Magazine article Sunset

Baby Lettuce in 27 to 48 Days

Magazine article Sunset

Baby Lettuce in 27 to 48 Days

Article excerpt

When you grow as much baby lettuce as Michael Norton does, you learn a few tricks along the way-tricks that will help any home gardener harvest a surprising profusion of heads.

Norton started Kona Kai Farms in Berkeley 2 1/2 years ago "to demonstrate that French intensive, chemical-free farming methods can be commercially feasible in an urban setting." He raises 10 crops of baby lettuce per year, and this month he will harvest more than 80,000 heads. Growth from seed to harvest takes 27 to 48 days, depending on variety and season. Mr. Norton specializes in gourmet lettuce and salad greens. Varieties include 'Rouge d'Hiver" 'Lollo Russo', 'Sucrine', and 'Reine des Glaces'.

Beneath a protective canopy of bird netting, the raised beds form a patchwork of color and texture. Passers-by who stop to talk often walk away with a few heads (Mr. Norton sells three of any kind for $1). He generously offers advice, and urges gardeners to adapt his techniques to suit their needs. Here are his tips.

Prepare a rich soil mixture. Mr. Norton fills his beds with a medium-weight mix of 50 percent topsoil, 25 percent mushroom compost, and 25 percent manure.

Germinate seeds in flats. …

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