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Cool Season Edibles : Lettuce


Cool Season Edibles: Lettuce

With the big day of March 1st hitting this week, a lot of dedicated edible/kitchen gardeners have got the itch to start putting in their cool-season assortment into the ground. Here at Strange’s West Broad, our full assortment has arrived, but I am going to focus on the most popular: lettuce.

Lettuce is without a doubt the easiest and one of the shortest season crops that we can squeeze into our ever-shortening “Spring” season. We have a broad selection of popular lettuce varieties to choose from in 4 major “classifications”: Looseleaf, Butterhead (or Bibb), Crisphead (or Iceberg) and Romaine.

‘Simpson Elite’ is a lightly colored looseleaf type, bred from and improved upon, the classic ‘Black Seeded Simpson’. ‘Red Sails’ is a colorful looseleaf variety, that can be used as an ornamental as well. ‘Buttercrunch’ is a popular butterhead type, forming a loose head that has a thicker, more succulent leaf. ‘Romaine’ lettuce is an upright type, grown for its dense interior growth, also called “hearts”. ‘Great Lakes’ is an old variety of crisphead lettuce that requires a longer season than the other types to wrap leaves and create the tight head that is characteristic to iceberg lettuces.

Each of these varieties has different maturity/crop times, so proper timing of plantings can increase success. All lettuce varieties are cold-tolerant, but newly planted starts should be covered overnight if the temperature will fall below 32 degrees (established plantings can tolerate 20 degree nights uncovered). Some varieties can also hold up to summer heat better than others, like ‘Romaine’, and a new variety ‘Heatwave’, that we carry later in spring. Most varieties will “bolt” or flower and go to seed, rendering the leaves extremely bitter and unpalatable. Beginners and experts alike enjoy growing lettuce because of its resilience in the garden and its foolproof ease of culture. We encourage you to put in a cool-season garden this spring, incorporate a couple varieties of lettuce, and let us know how you do!

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