Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lettuce...hopefully


Up on the hilltop, the lettuce went in last week.  Hurray!  And then a few days later, a whopper of a storm tracked through our area and they were pummeled by strong winds and heavy rain.  Boo!

I considered placing a cover on the bed ahead of time, but then thought this may do more harm than good, as the winds would likely rip off the cover and cause further damage.

Battered Lettuce

I know - it looks bad.  Lettuce usually goes through a bit of a droopy stage when transplanted but this is quite a bit worse then the typical droop.  I have found, though, that lettuce seedlings are tougher than they look, so I'm hopeful that most of them will bounce back.

On the topic of lettuce, let's look back at how wonderful the bed was last year:




Hard to believe that those tiny, fragile seedlings will grow up and provide basket upon basket of deliciousness.

I harvest practically all of it on a cut-and-come-again basis and over the past few years, I've been cutting back on how much bed space I use.  I'm down to a 3'x4' spot and this seems to be just about right.  I still get a small glut at some point, but it's manageable.


It was a good lettuce year, especially in light of the heat, but it could have been better as we ended up being "lettuceless" as of mid-July.

I didn't sow a 2nd crop but did obtain transplants in September from the farm.  Unfortunately, these didn't amount to anything.  I'm not sure if it was the late planting or the fact that I didn't amend the bed before I transplanted but the seedlings just refused to grow.

This year, I'm planning on being a bit more organized (aren't we all??) and getting to that 2nd sowing of lettuce in mid-summer.  I'm also hoping to do a fall sowing in late August - harvesting lettuce from the garden in October or even November is such a treat!

Fall lettuce staying cozy under Agribon.
Guess when this photo was taken?  November 2015!

For this years spring lettuce bed, I've sown the following varieties:  Sierra MI, Pinares, Freckles, Jericho, Mignonette Bronze and Tropicana.  I've also direct sown a mix I received from Renee's Garden called "Asian Baby Leaf".  I've never grown a lettuce mix before so I'm looking forward to seeing how this one does.

When it comes to lettuce seeds, I’ve come to a realization.  They lose a lot of their vigour after only 2 years.  Several of the varieties I'm growing are from 2+ year old seeds (Sierra MI, Pinares and Jericho) and these had fairly bad results.  Germination was spotty and, of those seeds that did germinate, many were weak and barely grew.  I still managed to get a few seedlings from them, but the leftovers have all been tossed.

Of course, seeds don't have to be old to have issues.  Last year I had problems with two newly purchased varieties:  Sweetie Baby had sparse germination and Freckles was a total dud with zero germination after 2 attempts.

This spring, I purchased a fresh packet of Freckles (from a different supplier) as well as a couple of new to me varieties:  Tropicana & Mignonette Bronze.  All of these did quite well on the germination/growth front...until they were battered by that storm that is.

Mignonette Bronze on April 6th
I'll be keeping an eye on my poor, bruised seedlings.  If they don't show some good growth in the next couple of weeks, I'll have to resow which will, of course, delay our harvest.  Hopefully this won't be the case as freshly picked lettuce (and bypassing the lettuce section of the grocery store!) is a treat that we all look forward to.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

26 comments:

  1. More organized this year???? You too????
    I just know this is the year I will be on top of things, no?

    I, too, am looking forward to fresh from the garden salads. I am fighting off the urge to buy some mix, but my cravings for greens are crazy bad. I keep snapping off the leaves of my kale starts. You know--the 1/4 inch long leaves that wouldn't feed a fly. But oh---they still taste like kale and helps a wee bit.
    Good luck with the lettuce seedlings. I know I set mine out yesterday and they looked sooooo pathetic. How on earth do folks get those fabulous looking starts I'm always seeing on YouTube???????

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    1. Ha - we say that every year, don't we :) I wonder if that elusive "perfectly organized year" will ever materialize for us?

      And seems you've done a better job of fighting your cravings as there is salad mix in my fridge right now...sigh. I wish I could pick a bit of kale - but with only two baby leaves per plant, all that would be left would be the stem!

      And I hear you - my lettuce seedlings NEVER look like that. I just tell myself, that what's important is what's on the inside and they're probably using Miracle Gro :)

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    2. Good grief-Miracle Grow? Ugh. Yea. I'll stick with spindly......

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  2. You are right, 2 years seems to be the max for lettuce seeds. What I hate is when I sow a pot full of seeds, only a few germinate, then I reuse the soil from that pot and I find lettuce germinating in the reused soil. There must be some trick to getting lettuce to germinate that I'm missing.

    If you have a enough extra seeds I wouldn't wait to see how the babies do, just sow some more. After all, you will probably throw out the whatever is left next year.

    I'm still waiting for the first lettuce of the year to get to be large enough to start harvesting. I never did get any going for winter and early spring harvests this year.

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    1. Your right - I will get to sowing some more lettuce. No point in being skimpy with the gazillion seeds in a packet considering their short life span, that's for sure!

      Oh, it's not surprising that the re-used soil sprouted lettuce - isn't that the way it is with so many things in the garden? Coddle them and they do nothing, but toss them around with little regard and up they come!

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  3. I hope Freckles works for you this time. It is one of the few lettuces that work down here, not bolting as soon as it up. Lasts well into spring, resists heat, too. Very pretty, tough plant (not leaves) and long lasting.

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    1. That is very high praise indeed! I'll be sowing more of them, together with the other two new varieties, just in case those that I planted don't make it. Hopefully they do as well in my garden as they obviously do in yours.

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  4. We have had hail battering the young plants that we have already planted.

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    1. Oh, and here I am complaining about rain and wind...hail is definitely worse. Hope that it didn't cause too much damage.

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  5. I am glad to read that lettuce seeds have a shelf life. I feel a lot better about direct seeding rather than trying to manage transplants. For sure, transplants can advance growth although in my case I have room to direct sow in large containers indoors. But I have always felt bad about the waste of seeds - with direct sowing I end up thinning and tossing so many seedlings. So if they will not last long anyways, I suddenly feel justified!!

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    1. I've not had much luck direct seeding lettuce - I probably let the beds dry out too much, is what I'm thinking. I hear you on seeds - I always feel bad tossing whatever's left in the packet. Now that I know that lettuce is short lived, I too won't be as stingy when sowing them.

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  6. I doubt if I will ever be organized! LOL I hope your lettuce does well for you. Either I am impatient or mine is giving me a hard time this year planted outside from seed. Nancy

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    1. I think most of us aspire to be a bit more organized but usually life gets in the way...LOL :) I've only had success once sowing lettuce seed directly outside so I always start them indoors although even that isn't foolproof.

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  7. Oh yes, yum, fresh lettuce is the best! Your production of edibles is always so amazing. I'm always surprised at the hardiness of lettuce, too. It seems like a hard watering pummels it, and then it pops right back.

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    1. I was amazed when I first grew lettuce in the fall and learned that it can survive frosts - it freezes up but then comes right back to normal once temps warm up and you can harvest it as usual. It's one tough green!

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  8. Oh dear, they do look battered, don't they? As you say, they're tougher than they look though so fingers crossed that they pull through. The photos from last year look fabulous, very healthy plants and plenty of variety.

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    1. Thanks Jo - I'm starting new seedlings, just in case, and only using the newly purchased varieties. I must say that some of my favourite pics each year are of the lettuce bed - it never fails to draw a lot of "ooh's and aah's", especially from me :)

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  9. Your lettuce of seasons past is beautiful. I hope this year's seedlings bounce back. I've heard that lettuce will grow quite well in part shade, is that true?

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    1. Yup, it's true! In fact, by the end of June, I'll intentionally shade the lettuce bed using a double layer of Agribon as a shade cloth. That bit of shade means that I can harvest lettuce all summer long (so long as I don't forget about the 2nd sowing!)

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  10. Spring storms are the worse for precious young seedlings. It's definitely early enough to seed some more lettuces. I'm going to have to directly sow some since they need such little space.

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    1. We just had another storm roll through - some of the lettuce is pushing on but there are some bare spots in the bed, so I'm glad I've started a 2nd batch.

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  11. Some lettuce like it on the cold side, others, the packets say, can take summer heat while others are so quick to make seed you don't hardly get to pick a few. I did find that Tom Thumb was a good one, germinates early and doesn't grow too big, and freckles is also a good one. Rouge d'hiver is also good for cool temps. So many varieties, so little time ;-) Great photos!

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    1. Thanks Bren - it's all trial and error, isn't it? Even on the same street, but in different backyards experiences may be different! I did try Rouge d'hiver but it just didn't do that well in my garden. I'm quite excited to finally try Freckles - I was so looking forward to it last year and it was a big disappointment when the seeds failed to germinate.

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  12. They don't look bad, all things considered. Plants can be resilient! And you're reminding me that I'm overdue planting lettuce!

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    1. It's gonna be a rainy week so a good time to get those plants (or seeds) in the ground!

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