Pick more from salad vegetables 

Farmers inspect a lettuce garden. Photo/courtesy

What you need to know:

  1. These vegetable varieties are propagated using seed which a farmer must have planted in nursery beds for transfer to the main field after 15 days from sprouting. 

Farmers in the country have been concentrating in growing vegetables that are consumed as cooked food.
However, a number of seed companies are now encouraging famers to grow vegetables which are consumed as fresh salads for purposes of acquisition of nutritional and health benefits. The vegetables include lettuce of various varieties and dhania also known as coriander. 
Background
Lettuce and coriander are one of the oldest leafy vegetables known to man. They are believed to be first grown in central Asia and India.
These vegetables are the starting point for every good salad, a basic in sandwiches and a decorative underlayment for many other foods. They are nutritious containing a number of food nutrients once consumed fresh.

They are still new to farmers in African countries but due to exchange programmes in research by agricultural scientists in Asia and Africa, they are encouraging farmers to adopt growing them because they can thrive well in African soils. For the case of coriander, it is known as a herbal vegetate commonly used to flavour international dishes.
It comes from the coriandrum sativum plant and is related to parsley, carrots and celery. Many people use coriander in dishes such as soups and salsas and in Middle Eastern and Asian they use it in meals such as curries and masalas. Coriander leaves are often used whole, whereas the seeds are used dried or ground.
One such seed company promoting growing of these vegetable varieties is Victoria Seeds and Seeds of Gold had the opportunity to interact with its agronomists and below are the details.

The agronomy 
Noah Sunday explaining how farmers can go about growing salad vegetables notes that before engaging in the production process, farmers must ensure they purchase seed from a reliable source to avoid adulteration.
He recommends farmers to purchase seed of these vegetables from agro input outlets owned by certified seed companies. He contends that most these vegetable varieties used as fresh salads or in any form of masala possess similar attributes therefore the agronomy farmers can follow the same agronomy when growing them.
Propagation
These vegetable varieties are propagated using seed which a farmer must either have planted in nursery beds for transfer to the main field after 15 days from sprouting. In 30 days the vegetable would be ready for harvesting if proper agronomy practices are followed.

Common varieties 

There are about two main varieties of lettuce grown in Africa including Uganda today and these include loose leaf variety which is black seeded but once grown it is green in colour.
Sunday explained that the other variety is butter which has different types namely Boston and Bibb.  The Boston variety has small, round and loosely formed heads with soft, supple leaves that bruise easily. It is larger and fluffier than Bibb, but both types of lettuce make perfect cups for cooked ground chicken or shrimp.

Romaine variety can be found in varieties that are green, red, bronze, or speckled and they grow similar to the shape of Chinese cabbage. French variety once grown is packed and it is in both green and purple colour. 
The other variety is crisp head also called iceberg which is a rounded, compact lettuce with overlapping leaves. The interior leaves are paler and sweet, while the exterior greener leaves are more flexible and useful for lettuce wraps. 

Coriander varieties 
This type of vegetable according to Sunday has several varieties but the most common grown by farmers are Indian coriander which grows up to 70cm with elongated seeds and sweeter flavour than many other varieties.
Jantar variety has a nutty taste with very shiny foliage and quite small but very aromatic seeds. Both the foliage and the fresh and dried seeds can be used. Thuringer is known to be the oldest variety traditionally from Germany with good seed production and can grow up to 40cm in height.
It is not just the dried or ground seeds that are a delicious addition to your cooking, the coriander leaves can also be used. 

While the seeds have a spicy, woody taste, the leaves have a strong, earthy, pungent aroma. There are now varieties on the market that have been specially cultivated for their leaves.
Soil requirements
The plants thrive in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil which requires proper field preparation before sowing the seeds or transplanting the young seedlings. Farmers must till the soil and apply compost or well-rotted manure one week before transplanting or direct seeding.  Frequent watering early morning and late evening is recommended for proper sprouting of the plants. 

Planting and spacing 
In general plants need cool weather to thrive and where there is a lot of sunshine, a shade can be provided.
The seeds or seedling must be planted in rows with spacing of 30cm by 30 cm but farmers who prefer broadcast planting can do so depending on their choice.  In order to achieve good growth and maximise yields, farmers may take into consideration the seeding rate of 800-1000 grammes of seeds per hectare. The number of plants per hectare can be 50,000 and 60,000 plants and the plants have tiny seeds which require a depth of for the seed to be sown.

Fertiliser requirements
It is essential to perform a soil analysis before any fertiliser application. Farmers can apply recommended fertiliser 20 days after planting. In most cases NPK
Pests and diseases
It is necessary to know the plants enemies and form in advance an environmentally friendly approach in order to tackle them. 

Pests
There are common pests such as aphids where its adults and nymphs feed on plant juices and also attack stem, flowers and leaves.
The second common pest is slugs which love to crunch the plants leaves, something that results in large holes and products that cannot be marketed. If they are let to reproduce freely, they may destroy the entire crop in a short time.
Other are birds which like to chew the leaves, the reason sometimes it is advisable for farmers to provide a shed.

Fertilisers
 The best way to control pests and diseases is always prevention rather than intervention therefore farmers are expected to use of certified seeds and seedlings which are clean.
Encourage natural pest enemies such as ladybugs which will end up consuming some of pests.
It is important to avoid excessive application of fertilisers and weed control and crop rotation methods can be applied against some diseases.
 

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