia

    1. It’s hot here too. I have to wait until the end of September and then I can cover the mix with a white agriculture fabric and keep it until December. But the easiest is to plant it in early March.

  2. This is great – thanks for sharing! I also live in NC & started growing lettuce for the first time this week. I wasn’t aware of harvesting practices but that’s such exciting news to know that these little seeds have such promise!

  3. You make it look so easy!!! I tried to grow leaf lettuce – and failed. miserably. If I look at a flower seed it grows – veggies, not so much.
    I can get my lettuce to about 1/2″. The same happened with my cucumbers. I got 2 peppers off of 3 plants. Tomatoes were a HUGE disappointment with about 15 total off of 6 plants. Squash, I LOVE squash, I got 1 large & 1 small butternut and 3 acorns the size of softballs that had zero flavor.
    The 6 potato plants were actually successful, I’ll do 60 next year and I got a bunch of bitter carrots.
    All of my soil is amended as I have the opposite problem of you. Pure SAND. It is like living at the beach without the water! I use only raised beds (no treated material except for the flowers) black topsoil mixed with peat, sand and organic material.
    I will try again next year because I am forever the optimist! If I fail again I will get a CSA membership and continue to grow beautiful flowers 🙂

    1. Since it seems like all of your veggies are having a problem to grow, I will send a sample of soil to be tested. You can do this through your local cooperative extension office and it is usually free. I have a feeling your soil pH is not right. It should be around 6.5 for vegetables.
      There is more info and an example of soil test in this post: https://ladyleeshome.com/choosing-organic-soil-supplements/
      Don’t give up!

  4. Would you also take picture of your whole bed? it’s hard to tell how you plant, on raising bed? or just on ground?

    Zoom in pictures are pretty but you are teaching us how to plant something. We certainly do admire your artistic photographic skill.

    1. Yes, of course! I got this new $800 new macro lens and got carried away. Sorry! Will take another photo tomorrow and add it to the post. Thanks so much for the feedback. I appreciate it.

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