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help me understand lettuce

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help me understand lettuce

Post  javaaddict on 2/15/2012, 2:22 pm

I'm having a hard time figuring out how and when to plant lettuce. I allocated 4 squares for it. Everywhere I read says it's a "spring" vegetable. OK.

The book says to plant it inside 7 weeks before the last frost.

It also says the earliest outdoor planting is 4 weeks before the last frost.

So that means I can start them inside, and after 3 weeks inside move them out, or wait for the full 7 weeks? Do I need to create one of those plastic domes over a box if I do that?

I also see that it says 4 per square. Does that mean for leaf lettuce or head lettuce? I have some speckled looseleaf lettuce, and some butterhead mix, which I think mostly grows loose heads. I've only ever seen lettuce planted in rows, and I can't figure this out. And I've never done it, but I LOVE to eat real lettuce!

Thanks for the help!

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 2/15/2012, 3:17 pm

Hi,
Most of the answers to your questions are yes. Yes, you can start your lettuce inside 7 weeks before your frost free date, yes you could risk a few plants in the garden before your frost free date. I usually plant on my frost free date. (Do not forget about hardening off your plants.) If you plant outside and have a light freeze you will need to cover your lettuce or it will turn into green slime. You can use a cut off 2 L. soda bottle as a cloche. Once the weather is a few degrees above freezing you will need to remove the cover or your lettuce will bake.
Because you are planting several squares you can stagger your planting times. It will mean that all of the lettuce is not ready for harvest at the same time. Once the weather really warms up, you will need to watch the lettuce so it does not bolt. It will get bitter if it bolts. Pick everything before that. Lettuce will keep for a really long time in the fridge, if you use those green produce bags.
Spacing the lettuce is not too difficult. Just draw a plus sign in your square. Now plant in the middle of each quarter. Loose leaf heads work very well with this spacing. If the square is getting too crowded, eat more salads. I do not grow head lettuce, but it should be alright as well. Hope this helps.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/15/2012, 4:37 pm

javaaddict,

Patty from Yorktown gave a good description of the spacing for four lettuces per square.

Looseleaf and Butterhead can both be harvested leaf by leaf. So once your lettuce leaves are big enough, clip off the outer ones and let the inner ones grow bigger, then clip those off too. I love my lettuce harvested as baby sized leaves. That way you can continue to harvest from each plant for weeks.

Most of the lettuces I grow can take a small amount of light frost early in the season, but will not tolerate a hard freeze. I take a chance and transplant some out in the SFG a couple of weeks before the average last frost date. But, there is no reason you can't keep a few transplants back to wait for the last frost date, automatic continuous harvests.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  Lindacol on 2/15/2012, 5:00 pm

I had extra lettuce starts so I put mine 5 to a square and it has worked for me. I start harvesting the outer leaves as I need them, then as they start to get crowded I harvest the entire center plant. I have been harvesting from 3 squares of romaine for the last month and just a few days ago took the center plant in one square and will take the other center plants in the next few days. Red sails I did about the same.

My weather is considerably different than yours. I will direct seed more lettuce soon and that will probably be the last til fall as it will get bitter when it gets hot.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  FamilyGardening on 2/15/2012, 5:25 pm

hope its ok to ask a lettuce question here too Very Happy

this is the first time i have started some seeds indoors....last year i plant straight into the ground and it turned out great....i just wanted to get started on something and play in dirt so i started some lettuce along with other cool weather veggies....

my question is.....they are sprouting and growing under my lights....when its time to transplant do i plant just one sprout at a time....four to a square...but just one tiny sprout? .....last year i sprinkled a few seeds together in four diffent spots in the square and they grew and we ate Very Happy but it was more then one seed....

hope that makes since.....LOL

oh for got to add....its leaf lettuce that i plant

hugs

rose

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  javaaddict on 2/15/2012, 7:31 pm

OK, so even with these tiny little loose leaf seeds, I should start 4 little pots and just put those 4 into the ground using the + divider? Then when I put those babies in, put 4 more in the next square, then 2 weeksish later the next, and harvest from the first?

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  javaaddict on 2/15/2012, 7:33 pm

Rose, that's what's not making sense to me either:

when its time to transplant do i plant just one sprout at a time....four to a square...but just one tiny sprout?

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 2/15/2012, 8:00 pm

Hi,

I have not planted leaf lettuce, so my answer might not be correct. Yes, just plant one tiny sprout. If you plant straight into the ground, then put a few seeds in each spot and thin to one plant. You will get a much healthier and happier single plant then a bunch squished in too small a spot. I know it is hard to thin the seedlings, but you can eat the evidence. You can also plant your square at different times, so the whole crop does not come in at once. I sometimes do this a square at a time.

Patty from Yorktown

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  Squat_Johnson on 2/16/2012, 1:25 pm

There are two different types of lettuce, and I treat them very differently.

Head type lettuce gets started inside 10 weeks before frost, and gets planted 4 or 5 to a square.

Leaf lettuce can be broadcast in a square. They only have 2-3 leaves per plant.

Here's another idea. I put three little rows in my "salad square". One little 12" row of leaf lettuce, arugula, and radishes. I try to plant one every week until it gets too hot.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  quiltbea on 2/16/2012, 5:08 pm

You can harvest a whole head of leaf lettuce by cutting it about an inch above the soil line. The plant will regrow. That gives more room to a neighbor in the same square. Cut off one or two at a time for your salads. I've gotten 4 different harvests from one shallow pot of lettuce near my kitchen door where I originally transplanted 4 plants to the pot in the spring.



Above: A heading-type, forgotten which, (but not an iceberg head lettuce) growing on May 1st last year.



Above: I trimmed down two of the heading lettuces in the back pot and left two on 5/22.



Above: After harvesting both Simpson Elite and heading lettuce on 5/28.



Above: Regrowth in both pots on 6/14



Above: July 26. With lettuce in pots, you can move them to shady areas easily so they don't bolt. Fourth growth here.

I transplant several lettuces at the same time. You don't have to harvest them all at once. Harvest some, allow some to grow larger. Just be sure to harvest before the heat of summer before they bolt (grow up tall in the center where they will flower).

As you can see, I also like to keep a couple shallow pots near my kitchen door so I can come out and shear some leaves if I need them for a meal. Its so easy to grow and enjoy.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  AvaDGardner on 2/17/2012, 8:49 pm

If it bolts (starts to seed), don't despair.

We ended up with a bucked of young/wild grown/slug eaten bolted romaine. It was so tough, we thought it was cabbage!

We cleaned it up, tore of the eaten parts, par boiled it, patted dry and thinly sliced it, then braised it with carrots, onions. It was an absolutely incredibly delicious dish!

But I do buy bolt-resistant seeds now!

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  shannon1 on 2/18/2012, 3:23 am

@AvaDGardner wrote:If it bolts (starts to seed), don't despair.

We ended up with a bucked of young/wild grown/slug eaten bolted romaine. It was so tough, we thought it was cabbage!

We cleaned it up, tore of the eaten parts, par boiled it, patted dry and thinly sliced it, then braised it with carrots, onions. It was an absolutely incredibly delicious dish!

But I do buy bolt-resistant seeds now!
yummy thant sounds soooo good.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  TN_GARDENER on 2/18/2012, 12:50 pm

@AvaDGardner wrote:If it bolts (starts to seed), don't despair.

We ended up with a bucked of young/wild grown/slug eaten bolted romaine. It was so tough, we thought it was cabbage!

We cleaned it up, tore of the eaten parts, par boiled it, patted dry and thinly sliced it, then braised it with carrots, onions. It was an absolutely incredibly delicious dish!

But I do buy bolt-resistant seeds now!

If it bolts, it starts to taste more like greens than sweet lettuce. We just tossed ours. Might have to cook em up like greens if it happens again this year. Thanks for sharing.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  quiltbea on 2/18/2012, 1:46 pm

Lettuce is one of the few seeds that need light to germinate, unlike other seeds that can be in darkness, so put your starters in sunlight or under lights when sown.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  greenmama on 3/4/2012, 10:17 am

@Squat_Johnson wrote:

Here's another idea. I put three little rows in my "salad square". One little 12" row of leaf lettuce, arugula, and radishes. I try to plant one every week until it gets too hot.

Now here's a new idea I've never read about before with SFG! Little rows within a square?!
Talk to me more about this, can you elaborate any?

Do you mark three rows (so about 4" apart in a 12" square), and then sprinkle salad/loose leaf seeds all along that little trench of a row? And that spaces everything out nicely?

I'm having a lightbulb moment here! LOL!

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  greenmama on 3/4/2012, 10:21 am

Quiltbea~ Oh wow! I had no idea that if you cut off a head of lettuce an inch above the soil, it would keep growing and produce a new head! How cool is that?! Thanks for all the pictures. I'm learning so much!

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  AvaDGardner on 5/2/2012, 1:54 am

Bea...is this simpson lettuce? It grows wild and this one has developed a tree shape! (In my neighbor's garden)


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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  walshevak on 5/2/2012, 9:22 am

That looks just like my simpson lettuce that was putting up a flower stalk. It was getting bitter so I pulled it and am putting squash in its place.

Kay

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  quiltbea on 5/2/2012, 11:16 am

@Ava....I'm not sure about what kind of lettuce is that picture, but I can tell you it's going to seed. When that long tip starts reaching for the sky, its getting rank and going to seed.

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oops!

Post  obrdrln on 5/2/2012, 12:21 pm

I musta had my head in the clouds when I planted my salad bowl lettuce!!

I planted it as though it were carrots--16 per square!! It's doing beautifully, it's really tasty and I'm gonna leave it. I harvest the outter leaves on a daily basis.

Will I be sorry????

Judy

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  walshevak on 5/2/2012, 12:54 pm

Not really. If things get too tight just pull a few plants here and there and eat them. I tend to over plant my lettuce too, and that's what I do.

Kay

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  rod champion on 5/2/2012, 12:55 pm

@obrdrln wrote:I musta had my head in the clouds when I planted my salad bowl lettuce!!

I planted it as though it were carrots--16 per square!! It's doing beautifully, it's really tasty and I'm gonna leave it. I harvest the outter leaves on a daily basis.

Will I be sorry????

Judy

If you are talking about 16 per square of leaf lettuce.. you are fine.. 16 seeds is a pinch of leaf lettuce seeds. If too thick.. thin them by eating them.

I do not like to cut the lettuce 1" above ground. Mine has been better at a hgiher amount left.

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Re: help me understand lettuce

Post  Squat_Johnson on 5/2/2012, 1:01 pm

@ Judy, I wouldn't be sorry if I was harvesting every day. It's your square, enjoy it and learn from the plant's pattern!

@ greenmama
@greenmama wrote:
@Squat_Johnson wrote:

Here's another idea. I put three little rows in my "salad square". One little 12" row of leaf lettuce, arugula, and radishes. I try to plant one every week until it gets too hot.

Now here's a new idea I've never read about before with SFG! Little rows within a square?!
Talk to me more about this, can you elaborate any?

Do you mark three rows (so about 4" apart in a 12" square), and then sprinkle salad/loose leaf seeds all along that little trench of a row? And that spaces everything out nicely?

I'm having a lightbulb moment here! LOL!

Yes, I plant _lots_ of seeds, and eat baby arugula and baby lettuce. I do this early and often. I need to plant another one today!

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