Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Resowing lettuce to get continuous harvests

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We love salads.  Although about this time, we are a little overwhelmed with all the lettuce that is ready in the garden. You have to do succession sowing to keep lettuce ready throughout the growing season.

Since we are having days in the 80’s, our lettuce is bolting.  This is when the plant sends up a stalk that flowers.  You can let your best lettuce plants bolt so you can save the seed.  

As lettuce bolts, the leaves start tasting bitter.  To keep yourself with sweet lettuce all summer long, you need to resow lettuce seeds every 2-4 weeks.  Our second sowing of the spring is now bolting.

We have one more behind it that is coming to maturity.

I just planted seeds in flats that I have kept from last year’s annuals.  Just add seed starting or potting soil mix to the flats, sprinkle the seeds on top and then top with a very thin layer (1/8-1/4”) of more soil.  Keep moist and in the shade.  They should sprout in 7-10 days.

Lettuce will not sprout when the ground temperatures gets above 70-75 degrees F so keep your flats in a shady, cool spot.  Be sure to keep them evenly moist.  

I put about 3 seeds in each.  Thin out the smallest extras that sprout.  I will keep them in the small plastic starters until they get around 6 leaves on them.  Then, I transfer them to the bigger pot.

Right now the bigger pots have the bolting lettuce in them.  By the time they have seeded, the little ones will be ready to take their place.  I’ll plant others in shady spots in the vegetable garden.  You can interplant with taller vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.

In hot weather, lettuce appreciates as much protection as they can get from the sun and consistent moisture.  This keeps them from bolting and keeps the leaves sweet and tender.

This time, I am seeding Magenta Summer Crisp, Simpson Elite, New Red Fire, and Green Towers Romaine Lettuce.  All are heat and bolt resistant.  There are two greens and two reds.  I like to have different colors since each color has different nutrients, plus it is fun!  A variety will also stagger them all from coming in at the same time. 

I will likely do one more sowing of heat resistant and then switch to cold hardy varieties for fall and winter harvesting.  Lettuce takes typically 50-55 days from sprouting until ready to harvest.

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