Archive for the ‘lettuce’ Category

Growing lettuce

Lettuce is one of the most popular vegetables in culinary arts and is used in salads and several other dishes. Hence, wouldn’t it be great if you could simply harvest one from your own garden? This will ensure the freshness of the lettuce while also saving you cost from having to buy them from the grocer.

Varieties of Lettuce

There are four basic varieties of lettuce and it is important to recognize each one of them since it requires different growing conditions. Each one are listed and described briefly below:

   

*Butter head: This variety of lettuce possesses a creamy center to it. It also has a milder flavor as compared to other varieties but takes a lot more time to mature. This is the type of lettuce often used in making salads.

     

*Romaine: This variety comes with crunchy leaves and is characterized by its upright cluster of leaves. It takes between 70 to 85 days in order for this variety of lettuce to fully mature. Like the butter head, this is also popular ingredient for salads.

   

*Crisp head: This is another familiar variety and requires cool weather for growing. Of all varieties of lettuce, this one takes the most time to grow and requires specific conditions. You know when it’s ready if the outer leaves possess a yellowish green color.

    

*Leaf Lettuce: This one requires less restriction in order to grow fully well. Unlike the romaine lettuce, this one comes with loose bunches of leaves. It is most suitable in warm weather.

Soil Requirements

Summer is the best time to grow lettuce because of the rich, humus-laden soil quality. The ideal soil condition is at pH 6.5, so you can test the soil before growing the lettuce to produce a better quality lettuce. It is often grown alongside other slow growing plants, such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Since lettuce thrives in moist conditions, make sure to regularly water the lettuce to moisten up the soil.

There are also different varieties of lettuce according to the season in which it is grown:

*Summer varieties – This refer to lettuce plants that are grown under hot conditions. However, make sure you choose an area for growing lettuce that is well shaded.

*Spring lettuce – This is more challenging to grow than the summer varieties. If you are living in a mild area, make sure to sow the lettuce seeds in an area that gets adequate amount of sunlight. Make sure to have proper drainage to the soil surrounding your lettuce plants.

Process of Sowing Seeds

An important thing to take note when sowing lettuce seeds is to sow at the position where you intend to grow them. Avoid moving lettuce plants, when possible. You can plant these seeds at seedbeds or boxes, ideally 2.5cm above the ground.

Observe proper distance between plants, roughly around 8-16 inches apart. This will provide enough room for each plant to grow without any disruption.

Time Periods

Take note of the following information to avoid harvesting lettuce immaturely:

*Expected germination time for lettuce: For hot weather conditions, it can happen around 6 to 12 days.

*Time between sowing and harvesting: It depends on the variety of lettuce you are trying to grow. For butter or crisp head lettuce, they take the longest amount of time from 8 to 14 weeks. For loose-leaf varieties, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks in order to be ready for harvest.

Other Growing Tips for Lettuce

Additional information when caring for your lettuce plants to ensure they grow healthy:

  • Moist soil is important in allowing the lettuce plant to grow fast and healthy. Therefore, make sure to water regularly. The best time for watering your lettuce plants is during the morning or midday. Watering at night can increase the risk of your plant developing diseases.
  • In order for the lettuce seeds to germinate, temperature must not exceed 80 degrees. If you are sowing during summer, make sure to employ proper shading devices on your plant bed. Or better yet, find a cool spot indoors to grow your lettuce.

Helpful Garden Tips

  • Harvest lettuce in the morning so that it is crisp and not yet wilted from the heat
  • Keep picking green beans or the plants will stop producing (they think that they’re done!)
  • Laying straw in the garden helps to control weeds, but keeps soil cool so it’s not as good for tomatoes
  • For a bushy basil plant, always cut above the second set of leaves, wait for additional growth and then cut again at the next level

Lettuce

Lettuce is a fairly hardy, cool-weather vegetable that thrives when the average daily temperature is between 60 and 70°F. It should be planted in early spring or late summer. At high temperatures, growth is stunted, the leaves may be bitter and the seedstalk forms and elongates rapidly. Some types and varieties of lettuce withstand heat better than others.

There are five distinct types of lettuce: leaf (also called loose-leaf lettuce), Cos or romaine, crisphead, butterhead and stem (also called asparagus lettuce).

Leaf lettuce, the most widely adapted type, produces crisp leaves loosely arranged on the stalk. Nearly every garden has at least a short row of leaf lettuce, making it the most widely planted salad vegetable. Cos or romaine forms an upright, elongated head and is an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches. The butterhead varieties are generally small, loose-heading types that have tender, soft leaves with a delicate sweet flavor. Stem lettuce forms an enlarged seedstalk that is used mainly in stewed, creamed and Chinese dishes.

Crisphead varieties, the iceberg types common at supermarkets all over the country, are adapted to northern conditions and require the most care. In areas without long, cool seasons, they generally are grown from transplants, started early and moved to the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. They are extremely sensitive to heat and must mature before the first hot spell of summer to achieve high-quality heads. If an unseasonably early heat wave hits before they have matured, they almost certainly fail. In many locations, crisphead lettuce plants started in late summer to mature in the cooler weather of fall have a much better chance of success.

Recommended Varieties

Green Leaf

Black-seeded Simpson (earliest to harvest)

Grand Rapids (frilly edges; good for coldframes, greenhouse, garden)

Oak Leaf (resistant to tipburn; good for hot weather)

Red Leaf

Red Fire (ruffles with red edge; slow to bolt)

Red Sails (slowest bolting red leaf lettuce)

Ruby (darkest red of all; resistant to tipburn)

Cos or Romaine

Cimmaron (unique, dark red leaf, Cos type)

Green Towers (early; dark green, large leaves)

Paris Island (long-standing)

Heading or Crisphead

Great Lakes (standard, holds well in warm weather)

Iceburg (medium, size, tender hearts; leaf edges tinged light brown)

Ithaca (tolerates heat; resists bitterness; slow to bolt)

Stem or Asparagus

Celtuce

When to Plant

Leaf, Cos and Butterhead lettuce can be planted anytime in the spring when the soil is dry enough to rake the surface. Two or more successive plantings at 10 to 14 day intervals provide a continuous supply of lettuce. Lettuce does not withstand hot summer days well and spring planting should be completed at least a month before the really hot days of early summer begin. Plantings started in late summer mature during cool fall weather. Watering is essential for seed germination and establishment of seedlings. Some shade may also benefit summer sowings. Heat-tolerant varieties (mainly loose-leaf types) may be grown in the shade of taller crops through most of the summer if extra care is taken about irrigation and soil selection.

Head lettuce must be transplanted in most locations and requires more care than other types of lettuce. Start transplants for a spring crop indoors or in a cold frame and set them in the garden as early in the spring as the weather settles. Harden transplants outdoors so that they become acclimated to the conditions under which they will be grown, but do not allow growth to stop entirely. Cos, butterhead and leaf varieties also can be transplanted for earlier harvest. In the heat of summer, lettuce seedlings started in a protected location in the shade can be transplanted later into moderate sites for some limited success.

Spacing & Depth

Plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep (10 seeds per foot) in single, double or triple rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 4 inches apart for leaf lettuce and 6 to 8 inches apart for Cos or Butterhead. The seedlings removed may be transplanted or eaten. Transplant Crisphead seedlings 10 to 12 inches apart in the row.

Care

Because lettuce has shallow roots, it should be hoed or cultivated carefully. Frequent light watering causes the leaves to develop rapidly, resulting in high-quality lettuce. Overwatering, especially in heavy soils, can lead to disease, soft growth and scalding or burning of the leaf margins. Organic mulches can help moderate soil temperature and the microenvironment to produce quality lettuce in less than ideal weather conditions.

Harvesting

Leaf lettuce may be cut whenever it is large enough to use. Cutting every other plant at ground level gives the remaining plants more space for growth. Leaf lettuce reaches maximum size (6 to 12 ounces) in 50 to 60 days. Butterhead varieties form small, loose heads that weigh 4 to 8 ounces at harvest (60 to 70 days). The innermost leaves, that tend to blanch themselves, are a delicacy. Cos varieties have an upright growth habit and form a long, medium-dense head.

To store lettuce, wash, drip dry and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Lettuce keeps best at 32°F and high (96%) humidity.

Lettuce growing tips

Lettuce is one of those versatile veggies that looks as good in the garden as it does on the table. It does best in cool, sunny weather, but depending on the variety, it will thrive in any part of the country.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Instructions

Things You’ll Need:

  • Bypass Pruners
  • Fish Emulsions
  • Fertilizers
  • Garden Trowels
  • Plants
  • Mulch
  • Rototillers
  • Pitchforks
  • Compost Makers
  • Garden Spades
  • Vegetable Seeds
  • Garden Rakes

 

Buy lettuce plants at the nursery for planting when nighttime temperatures stay above 30 degrees F. Otherwise, sow seeds directly outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked in spring.

  1. Choose a site that gets full sun in cool-weather areas, partial sun in warmer climates or for summer plantings. The ideal pH is 6.0 to 7.0 (see “How to Have Your Soil Tested”).
  2. Till the soil thoroughly, breaking up soil clumps and removing stones and other debris. (Lettuce seeds are tiny, and any obstacle can hinder germination.)
  3.  
  4. Dig in plenty of compost and well-cured manure to ensure the kind of soil lettuce needs: well-draining yet moisture-retentive, and rich in the nitrogen necessary for good leaf development.
  5. 5

    Set plants 8 to 16 inches apart, depending on the variety. (Check the plant label or a comprehensive gardening book for mature size.) When in doubt, err on the side of distance – crowded plants and poor air circulation invite disease and insect problems.

  6. 6

    Keep the soil moist, but avoid watering in the evening: Foliage that stays wet overnight is prone to disease. Mulch to conserve moisture and keep the soil cool, and feed every three weeks with seaweed extract or compost tea.

  7. Ensure a full season’s worth of greens by making successive sowings 10 days apart and by choosing heat-resistant varieties for late-spring plantings and cold-resistant ones for harvesting well into fall.
  8. Begin cutting leaf lettuces as soon as they’re big enough to use. Harvest heading types when the heads are firm and fully filled out.

Tips & Warnings

  • Lettuce grows well and looks stunning in containers of any size or shape. Place containers in partial shade and fill them with potting soil enriched with compost. Keep plants well-watered, and feed them every two weeks with compost tea or a diluted mixture of seaweed extract and fish emulsion.
  • To find the best lettuce varieties for your taste and your territory, peruse seed catalogs and garden books or visit a nearby test garden. (Call your local botanical garden or county extension office to find one near you.)
  • If slugs are a problem where you live, avoid mulching lettuce; it’s like throwing an open house for the slimy critters. Instead, simply weed diligently and keep the soil cultivated.
  • Lettuce seeds won’t germinate in temperatures above 80 degrees F. To start a crop in summer, shade the planting bed with lattice screens, or start seeds in a cool spot indoors.

Growing Lettuce

Natural gardening is especially important when you grow food crops like lettuce. After all, you’re going to eat the lettuce you produce, so why would you want to use lots of potentially harmful chemicals on your plants? If you do use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to you grow your lettuce, just make sure to read the package instructions very carefully before applying them.

Lettuce grows well under cooler conditions and needs plenty of water. If you plant your lettuce when low temperatures are around 40 degrees F and high temperatures are around 60 degrees F, your lettuce should do fine. Be aware that a hard freeze will still damage your lettuce. However, lettuce can survive light freezes, so not to worry. This makes lettuce an ideal crop to grow either during the fall or the early spring.

From baby leaf lettuce to big, crisp heads, lettuce is easy to grow in spring and fall, when the soil is cool. Leaf color and texture vary with variety. All types of lettuce grow best when the soil is kep constantly moist, and outside temperatures range between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Types to Try 

  • Loose-leaf varieties grow tender leaves in dense rosettes, but seldom form crisp inner heads. Some loose-leaf lettuce varieties have superior heat tolerance.  
  • Butterheads and bibb types quickly form small heads of leaves with stout, crunchy ribs. Some varieties have superior cold tolerance.
  • Romaine lettuce has elongated leaves with stiff ribs. Romaines often tolerate stressful weather better than other types of lettuce.
  • Crisphead lettuce includes familiar iceberg types, as well as lush and leafy Batavian, or French Crisp, varieties which have great flavor and color, and are easy to grow.

When to Plant

In spring, sow lettuce in cold frames or tunnels six weeks before your last frost date. Start more seeds indoors under lights at about the same time, and set them out when they are three weeks old. Direct seed more lettuce two weeks before your average last spring frost date. Lettuce seeds typically sprout in two to eight days when soil temperatures range between 55 and 75 degrees.

In fall, sow all types of lettuce at two-week intervals starting eight weeks before your first fall frost. One month before your first frost, sow only cold-tolerant butterheads and romaines.

How to Plant

Prepare your planting bed by loosening the soil to at least 10 inches deep. Mix in an inch or so of good compost or well-rotted manure. Sow seeds a quarter of an inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows or squares, or simply broadcast them over the bed.

Indoors, sow lettuce seeds in flats or small containers kept under fluorescent lights. Harden off three-week-old seedlings for at least two or three days before transplanting. Use shade covers, such as pails or flowerpots, to protect transplants from sun and wind during their first few days in the garden. 

Harvesting and Storage

Harvest lettuce in the morning, after the plants have had all night to plump up with water. Wilted lettuce picked on a hot day seldom revives, even when rushed to the refrigerator. Pull (and eat) young plants until you get the spacing you want. Gather individual leaves or use scissors to harvest handfuls of baby lettuce. Rinse lettuce thoroughly with cool water, shake or spin off excess moisture, and store it in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Lettuce often needs a second cleaning as it is prepared for the table.

Saving Seeds

Lettuce varieties are open-pollinated, so you can save seeds from any plants you like. Be patient as your strongest plants develop yellow flowers followed by ripe seedpods. Stake plants if necessary to keep the ripening seed heads from falling over. Gather the dry seed heads in a paper bag, and crush them with your hands. Winnow or sift to separate the seeds from the chaff, and store the seeds in a cool, dry place for up to a year. In some climates, plants grown in spring will reseed themselves in fall.

  • As the seedlings grow, thin leaf lettuce to 6 inches apart, thin romaines to 10 inches and allow 12 inches between heading varieties. After thinning, mulch between plants with grass clippings, chopped leaves or another organic mulch to deter weeds and retain soil moisture.
  • Replace old lettuce seed yearly, because low germination is usually caused by dead seeds. Expect spotty germination from lettuce seeds that are more than one year old. 
  • In late winter, grow lettuce inside a cold frame or plastic tunnel. Seedlings often survive temperatures below 20 degrees when they are protected with sheet plastic or glass.
  • For extra flavor from your salad bed, sprinkle in a few seeds of dill, cilantro or other cool-season herbs.
  • If your garden is small, try miniature lettuce varieties, such as ‘Tom Thumb’ or ‘Minetto.’
  • Should hot weather hit just as crisphead lettuce is reaching its peak, cover the plants with a shade cover made from lightweight cloth (such as an old sheet) held aloft with stakes. If possible, cool down the shaded plants by watering them at midday.
  • Never allow the soil to dry out while lettuce is growing. In most soils, you’ll need to water lettuce every other day between rains.
  • Perfect lettuce does not last long in the garden, especially when the weather gets hot. Harvest lettuce when conditions are good, then store it in the refrigerator.

 


In the Kitchen

Bumper crops of lettuce can’t be preserved, so plan ahead for daily salads when lettuce is in season. Stock up on big flavor toppings such as olives, dried fruits, nuts and smoked salmon. Be generous with snippings of fresh herbs as you create original salads. Lettuce rolls stuffed with grain or meat mixtures, held together with toothpicks, make a great appetizer. Dark green or red lettuces have more vitamin A than varieties with pale leaves.

Growing Lettuce

Growing Lettuce In Containers Lettuce is amonst the easiest crops to grow in your vegetable garden but requires considerable amount 0f care. Different varieties have different weather preferences. For growing lettuce in containers, the date of your sowing is highly essential for crop growth. As a cool-weather plant, it must be planted 2 weeks before the last frost date, or roughly around autumn for some varieties. Other types of lettuce can tolerate the heat of the summer sun without bolting. Starting your cultivation Lettuce seeds can be bought in any gardening store. You can select a specific variety of seeds, or you can choose a mix that has several lettuce varieties in one packet. Whatever variety you choose, always make sure that your choice matches your planned sowing dates. When growing lettuce in pots, you have to select a place where the plant will get at least 5 hours of sun in a day. Ideally the best place will be at the east side of your garden. This way, your lettuce will only receive the cool morning sun and not be dried out the rest of the day. The specifications of your pot or container An ideal container for your lettuce will be one that is 6-8 inches deep. How big your container will be depends on how many lettuces you intend to grow. A 12-inch diameter pot or container can hold 2 lettuces. Some would prefer using a window box as the container is not that deep and can hold lettuce crops neatly in rows. The container must have plenty of holes underneath to help drain excess water. Once you have selected a container, you must stick to it. Even though you are growing lettuce in containers, it is often a mistake to transplant it later. Preparing your soil or potting mix There are pre-prepared sterile potting mixes available in your garden store. The potting mix is a mixture of peat, perlite, and vermiculite. When you are growing lettuce in pots, ideally, the pH should be 6.0-7.0. However, your lettuce will grow perfectly in a light, loamy soil. Temperature should be 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit for your seeds will not germinate if the temperature reaches 80 degrees and above. You can prepare the soil with a fertilizer of 15-15-15 or 20-20-20. If you plan to go organic, compost is most ideal. Treat your soil with matured compost or compost manure 2 weeks before planting. Mix the compost thoroughly in the soil for an even distribution. A richly fertilized soil can cause the plant to bolt. Seeds Once you have chosen your seeds, sow them thinly and directly on your prepared soil. Cover them with prepared soil about ½ inch thick and lightly pat them down. A thinly sowed soil is preferred when growing lettuce in containers for your crops will have a shallow rooting system. Moisten the soil with a fine mist being careful not to wash away the seeds. You can start to thin the seedlings once 2 true leaves have formed. Distance between seedlings should be 6 inches. Do not plant new seeds near established crops for they will not grow. If you wish to have a continuous harvesting season all year, plant new seeds instead in a different container to avoid disturbing the established crops as well as not to waste the seeds. Care and Harvesting It is important that you keep the soil moist but not wet. An inch of water a week is ideal. Make sure that water them regularly in the same amount daily. Over-watering can make your crops susceptible to fungal disease that can lessen the amount of yield per season. Depending on the variety, expect to harvest your lettuce greens 20-25 days after planting. In some cases, harvesting can take up to 60 days. If you find it difficult to count the days while growing lettuce in pots, you can harvest once the leaves have grown the desired size, usually 4-6 inches. Cut the leaves directly an inch or two above the base or pull out the entire crop. Once you have harvested your crops, wash them thoroughly to remove dirt. Prevent the crops frmm bolting by providing shade throughout the summer. A bolted plant means that the crops has formed flowers and have become woody or leathery. The taste will be compromised, meaning your lettuce would taste bitter and be totally inedible. Mulch your crops during the summer with compost or moss to prevent water loss to address this problem. Common pest problems would be bugs, slugs, and snails. You can spray them with pesticides bought in your local gardening store to control them. Mildew and other fungus are also problems encountered in caring for lettuce. Fungicides can take care of this problem as well. Spray your lettuce with a recommended fungicide every 7-10 days to prevent fungus from killing your crops. Weeds are also a problem when growing lettuce. Prevent this by pre-treating your soil before planting. If you see weeds growing, it is important that you remove them immediately. Weeds compete for soil nourishment and can weaken your crop. The earlier you remove the weeds, the better. You can avoid this problem by regularly tilling the soil once your crops have formed an established root system. Be careful when tilling the soil for you may damage the leaves and the roots in the process. However, lettuce is directly eaten raw, so it is better to go organic. Inspect your crops daily and regularly and Hand-pick your snails and slugs. Some recommend wiping the base of with petroleum jelly when growing lettuce in containers. To prevent fungus from growing, make sure that your crop still has adequate ventilation even though it is provided with shade. Remove infected leaves immediately, and if necessary, thin down your crops. Give extra protection by spraying your crops every two weeks with compost tea. Side-dress your crops by placing mature compost at the edge, or by feeding it with compost tea. Another way to prevent insects from coming near your lettuce is to line them up with onions and chives. They are perfect insect and caterpillar repellants so you do not have to worry too much on keeping your crops safe.

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