So much lettuce...

This week I’m going back to the drawing board and planning out my garden. I’ve purchased seeds, built some ugly planters and mixed some awesome homemade potting mix. Now I need to figure out what I’m going to plant where!

For gardeners this can be a daunting question. It’s like, jeez I have all these seeds, I have all this space in my garden. But what should I plant where? How many of each plant? Maybe you bought some new seeds and you’re not sure how much they’ll produce, or you have a new garden space and you’re not sure how to fill it.

Here’s the easy way to get past obstacles like this: simplify the project back down by looking at the high level goals, and go from there.

My high level goal is having more greens in my diet. So what do I need to do? I need to plant lettuce and spinach! Even though it’s going to be one of the harder plants to grow here, it is what I need. Just make sure there is a bunch of lettuce, and don’t worry about anything else! I’ll plant some of all the other stuff, as long as a nice big space is reserved for the lettuce and spinach.

I have 5 planters and a handful of pots to plant this “season”. I’ve decided based on my goal, I’ll plant them in this way:

Planter 1 eggplant, pepper, tomatoes
Planter 2 cucumbers, broccoli
Planter 3 carrots, onions
Planter 4 lettuce/spinach
Planter 5 lettuce/spinach
Pots watermelon, rosemary, calamansi, lavendar, sage, coriander/dill/chamomile

In this way, I hope to have a lot of greens for my nice healthy salads. There will also be carrots and onions, broccoli and cucumbers. I’ll have some eggplants, tomatoes and peppers but I’ll plant fewer of them because they are larger plants and I don’t have that much space.

One thing I’m excited about, planting a pot with coriander, dill, and chamomile. Coriander and dill both deter spidermites among other things. Spidermites are a plague here so I’d like to grow these plants to use as pesticide. Chamomile supposedly increases essential oil production of other herbs, so hopefully that helps with potency. I’ll look for marigold for this effect also although I haven’t seen seeds here. Also, some parts of my balcony get a decent amount of wind. Wind stresses plants and makes them produce more oils, stronger stems, etc. Let’s try these things and see if we can make a strong spidermite deterrent.

I love that kind of stuff. There is so much you can do with plants, I feel like an alchemist when it comes to that type of stuff. If you have different priorities, you can buy a pesticide from the store that will do the trick. But for me this is more interesting, more fun, and much more rewarding at the end of the day. Of course there is the environmentally friendly, sustainable side to it also, which underlies all Gil’s products and most everything you’ll see on The Unconventional Farmer. That makes having fun feel good too.

Another thing I’m excited about is companion planting! I want to squeeze a little extra production out of my limited space, so I’m going to plant a little tighter than I would in a normal garden outside. Or a lot tighter. So I want plants that play nice and even help each other. Plus it is just cool you can plant different things together and they actually help each other. It’s like you’re playing a video game and you just gave your plants a bonus – plant tomatoes, add peppers, +1!

I love Excel for organizing information, what a nerd. I made an excel sheet with all the basics – what kind of soil, how much sun, water, fertilizer, companion plants, sow depth, spacing, etc. If you would like to check out the chart, click the link to download.

My plant care sheet

There are two sheets in that file. The first sheet shows the plant care stuff, and the second details which plants will be planted together. This simple chart is a great place to start with the garden.

Next step, planting! See you next week for that!

It’s growing season in the northern hemisphere, what are you guys growing up there? Post a comment below and let us know what you’re eating fresh from the garden this year. Yum yum!

  • Big Ray

    I also needed greens that could handle our brutally hot summers.

    New Zealand Spinach will tolerate some shade and loves the heat. It stays sorta small also. The red-stemmed variety of Malabar Spinach grows vertical as a vine and, is a very prolific producer of delicious greens. The hotter it gets, the better it likes it. Neither one is actually a “spinach”.

    My whole family now enjoys Purslane. We actually deliberately spread the seeds of this “weed”. It is delicious!

    Just thought you might be interested in some great “greens” that LOVE the heat. I struggled for many summers, trying to get a decent “green” to grow for me. There are several more that I grow. If you want me to list them….

    • Patrick

      YES! Please, list away! Not just for me, but everyone else from hot climates reading this. We have lots of filipino readers who would love this information. What other plants do you grow there? Any other cold weather crops that have warm loving counterparts?

      I’ll have to look for a seed site that ships to the phils, I just looked local this round. I did try to get loose leaf, I know as a general rule to just not bother with head lettuce varieties, and romaine is tough also. We’ll see how my red romaine does here, hahaha this should be interesting…

      • Barry Hocking

        Hi Patrick,

        I live in Australia now and I can send you seeds from here if you would like. Just let me know what you would like.
        Best Wishes and Warmest Regards,
        Barry and Family.

        • Patrick

          Hey Barry,

          Thanks for the offer! I appreciate it – especially since it’s so hard to get seeds here in the Philippines – not much selection.

          I think I’m actually going to work on this myself though, I’ll go through the States since I generally make it back there once a year.

          However I have a question for you – what hot tolerant lettuce strains do you grow there in auz? Or are you in the South…

          • Barry Hocking

            We are on the Central Queensland Coast. In summer here it gets much like your weather. With hot humid weather. The best lettuce we have found that bolts slower than most is the Royal Oak leaf. It is a beautiful crisp sweet lettuce. Although not a heading lettuce it will grow to a large size. We also found the more we saved the seeds the better it performed. We are now on the 7th generation.

            Best Regards and Thanks for the great Website,

            Barry and Family.

          • Patrick

            That’s awesome, thanks Barry and family. I love getting interest from folks like you – family gardeners. I’ll have to look for some Royal Oak leaf here or in the states anyway.. I’ve been focusing so much on the site and Flog, the garden has crumbled a bit recently I’ll have to replant soon.

  • Henry

    I got about two dozen Black Krim tomatoes (nearly 7′ tall), Serrano, Basil, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, and 6 San Marzano (plum) tomatoes.

    • Patrick

      whaaa black krim, creepy looking tamaters, how do those taste? Nice garden! That’s a lot of tomatoes!

  • Big Ray

    Black Krim are the best tasting of the “blacks” as far as I’m concerned.

    The list that follows is time proven to take-a-heating and keep-on-producing! Don’t rhyme but they will grow their cambium out for you in the worst that summer sends their way. Obviously, these are not all greens but are some things that grow well in the heat.

    Cucumbers and Eggplants laugh-off the heat down here. Cucumbers may wilt during the hottest part of the day and benefit from a cool drink just like I do when it’s the hottest.

    winter and summer squash

    Malabar spinach

    New Zealand spinach

    Chicory May not tolerate the very hottest full sun. A little evening shade will help.


    Beans Rattlesnake is my favourite in the dog-days of summer

    Peas Southern peas do best

    Anasazi bean. Available from “Plants of the SW” on 4th St.

    Okra A southern staple. The young leaves make good greens

    Amaranth callaloo/amaranth Some amaranth are grown for their huge giant heads. But all of them (as far as I know) have very tasty greens. I love them!

    Peanuts We boil them Cajun style with cayenne, salt and garlic.

    Yard long beans and goa winged beans

    Rattlesnake beans

    All alliums—Shallots multiply. I pull a “bunch, take one from the bunch and replant it. Short-day onions do well here and provide me with one vegetable that I use everyday. Cajun folks like me use a lot of garlic in nearly every meal we prepare.

    Melokhiya, an annual bush-like plant related to hibiscus and almost the national plant of Egypt, revels in the hottest weather @ Bountiful Gardens Seeds. This is the only plant on this list that I have not grown. However, for it’s popularity in Egypt, it must be good! I will be ordering some seed soon.

    Cuccuzzi A long vine that produces hundreds of pounds of gourds/squash. The fruit are delicious and taste their very best when picked 14 inches and UNDER. If not picked when young and tender, they can get over 3-feet long! Two of these plants could feed a small family for a long while if you can or freeze. I hardly ever come across folks that are familiar with this marvel of a plant. And yet, once people grow it, they never stop planting some every summer. It can cover 30 feet along a fence.

    Cuban oregano and Rosemary are some fine heat tolerant herbs.

    Purslane I’ve never served Purslane to someone who disliked it. It likes running between larger plants. I eat it while outside. Rarely do any make it inside. I like the wild type better than the nursery varieties.

    Lambsquarters another delicious “weed”. There is not a more nutritious green!

    Arugula, grown in some shade and,if constantly picked of it’s outer leaves can be discouraged from bolting. Thereby providing us with a good supply of salad greens. It requires a nice-sized patch for the pick-and-come-again method of harvesting arugula this way.

    • Patrick

      Wow what a great list! That is awesome, I wish I had more space to try out some of this stuff, especially the cuccuzzi and purslane. I didn’t know amaranth leaves are tasty! Will have to try some sometime..

      Well, thanks for sharing that great list of heat-loving plants! I especially like the “weeds” that you’re using as tasty greens for the salad. Very natural farm style – down at Gil’s farm he does that – walks around picking leaves/flowers from a few dozen different plants to make big colorful nutritious salads. What fun stuff huh…

  • Carolyn

    Our staple are tomatoes (better boy and sweet million), pole beans (blue lake), spinach (semi savoy), kale, zuccini, lettuce, and basil. We have several perrenial herbs. I also try to grow cucumbers (green slam and boston pickling), pumpkins, kohlrabi, delicata squash, and dill. Our garden has been getting more and more shade from the neighbor’s trees so we’re having to convert other parts of our yard to vegetable garden. It’s becoming a patchwork quilt! For us getting sufficient sun and battling our short growing season are the big issues.

    • Patrick

      Wow, nice garden! That’s a good amount of veggies! I know what you mean about sufficient sun. My tiny little patio garden gets indirect sun only.

      You must be harvesting some things by now no? The kale and other greens? Where in the PNW are you? I grew up in southern Oregon so I know the challenges of that area well.

  • Annie

    Bountiful Gardens Seeds web site cannot open gor me, wonder why

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