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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Grow Lettuce

Part of our Grow Your Greens Series





Lettuce


Annual
Height:  9-12:      Width:  6"

Lettuce comes in many different varieities including leaf lettuces, crispheads, summer crisps, icebergs, romaines, butterheads and bibbs.  Here's a  short description of each.

Leaf lettuce.  Forms a loose rosette of tender, sweet tasting leaves in 4-6 weeks.
Summer Crisps.  Loose head of large, crisp leaves with good flavor.

Crispheads.  A combination of romaine and iceberg types.  Crunchy texture.
Romaines.  Oblong leaves that form fairly loose, upright heads.

Butterhead and Bibb.  Broad rosettes of tender, wavy leaves with a delicate flavor and creamy texture.

There are early varieties for spring planting and heat-tolerant varieties for Fall planting.




Starting Seeds of Lettuce

Seed Depth:                     1/4" - 1/2".  Need light to germinate.
Seed Spacing:                  Thin to 6-8" apart.
Days to Germinate:           7-14 days.
Days to Harvest:               Leaf Lettuce  30-50 days.
                                          Head Lettuce  100 days
.
Seed Longevity:                2 Years

Sowing Indoors:

Start Romaine, iceberg and other head lettuces indoors 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date, making three small sowings at weekly intervals.


Sowing Outdoors:

Spring:  Direct sow as soon as soil can be worked.
Fall:  Direct sow 4-8 weeks before your average first frost date.

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Winter Sowing:

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs and greens.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of a milk jug during the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in Spring.

For our separate article with details about Winter Sowing, click here.






Growing Lettuce Plants


Growing Temperature:        55-60 degrees during growing season.
                                            Will survive light frosts.

Plant Spacing:                     Leaf Lettuce - 1" for continuing harvest
                                             Head Lettuce - 8"
                                             Summer Crisps - 8-12"
                                             Iceberg - 8-12"
                                             Romaine - 10"
                                             Butterhead - 8-10"
                                             Bibb - 6-8"

Container Size:                    Shallow Roots.  6" deep.
Sun/Shade:                          Full sun for best yields.  Tolerates part shade.
Soil:                                      Plenty of compost will encourage fast growth.
Watering:                             Consistent water for best flavor.
                                             Lack of moisture causes bitterness.




Fertilizing

Since greens are such a  fast-growing crop, as long as they are grown in rich soil there may be little need for further fertilization.    That said, a liquid balanced fertilizer when the seedlings are 4" tall will give your greens a boost and carry them through their short season.  After the temperatures warm, though, the leaves of Lettuce will turn bitter and no amount of fertilizer will help at that point.




Growing Tips

Extending the Growing Season:
Start romaine, iceberg and other head lettuce indoors 4-6 weeks before the average last frost date, making three small sowings at weekly intervals.
Set out the seedlings and direct sow leaf lettuce outdoors at 2 week intervals.  If you plan to harvest only leaves, sow entire loose-leaf crop at once.




Harvesting Lettuce

Leaf Lettuces.  Harvest outer leaves as soon as they're a usable size.
                         Harvest entire plant at 2" above soil level for cut-and-come again.


Head Lettuces.  Cut the head away form the stalk when the head is still firm.
                           Head lettuce will be freshest when harvested in the morning




Storing Lettuce For Later Use


Tender green leaves, like Lettuce, can't be preserved well.

Fresh
Loose leafed lettuce will store 7-10 days in a crisper.
Head lettuce will store 1-3 weeks in crisper



To read the other articles in our Growing Your Greens series, click on the name below:







Swiss Chard

Check out our other great gardening articles:  Click Here

Check out our hosta articles:  Click Here




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