By Betty Goergen and Larry Steele, Lifetime Master Gardeners
Lettuce is a fast growing Spring crop planted in early spring – as soon as the soil temperature is 55 degrees, usually Mid-March. I suggest planting at this time followed by a second planting 3-4 weeks later for a prolonged harvest.
Planted in two beds in the Demo Garden are Salad Bowl Lettuce in a bed maintained by MG Janice Gregg and Romaine Lettuce in the PPP (Pounds of Produce for People) bed, maintained by Larry Steele. We currently donate all produce to Food Heros in Albany.
Romaine lettuce grows in an upright head with large leaves perfect for salads, on sandwiches or even as lettuce wraps. Romaine lettuce takes on average 60 days to mature while Salad Bowl, a loose leaf lettuce with an open head takes about 45 days. Both varieties are very productive but the Salad Bowl is usually harvested once while an experienced gardener can get two cuttings from Romaine.
When you harvest Romaine Lettuce leave the bottom outer leaves to serve as feeder leaves and cut the head just above that point.
Plants look a little ugly until new growth begins from the base of the plant. The second cutting will not have as large of a head but tender leaves will more than make up for lack of size.
Just because the weather is warmer throughout summer doesn’t mean you have to stop planting lettuce. There are varieties that stand up to summer heat without becoming bitter. Carmona Red, Buttercrunch, Little Gem, Anuenue, or Oak Leaf will produce tender, sweet lettuce even in hotter weather - plenty of choices to go with those homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers.