If you’re a lettuce lover like I am, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to try a few new varieties each year and see if you can add another to your list of favorites. There are four main groups of lettuces to choose from:
- Loose Leaf,
- Butterhead, (Another lesser group – Buttercrunch — is composed of crosses between Butterhead and Romain.)
- Crisphead (also known as Batavia or Summer Crisp or French Crisp)
I recommend trying at least one new variety of lettuce from every group each year.
One of the new varieties I tried this year was Sierra Batavia and it just about tops the list of my favorite lettuces.
Like all Batavia lettuces, Sierra is native to France. In that country it’s known by the name Gloire du Dauphiné.
It’s great asset is its ability to withstand hot weather without wilting or bolting. ( And by the way — this doesn’t mean that if you go out at noon on a hot day that you won’t see it somewhat wilted like many other things in the garden. It just means that it recovers nicely and stays delicious.)
Although it’s considered Red Batavia — it doesn’t have the distinct dark red that you think of with Red Batavias. Sierra Batavia lettuce forms open heads with beautiful pale green thick leaves with frilled edges that are blushed with pink at the ends. It really is gorgeous in the garden.
Regular readers will know that I succession plant lettuce March to May to insure a continuous supply through as much of the summer as possible. I transplanted Sierra Batavia into the garden in the end of May. I was still eating that lettuce in August. It was strong but not bitter.
Even with all my secrets of keeping a supply of lettuce in hot weather — I usually only get through most of July eating lettuce. This is the only year that I haven’t been without lettuce in August and part of September.
This same May planted lettuce is still in my garden now and has not yet set seed. (I think it’s missed its chance for that.) I’m not picking it — only because I have new lettuce growing now. BUT — it looks good enough to pick.
Don’t know if Sierra Batavia will be able to match this year’s performance in future years. This year rain came in due season until the end of July; only one rain from the end of July until now; and temperatures averaged in the high 80s or low 90s. If things go back to normal (drought in summer; rain in fall; summer highs in the 90s) I don’t know that Sierra will last like it did this year. My guess is that it’ll still outperform every other lettuce just like this year.
I started new seed in August and transplanted to the garden August 17, 2013. Since close to the end of August I’ve been picking from that 3 foot x 2 foot patch of lettuce every other day. We’ve had lettuce to eat everyday (sometimes twice a day) for the last 48 days. Most of it has been from the 3 x 2 patch of Sierra Batavia.
The patch is still beautiful and grows very quickly. But I’ve succession planted since August and have more coming in almost every stage. If Sierra Batavia makes it through the Winter into Spring I’ll be thrilled.
To help insure that I’ll have lettuce through fall, winter and early spring I’ve succession planted quite a few varieties. I’d never depend on just one.
Here’s what I have so far this fall:
- Red Sails (a loose leaf),
- Winter Density (a Buttercrunch), – from seed saved in 2012
- Winter Marvel (a Butterhead),
- Winter Wonderland (a Romaine),
- Bronze Arrowhead (Butterhead),
- Deertongue (Butterhead), – from seed saved in 2012
- another Batavia from seed I saved in 2012,
- and a few others.
If you don’t have this excellent Batavia lettuce in your garden, why not put Sierra Batavia on your list of seed to order. I think you’ll be very pleased.
And by the way — I got mine this year from Fedco.
One Reason Plants Wilt and Actions that Help
Winter Gardening – Growing Lettuce – Three tips
Growing Lettuce Plant for a Continual Supply
Lettuce – There’s No Right or Wrong WayLettuce –
Secrets to getting Eatable Lettuce Well into Summer
Lettuce – Harvesting for Dinner on July 16th
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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That’s the great thing about lettuces – so many to try, and they are beautiful to see growing in the garden. We are into prime lettuce season now, and I’m glad. Thanks for your report on this one, it is lovely.
Due to all this lovely rain here in MD, all my seedlings are just popping through the soil. The are not washing away as I feared, so if we get some warm/sunny weather – lettuces should be up and running.
I read your post today and spent quite a bit of time reading more posts on lettuce. And learned a lot. One question, though. Growing several varieties of lettuce, if more than one variety bolts at the same time, can they cross? We seed savers want to know!
After all this nice rain Sandra –— that warm/sunny weather is what I’m also hoping for to get things well established before the cold.
Clark, I’ve been saving lettuce seed for a long time and have had excellent results in varieties remaining true. And I grow at least a dozen different varieties each year and they’re all mixed together. And many seed at the same time.
Lettuce is self pollinating. There’s always a small possibility that insects will cross pollinate your lettuce — but its going to be a small percentage of possibility. I base that on my experience and also what I’ve read.
My lettuce seeds have always been among my great successes. Worth the effort — no doubt about it!
You had a post up a while back about saving lettuce seeds so I tried it and I was successful! It’s amazing how many seeds I collected. Thank you!
Congratulations Susan! So glad to hear you’re saving your seed.
Lettuce seed keeps a long time stored in a cool try place. By having an abundance of seed you’ll have “backup” when other lettuce seed doesn’t do as well as you wanted.
And — I think you might find that yours will germinate more quickly than purchased seed. That’s what I find with mine.
Oh boy Theresa. Thank you for the input on another wonderful lettuce variety. There are so many to choose from in the catalogs that I most often take the easy route and just plant from the seed I have saved. I do need to branch out and try some others, so thanks for the little nudge.
Also, I would like to thank you for the last post about winter rye. That was great information that I will put into practice.
I agree Toni — there are so many varieties in the seed catalogs that it’s hard to make a decision unless you have a deciding factor to point one way or the other.
Diversity is important in every aspect of gardening — including growing our lettuce. Also — you’ll have lettuce a lot longer if you plant several varieties — since some will do better and better longer than others. But we never know until we plant.
Very pleased that you are going to put the information in the last post into practice!
Thanks for letting me know your thoughts Toni.
I agree this is one of the best lettuce varieties I have ever grown in my NC (zone 7) garden. Like you stated it has very thick crisp and juicy leaves and stands up to heat well.