Summertime Lettuce / Growing Lettuce Under Wraps

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.

NOT the last lettuce of the summer…. I hope!

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.

Here we come!  Hope you can see us!

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.

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15 responses

  1. Very interesting about the wrap! You get that at the garden store? Yesterday I didn’t get out to water my lettuce sprouts in pots till late afternoon, and they were limp and laying flat. Yikes! They mostly sprang back up by today, but you really must water them! Also, when lettuce gets really tall like that I thought it was done, but I’m doing to give nipping the main stem a try. Great post!

  2. Row covers are a good idea. Also, planting a heat tolerant lettuce might help. Have you ever tried Anuenue lettuce I use it exclusively for my summertime lettuce, when all else is bitter little bolted lettuce, Anuenue is sweet and crisp, like an iceberg…Just in time for the first BLT!! I buy a lot of seed here: http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/search.php?item=2921&listname=Lettuce&page=6& and they have Anuenue. Good luck, I’ll be interested to hear if you do well w/ it. My sis in SC is trialing it for the first time there.
    *anna

  3. I live in Central NY State. This year was my very first year attempting a garden. Due to the various critters that we have wandering our property (deer, woodchucks, crows that look like they are on steroids, squirrels…), my husband got me a GrowCamp. It has a 4×8′ bed that is raised about 20″. It has a frame with a screen and clear plastic that Velcro on to give it a greenhouse effect. From the outside, everything looks like it is doing really well; but I worry. My leaf lettuce is doing great and we’ve been enjoying that in salads and on sandwiches. My radishes didn’t grow bulbs and are all long, thin, and woody. The rest isn’t ready for harvest quite yet, but I did see the promise of pea pods and cucumber flowers! The part I wonder about the most is my head lettuce. I thinned it out, but it still bolted. I believe it was supposed to be Iceberg, but right now it’s about a foot tall with long leaves sticking out here and there along the thick stalks. Any thoughts on what I should do to it/for it?

    • Hi Kat! My understanding is that lettuce bolts when it is too hot. The plastic can increase the heat underneath, whereas fabric allows air and heat through so it provides a little relief from the sun’s direct rays without adding heat to the situation. So the lettuce may not work in the summer under the plastic but yo should be able to grow lettuce much further into the cold season with the plastic!

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