Single Packet of 400 Seeds
When translated from Provençal French, "mesclun" means "blend". Mesclun mixes may include any variety of young salad greens selected for a balance of flavor, texture, and color. And by flavor, we mean spicy, sweet, buttery, tart... and delicious!
Grow mesclun in window boxes, patio containers, and kitchen gardens so you don't have far to go to snip off a few leaves here and there whenever inspiration strikes. Use them to spice up sandwiches and wraps, or to create "no excuses" healthy and flavorful dinner salads. Mesclun is a great garden project for kids; if there was a book called "The Short Attention-Span Gardener", a colorful, glossy photo of mesclun lettuce would grace its cover. Grown as "micro-greens", they're very easy to grow, and ready to harvest as soon as a week after emerging!
Alice Waters, co-founder of Berkeley, California's famous restaurant Chez Panisse, was one of the first North American chefs to add mesclun to her menu, though it's long been a staple of French and Italian cuisine. Mesclun greens have slowly gained mainstream attention in the past few decades, but it's difficult to get the best texture and flavor unless you grow it yourself or hunt down a reputable organic producer at your local garden market. Freshness is essential!
So this season, grow your own mesclun lettuce blend from seed. You'll gain a whole new appreciation for salad greens once you sample their flavor and crispness straight from your own garden.
Sowing the Seeds
Mesclun lettuce blends are best started directly outdoors as soon as you can work the soil. Remove rocks, debris, and clumps from your beds, and work in 2" to 3" of aged, screened compost into the soil. Make sure the soil surface is smooth and damp—not wet. Broadly scatter the seeds and cover them with 1/16" soil, or—for individual seeding—plant to a depth that's equal to twice the seed's width. Keep the soil moist with a fine mist.
Start seeds indoors in nursery flats or cells filled nearly to the top with a quality screened seedling mix. Use growing lights or a sunny window. Cold frames work well with early-season greens such as these. Transplant when mesclun greens are at least 2" tall.
Note, emergent mesclun plants can handle a surprise spring frost. Plant successive crops until mid-May, and then plant 30 and 15 days before your predicted first fall frost, which will kill any unharvested leaves. Shade mid-summer crops in the afternoon, or plant them in filtered sunlight behind and east of corn or trellised beans, peas, and melons.
Mesclun greens are rapid-growing leafy annuals, reaching "microgreen" harvest stage as early as 7 days after emergence.
Sunlight requirements: 6 Hours of sun; light afternoon shade
Soil requirements: Well-drained, loose, rich soil
pH: 6.0 to 7.0
Watering requirements: Consistently moist, not wet; water at soil level early in the day
Early-season mesclun lettuce crops aren't as likely to bolt as those started late spring and early summer. Lengthening daylight hours and increased temperatures (above 80°F) trigger flower development, which in turn negatively impacts leaf flavor. Chopped weed-free straw and other light-colored mulch will help keep the soil cool, deter snails and slugs, and reduce weeds. Shading your mesclun lettuce in the afternoon, especially after mid-May, will delay bolting. Never let mesclun lettuce dry out.
Germination & Growth
Mesclun size and growth rate varies according to the individual species, but here are the general specifications:
Days to germination: 7 to 14 at 55°F to 65°F
Plant height: 6" to 10"
Plant width: 2" to 4"
Growth habit: Upright, bunching; heads or single-leafed
Recommended spacing: Thin or space 3" apart for greens intended for early harvest, or 6" apart for more mature plants. Space rows 12" apart. Note, mesclun lettuce tolerates crowding if your space is limited to window boxes and patio containers.
Harvesting & Storage
Harvest: 40 to 60 days.
Use clean scissors to snip individual leaves 1" above the soil line. To harvest entire plants, use a clean knife and cut the base of the plants at the soil line. Harvesting is best done in the morning for ultimate crispness and flavor. Refrigerate your harvested mesclun in plastic bags; do not wash mesclun until you're ready to serve.