There are so many varieties of lettuce! Along with the old favorites, it is fun and interesting to grow new varieties each year.
|Red Iceburg Crisphead|
|Flashy Trout's Back|
We have always started a variety of lettuce indoors in April to be planted outdoors about mid-May. From mid-May through July we sow lettuce seeds directly into outdoor beds for a steady supply of tender lettuce all summer and fall.
Here's a look below at the progression of a lettuce bed we grew a few years ago in one of our gardens.
It all began with starting seeds indoors early in April. Five or six seeds of each variety were spread on the surface of a 4 inch pot filled with potting soil.
The seeds were covered with about 1/8 inch of fine sand. Potting soil will work fine, too. Each 4 inch pot was labelled with the lettuce variety. The 4 inch pots were placed in a container and were watered gently and thoroughly.
A plastic cover was placed loosely over the pots and removed only for watering. The container sat on a seedling heat mat until the lettuce seeds sprouted about 10 days later.
Once the seeds sprouted, the plastic cover was removed and the seedling heat mat was no longer needed.
The little lettuce plants were kept indoors for a few weeks in a warm, well lit location. They were watered regularly. Then the plants were moved to the greenhouse for a week or two of hardening off. You don't need a greenhouse. Any kind of outdoor cold frame will do.This allowed the plants to get accustomed to cool nights.
Finally, the little lettuce plants were removed from the pots, carefully separated and planted outside in a prepared bed of fertile soil. Each variety was labelled. The bed was watered gently and thoroughly. Although not shown here, the bed of lettuce was covered loosely with a floating row cover. A simple, portable fence was placed around the garden. Fences are a good idea. It is surprising how many wandering dogs find their way into gardens. It is not surprising how many cats show up to use nice, loose soil for a litter box!
All of the many varieties grew nicely.
Here is a closer look at some of the lettuce varieties:
It is not shown in the photos above, but our lettuce patches are always covered with floating row covers from start to finish. The row covers are removed temporarily when thinning, weeding, harvesting, slug hunting and for photos. The floating row cover is replaced immediately afterwards. This keeps the plants warm for improved growth. The cover keeps aphids away around mid-summer. Small green caterpillars with voracious appetites are kept away in late summer. Throughout the fall, the floating row cover keeps the lettuce plants warm and prevents damage from the heavy rains that tend to splash dirt and sand up on the tender leaves.
Here is a floating row cover on part of a bed of lettuce. We used another piece of row cover to cover the entire bed soon after this photo was taken. The cover needs to be placed loosely over the garden bed so the plants can raise it up as they grow. Hold it down with whatever is handy. We use rocks and old pieces of rebar. Floating row covers last many years if they are dried on a sunny day and tucked away at the end of each season.
|An old fish net was used as fencing to close the garden and keep out animals.|
Below is this same lettuce bed as in the photo above. The photo below was taken later in the summer when the lettuce was fully mature.
|A mature lettuce bed with BEE BALM in the background.|
In the bed above, the seeds were not started indoors. The seeds were mixed.
The mixed lettuce seeds were sprinkled from an old herb shaker directly onto dry, fertile soil outdoors at the end of May. Many different varieties of head lettuce, romaine, loose-leaf and butterhead were included. Using a rake, chop the soil lightly to cause the seeds to bury just under the surface.
Water thoroughly with a gentle sprinkling.
Cover with the floating row cover for warmth and protection. If it is not raining, water regularly. No need to remove the floating row cover to water. After a week or so, the seeds have sprouted and the lettuce bed is on its way. Let's have a peek!
Some of the delicious lettuce varieties we have grown:
CRISP MINT romaine
DEVIL'S TONGUE romaine
DRUNKEN WOMAN FRIZZY HEADED butterhead
ESMERALDA green butterhead
FLASHY TROUT'S BACK romaine
GREEN DEER TONGUE loose-leaf
LITTLE GEM romaine
MATINA SWEET butter head
NEVADA french crisp/batavia
OAKY RED SPLASH loose-leaf
PARRIS ISLAND romaine
POM POM loose-leaf
PRIZEHEAD non heading leaf
RED ICEBURG crisphead
RED SAILS loose-leaf
REINE DES GLACES crisphead
ROUGE D'HIVER romaine
SALAD BOWL loose-leaf
SUPERIOR 1 crisphead
TWO STAR loose-leaf
WINTER DENSITY romaine
|Parris Island Romaine and Red Iceburg|
|Mixed lettuce lower left|