Sunday, September 25, 2022

Not too late to plant lettuce for fall and winter harvests

Sunday, September 25, 2022

It's not too late to sow lettuce and other greens for fall and winter harvests.  Keep sowing every few days for the next couple of weeks to keep yourself in lettuce all fall and winter.  Lettuce enjoys cool temperatures and gets even sweeter as the temps dip.  They grow well in pots or in the garden bed.

The challenge to starting lettuce from seed this time of year is that it can be so hot.  The seeds will not germinate well in ground temps above 70 degrees F.  There are a couple of options for summer time seeding.  You can grow in shade, cover with a shade cloth or start your seedlings indoors move outdoors after they have sprouted.  It has cooled off enough now that lettuce sprouts easily.  Outdoor seed starting tips
I like to start in flats in the shade, close to the watering can on the east side of the house.  On a covered patio, porch or deck is an ideal place to start seeds.  The seedlings will be up in 7 days if kept well watered.  I let them grow until they have the first set of true leaves and are about 2” tall.  I then transplant them into their permanent home, keeping them well watered for another couple of weeks.  The trick this time of year to planting is getting the plants close to full size by November when daylight hours are too short to support growing.  Give them some nitrogen after transplanting.

My personal favorite is planting seedlings into my self-watering Earthboxes that I cover in November with a portable greenhouse to keep the greens going all winter.  How to extend the garden season
Lettuce under portable greenhouse cover in January
If you want to direct seed in your flower bed, dig a shallow trench about a quarter inch deep, fill with potting soil, seed, pat down, then cover lightly with more potting soil.  Water well with a gentle stream of water so you don’t wash the seed away.  I use a rain head on my watering can.  Growing fabulous lettuce and greens

This time of year, look for types that are the most cold hardy to last the longest into winter.  Look for varieties marketed as: fast-maturing (for fall harvests), winter-hardy, frost tolerant, overwintering, for every season, year-round, remarkably cold hardy, etc.  

A few varieties to try of different types of lettuces known for being cold hardy: 
Bibb type-Brown Winter, 
Butterhead type-Arctic King, Brown Dutch Winter, Marvel of Four Seasons, Winter Marvel, Crisphead/Batavia type-Hanson, Continuity, Mottistone, 
Loose leaf type-Tango, Salad Bowl, 
Romaine type-Brown Goldring, Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver.

Don't forget to look around your yard and garden for volunteer lettuce plant seedlings.  I let my lettuce plants go to seed in the summer.  There are many seedlings that will come up in the garden and yard.  I just dig them up and put them where I want them to grow for the fall and winter.

There are some nurseries and even big box stores that carry edible transplants for fall planting.  There are many on-line seed companies that sell fall transplants, too.

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