Lovin’ luscious lettuce leaves doesn’t have to stop in the summertime. Lettuce just needs a little protection to maintain that delicate line between tender, crisp leaves and wilted, charred, bitterness. Whew! Wilted charred bitterness could be the name of a band my 11 year old would dig!
This was the last of some romaine along with some leaf lettuce that has not yet given up its spring spawned spirit.
I want more, more, more! Here’s my plan for having lettuce all summer. It worked in Virginia and truthfully it’s only slightly hotter here, so I’m confident – and so far rightly so, that this will work! (I know. I’ve foolishly alerted the gardening gods that someone requires humbling.)
First off. I will be starting some lettuce in little peat pots indoors to avoid having to water outside all of the time and to protect them from critters. For the first batch, did not even use special lighting – just a good southern window. When we went out of town for 8 days I used my bathtub seedling method to babysit them, which does include a plant light.
Those little fellows were leggy upon return home. They should have been transplanted before we left, but I was afraid they would not make it without daily watering while we were gone, so I planted them when we got home.
Okay, I admit it. They look pretty bad. A leaf only a mother could love. Although the color is in reality a bit more green.
However, my next trick is to cover them with summer weight row cover… like this.
Looks a bit like a cocoon, but no nasty leaf eaters inside. This blocks some of the sun but allows rain or watering through. It also keeps some of the moisture in, so I was even able to start lettuce outside, in the TN heat.
And hey, the cover keeps some of the critters off as well! (As does the mixture of urine, ammonia, dish-soap and mostly water that I sprinkle around the edge of the garden to deter moles and bunnies.)
Those struggling seedlings continued to struggle for 4 days despite attention and watering until I covered them for 4 days. Here they are after their time under wraps at the spa!
Not bad for 4 days recovery! They are sending up new leaves and showing some pep – and vim and vigor and all those old words!
I have also learned (with Little Sis’ help) to taste before I tear down. I have lettuce plants that are bolting in the upper garden, but I have found that if I keep clipping the leaves, there is a lag time between them shooting up from the stem and going to flower. They are still good, and they get easier to harvest as they get taller, so although the romaine in the upper (very sunny) garden all went to flower after getting to be about 3 feet tall, I still have leaf lettuce and Bibb lettuce creeping up to meet me halfway!
I also had a very tall Swiss chard that started to form a head. It had a little tiny leaf near the base of its very long stalk. I cut the stalk off above that leaf and it is springing out other leaves from the same spot and looks willing to keep growing. Plants are like guilt…. they just keep right on giving! Luckily cultivating and eating them is actually good for us!
Good luck with your own seasonal adaptations and transformations.