This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Lettuces are in demand wherever they can be obtained. Their cultivation is very simple, but the way in which small growers treat them generally is not productive of fine crisp Lettuces. We refer to the practice of sowing them thickly and never thinning them. To grow them well the soil must be rich, otherwise they will fail in the most important quality of a good Lettuce - viz., crisp tenderness. The very earliest are got from sowings made from the middle to the end of August, and transplanted in September, when protection can be afforded them. Cold frames are best for the purpose, and dry light soil on a well - drained bottom is essential. Air ought to be given on all favourable occasions, as a close damp atmosphere is to be guarded against. The hardiest Cos varieties are generally grown for this purpose, because they stand the winter well. All-the-year-round Cabbage-Lettuce, however, stands the winter very well when justice is done to it while in the frames in the matter of airing, stirring the surface-soil, etc., to maintain as sweet and dry an atmosphere as possible. These plants should be transplanted in March or April on a well-sheltered spot, and if room can be afforded them a few left in the frame will come in a little earlier than the transplanted ones.
By the end of February a small sowing should be made under glass, or in the warmest place possible outside. Once a month afterwards a small sowing should be made and the thinnings transplanted, which will furnish as good a succession as if a sowing were made once a fortnight. Allow them 18 inches between the rows, and from 9 inches to 1 foot in the row, according to the variety grown and the state of the soil. A good soaking of sewage or other manure water, and a mulching of rotten manure, give Lettuces quite a different character from those grown thickly on poor soils. Some varieties require tying up to secure the best blanched heads possible, others again do very well without it.
Radishes rank second in the esteem of small growers; and indeed Lettuces, Radishes, and Cress are all the salading grown in most amateurs' gardens. They may be had all the year round when proper appliances exist, and nine months out of the twelve where a cold frame, or a portion of it, can be devoted to their cultivation. Under a frame, more especially if there be a little bottom-beat, a sowing may be made by the end of January, and once a fortnight afterwards. We have often grown them in a common greenhouse in 6-inch pots placed near the glass, and where a little air had access to them when the weather was favourable for airing. In sowing them outside, draw drills the whole width of the hoe, and scatter the seeds thinly in the bottom of the flat drill. Cover to the depth of half an inch, and thin, when up, to 2 inches apart. The way amateurs generally grow them is the way to secure the worst results; for good Radishes cannot be grown when the seed is huddled together in the rows, and the plants allowed to grow in tufts. Rich soil is also an essential in the production of tender, well-flavoured Radishes. Sowings may be made as late as the beginning of October; but for such late sowings a warm sheltered spot should be chosen, and protection by means of hand-lights, etc, afforded if possible.
These will come in for use during winter.
Mustard And Cress require treatment very similiar to Radishes, so we need not repeat the directions. Only, a sowing of each should be made once a week in small patches where there is a little space, and places otherwise vacant can be thus kept under crop. A rich soil and plenty of water in dry weather cause them to grow quickly and tender. Late in autumn and early in spring a supply may be kept up with a few flats and some clear sand or earth in the kitchen-window or other room where there is a little heat.
These are the more generally grown Salads, at least by amateurs; but a paper on Salads would be incomplete were we not to add others which are occasionally grown, and which amateurs may desire to know something of.
Endive is one of these. It is soon enough to sow Endive about the middle of July, or even later, up to the end of August. Sow it in the same way as Lettuce, in good rich soil. It will be ready to transplant in about a month afterwards. For this purpose shallow trenches should be thrown out with the spade about 18 inches apart. Plant at 9 or 10 inches apart in the rows, and water plentifully, unless the weather be showery and moist, which is the best condition under which to plant them. A soaking of manure-water will benefit them greatly. They are of no use unless blanched, and the best means of doing so, on a small scale, is to place flower-pots or boxes over the plants to exclude the light. Allow them to be a good size before doing this. A few only should be covered at a time - the cultivator will soon find out the necessary quantity - and when one is cut the pot should be placed over another, so as to keep up a succession. The later sowings should be treated similarly. If protection can be afforded them to keep off frost and wind, Endive may be enjoyed until far on in winter, when its place may be supplied by.
This should be sown and treated like Lettuces, so far as the sowing, thinning, etc, is concerned. One foot between the rows is sufficient, and 4 or 6 inches in the rows. Sow about the beginning of July, and treat the plants liberally, so as to secure as strong roots as possible. Late in September, or early in October, the roots should be lifted and planted in pots or boxes pretty thickly together. Cut the leaves off, but take care not to break the crowns. Keep them shady and moist for a few days, and afterwards place them where they will not get frozen. When wanted, these boxes or pots should be placed wherever there is a little heat, and where light is excluded. A cellar, a warm closet, under the stage, in the greenhouse - anywhere, where there is a little warmth, will secure a nice beautiful Salad in the depth of winter.
Dandelion is blanched in precisely the same way, and may be dug up from the roadside for the purpose. It is best to grow a small bed, however, and any damp out-of-the-way corner will do well. It may be grown from seed as described for Chicory, or plants may be dug up for the purpose of filling a bed. They may also be blanched when they grow, early in spring, by covering them over with boxes or pots and leaves. Chicory may also be blanched in the same way.
American Cress is occasionally grown for Salads. Sow from March till August, at intervals of a month.
Normandy Cress should be sown thinly in March.
Indian Cress is sometimes used in Salads - the flowers being the parts used.
Chives are also sometimes used as a Salad. It is easily grown. They are propagated by division early in spring.